April 30, 2005


For the Survival of Humanity on Earth 100 Years from Now -- Tokyo Challenges 2 Types of Warming Phenomena

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.32 (April 2005)

On February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming finally came into effect, after having been adopted in 1997 at the Third Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3).

As COP3's host country, Japan established Guidelines for Measures to Prevent Global Warming in June 1998, which outlined the essential and urgent countermeasures that need to be developed before 2010. The Japanese government also revised its Energy Saving Law and enacted the Law Concerning the Promotion of Measures to Cope with Global Warming. These laws clarified the mission and responsibilities of the national government, local governments, businesses and citizens for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels.

In view of the presently critical situation, some local governments are taking approaches that are more progressive than those of the national government. One of these leaders is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG).

Two Warming Phenomena in Tokyo

The shogunate government established by Tokugawa Ieyasu about 400 years ago in Edo (present-day Tokyo) employed the "Sankin Kotai" system in which feudal lords were required to reside alternately in Edo and their respective domains; this system helped bring prosperity to the city. In 1657 a major fire burned down about 60 percent of the built-up area of Edo, but the city was later reconstructed to form an even larger metropolis, while the government encouraged development of new rice fields. The population of Edo in 1721, estimated at 1.3 million, exceeded that of Peking (900,000) or London (860,000), and is presumed to have been the largest urban population in the world at that time. Quite surprisingly, this most-populous city was self-sufficient in food and energy (i.e., sustainable) for a long time. For related stories, see the series "Sustainability in Edo" on the JFS's website:

After the Meiji Period and through the eras of post-war recovery and rapid economic growth, Japan has seen extreme centralization of the economy in Tokyo. Its population reached 10 million in 1962 and in 2005 more than 12 million live in an area of about 2,100 square kilometers. According to a survey conducted in 2001 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, about 8.6 million people worked at over 720,000 businesses in Tokyo. The value of the city's total production of goods and services was 85 trillion yen (US$697 billion) - about the same as the total GDP of Brazil or Canada.

Together with such extreme economic growth, Tokyo has also experienced urban sprawl. Governmental agencies and business offices are concentrated in the central metropolitan area, causing traffic jams and serious public health problems such as noise and air pollution. Problems with the city's huge amount of waste have also been getting worse.

To deal with these particularly urban problems, Japan enacted the National Capital Region Development Law in 1956, which encourages efforts to alleviate over-concentration in the metropolitan area by moving factories, universities, and so on to Tokyo's suburbs. Meanwhile, the TMG took the lead in environmental policy by establishing its own Environmental Pollution Control Ordinance and other unique initiatives. Today the TMG is taking on two problems of growing concern, global warming caused by greenhouse gases and the heat-island effect.

The "Tokyo Challenge" to Curb Global Warming

Tokyo's mean annual temperature rose about 3 degrees Celsius during the last century. Because of global warming and the heat island effect (disproportionate warming of urban areas), the number of "tropical days" with daytime highs of 30 degrees Celsius or over and the number of sweltering summer nights when the temperature stays above 25 degrees Celsius have been increasing since the 1990s. Heat-related deaths and intense rainfall events are also on the rise.

The heat island effect is attributed to past urban planning policies that paid little attention to the environment. Major causes of this effect include increased heat emissions from buildings and automobiles, less green space, more asphalt-paved surfaces, and numerous high-rise buildings which block the wind. In Tokyo, rising temperatures due to the heat island effect have in turn engendered a vicious cycle of more energy use and more emissions of heat and greenhouse gases.

In its Master Plan for the Environment adopted in January 2002, the TMG set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, and in February 2002 began implementing its own countermeasures called the "Tokyo Challenge" to curb global warming. It aims to (1) enhance national measures against global warming through initiatives taken in Tokyo, (2) make Tokyo an energy-saving city, and (3) promote environmental businesses. To achieve these aims, the TMG submitted five policy proposals to the national government and started to take seven types of actions aimed at changing Tokyo into a sustainable city.

Also, for two months in the summer of 2002, the TMG ran a campaign to expand the use of energy-saving household appliances, in cooperation with 157 national retailers. The campaign aimed to encourage consumers to choose energy-saving appliances by having retailers affix labels specially designed to clearly show the power consumption levels of the air-conditioners and refrigerators on display. At the same time, the TMG held discussions on the feasibility of a carbon dioxide emissions trading system in Japan with progressive auditing and other companies, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations.

Building on the outcome of these activities, the TMG adopted a basic policy statement that clearly sets out three basic principles and six specific challenges to meet the problems posed by global and urban warming. With this, the Tokyo Challenge entered its second phase.

"Even if I knew that the world would go to pieces tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today."

In April 2005, the TMG enacted several ordinances for implementing this basic policy. One of them requires power companies supplying electricity to the city to submit and publish reports containing information on their CO2 emissions coefficients (the amount of CO2 emitted per 1 kilowatt-hour [kWh] of power generated) and reduction targets, as well as their plans and achievements regarding the introduction of renewable energy sources.

The energy-saving labeling system first promoted in the summer campaigns of 2002 was also adopted as an ordinance, making it compulsory for home electrical appliance retailers to affix energy labels on certain kinds of appliances. In 2004, the TMG in cooperation with NGOs succeeded in creating a common labeling system that will be used in eight metropolitan municipalities. These leading municipalities are now planning to develop a nationwide system using these same energy labels.

Two rules involving heavy energy users (those consuming over 1,500 kiloliters of fuel or six million kWh of electricity annually) have also been strengthened. These rules required private businesses to estimate their CO2 emissions and to submit and publish environmental action plans, and now they will also be applied to heavy energy-using national and local government bodies.

The TMG also established procedures for carrying out environmental impact assessments at the planning stage of development projects in order to promote energy conservation and environmental protection measures. These procedures require developers to minimize the potential impacts of their projects on Tokyo's heat island problem and to inform buyers about the measures they propose to protect the environment during the construction or extension of large buildings. Recently in Tokyo many old buildings are being replaced by new ones. Apparently, a decrease in the price of land has prompted the construction of large condominiums in central Tokyo. In the near future we will be seeing an increasing number of environmentally friendly buildings.

On a coastal landfill site in Tokyo, two windmills have been in operation since 2003, generating 2.5 million kWh annually. A hydrogen station has been built for fuel cell vehicles in the Ariake district of Koto Ward, where Japan's first experimental operation of a fuel cell powered bus system was carried out. These projects were made possible by cooperation between the public and private sectors in Tokyo where the people and corporations with the necessary technology can be found.

The TMG's environmental campaigns also include various anti-global warming projects in fields such as finance, transportation, and environmental education, and involve collaboration among corporations, non-governmental or other organizations and citizens.

Tokyo, a city so large it can be compared to a nation, is now striving to become a sustainable city by implementing measures feasible in the present generation for the benefit of future generations. This attitude is well represented by TMG's slogan, "Let us plant apple trees with our own hands." We will be watching closely to see how Tokyo's example is emulated by other governments.


(Staff Writer Kazumi Yagi)