September 30, 2005


2005 Environmental White Paper: Developing Strategies and Human Resources toDeal with Global Warming

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.37 (September 2005) (Japanese only)


Japan's Ministry of the Environment issued its annual White Paper on the Environment in June 2005, marking the 37th in the series since publication of the 1969 White Paper on Environmental Pollution. The following article outlines the central theme of this latest white paper: Building a new era by developing strategies and human resources to deal with global warming.

This theme was chosen in view of the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect in February 2005, and aims to further promote Japan's efforts to help curb global warming, specifically, achievement of its Kyoto Protocol target of a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to build a society that strives to stabilize GHG concentrations.

Toward the Kyoto Protocol Target

In April 2005, the Cabinet approved the "Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan," which aims at complete achievement of the target reductions. The core concept of this plan is "Benefiting both the Environment and the Economy." Namely, the plan seeks to create and coordinate innovative efforts and technologies that will contribute not only to a 6 percent reduction in GHG emissions but also to job creation and other benefits to the Japanese economy as a whole. (Japanese only)

Specifically, the plan's objectives include: (1) development and dissemination of energy-efficient appliances and equipment, (2) improvements in energy efficiency, (3) accelerated development of new energy sources, (4) promotion of environmental awareness, and (5) implementation of measures for dealing with global warming that require extensive changes in the socio-economic system.

It is anticipated that achievement of these objectives will make Japan one of the leading environmental nations of the world, but will require cooperation among the national government, municipalities, businesses and citizens, supported by the principle of information sharing and transparency. In order to promote these changes, it will also be essential to put into practice a variety of policies and measures, and review their outcomes quantitatively, as well as to ensure international cooperation.

Japan's GHG emissions in the base year 1990 were 1,237 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent; this level of emissions needs to be reduced to 1,163 million tons per year during the first commitment period (2008-2012) in order to achieve the targeted 6 percent reduction. However, since the amount of emissions in 2003 was 1,337 million tons, 8.3 percent higher than in the base year, a 14.3 percent reduction is actually needed to reach the target.

Looking at emissions by sector, about 20 percent come from the industrial sector, about 10 percent from the household sector, and about 10 percent from the transportation (private automobile) sector, and emissions from all of these sectors are significantly increasing. This is due to the increasing amount of energy consumed in offices and homes and for carrying passengers.

It is estimated that GHG emissions will rise about 6 percent by 2010 compared to the base year under a business-as-usual scenario. Meeting the commitment to decrease 6 percent from the base year now requires additional policies and measures if a reduction of 12 percent in total is to be achieved.

To achieve the target, the following measures have been proposed: (1) measures to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions, such as introducing highly energy-efficient equipment through technological innovation, and changing socio-economic systems, including restructuring cities, regions and public transportation infrastructure so that they produce fewer CO2 emissions; (2) measures to reduce CO2 emissions from non-energy sources, such as promoting wider use of blended cement; (3) measures to reduce methane, such as reducing final waste disposal volumes; (4) measures to reduce nitrous oxide, such as burning sewage sludge at higher temperatures in treatment facilities; and (5) measures to reduce the three CFC alternatives presently in use, such as a systematic efforts by the related industries and development of alternative substances.

The achievement plan also aims to reduce GHG gas emissions 3.9 percent by enhancing forest sinks through management of healthy forests and promotion of citizens' participation in forestry activities, and another 1.6 percent by promoting projects abroad to reduce emissions through the Kyoto mechanisms of joint implementation (JI) and the clean development mechanism (CDM).

The Ministry of the Environment has also established a system to calculate, report, and publish amounts of GHG emissions from each business unit, and has been appealing to citizens to change their lifestyles. It has launched a nation-wide campaign under the slogan "Team Minus 6 Percent."

The government has further taken the lead in disclosing the amount of GHG emissions from its own offices and projects. Upon agreement at a Ministerial Conference, wearing cooler clothing (that is, no necktie and no jacket) during the summer was recommended and has been put into practice. Also, it plans to systematically examine the introduction of daylight savings time, a green tax, domestic emissions trading, and other systems.

Human Resources and Systems for Addressing Climate Change

The key to a low-carbon-emitting economy is to move away from our current socio-economic activities and lifestyles based on mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal. To this end, human resources need to be developed so that people consciously reduce waste at their homes and offices, and become voluntarily involved in environmental protection.

CO2 emissions from energy consumption by private households accounts for about 14 percent of the nation's total. It has risen about 30 percent since fiscal 1990, a substantial increase compared with other sectors. In addition, more than one kilogram of waste is disposed of per capita per day, and domestic wastewater is estimated at 200 to 250 liters per person per day.

The white paper recommends continuous effort by households to eliminate wasteful consumption of energy and resources such as electricity, gas, water and paper. Such efforts are needed to produce a significant change in the behavior of private individuals who are presently unconsciously damaging the environment, so that they will instead consciously protect it. Home is the first place to educate people in this direction.

The white paper lists 38 simple things you can do at home. Environmental education can be promoted at home when all family members work together to sort their trash, wash their car using buckets instead of leaving the hose running, pre-select TV programs to watch, and so on. Such home education is expected to spread environmentally conscious behavior through the society at large.

The above-mentioned national campaign "Team Minus Six Percent" focuses on just six of those 38 actions: set air conditioners at 28 degrees Celsius, avoid wasting water at the tap by not letting it run unnecessarily, choose and buy eco-friendly products, stop letting the car idle, say no to excessive packaging, and unplug all appliances not in use.

Some companies and local municipalities in Japan have implemented a program called "Household Environmental Accounting." They distribute scorecards for families to monitor and record how much electricity, gas, water and gasoline they consume, with the aim of promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle. As a way to encourage voluntary environmental activities at home, they also have adopted loans and subsidy systems for households for introducing energy-efficient household appliances, low-emission vehicles, solar power systems, and highly efficient water heating systems.

Schools are also a major forum for fostering environmental citizens. The white paper introduces a good practice performed by Daishoji High School in Ishikawa Prefecture. Since 2002 the school has developed an environmental management system based on the "Ishikawa Environmental ISO for Schools," that aims to reduce CO2 emissions under the slogan "Let's Achieve the Kyoto Protocol Target!" All students, teachers and staff have been working to save electricity and water and reduce waste. As a result, they successfully reduced CO2 emissions by 15.2 percent, combustible wastes by 40.4 percent, and paper consumption by 44.9 percent between fiscal 2001 and 2003.

Let us conclude with a quote from the white paper's foreword by the Japanese Environment Minister Yuriko Koike: The Japanese word mottainai does not mean that we should simply be unwilling to use things. It means that we should focus attention on the original value and role of a thing and use it accordingly without wasting it. In the spirit of mottainai, we declare to the world that we will review our conventional business activities and lifestyles, and strive to build a sustainable society.

(Staff Writer Kiyoshi Koshiba)