November 30, 2005


Anti-Global Warming Initiatives by Corporations and Citizens

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.39 (November 2005)

Under the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in February 2005, Japan is required to achieve its target of a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Japan's GHG emissions in the base year 1990 were 1,237 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, which 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. We now take a look at some anti-global warming initiatives taken by companies and communities.

Since they experienced two oil crises in the 1970s, Japanese firms, especially manufacturers, have made enormous efforts to save energy. As the result, primary energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product has been reduced, and the country now a world leader in energy efficiency. The spirit has been passed to modern businesses in their efforts to curb global warming, and positive results have emerged.

Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., which had emitted a total of 145,000 tons (CO2 equivalent) of GHG gases in fiscal 1990 at its domestic factories, reduced its GHG emissions to 111,000 tons (23 percent reduction from 1990) in fiscal 2003. Furthermore in April 2005, it eliminated all GHGs except CO2 from the production processes at its Japanese factories, including those of affiliated companies.

Toshiba Group has been carrying out various projects aimed at achieving, by fiscal 2010, a 25 percent reduction of energy-originated CO2 emissions per nominal production volume, as compared to fiscal 1990. The group aims to reduce annual CO2 emissions by about 500,000 tons, equivalent to 25 percent of its estimated emissions in fiscal 2010.

Not only striving to reduce GHG emissions from its own companies and plants, Toshiba also focuses on the development of energy-efficient products to reduce CO2 emissions. Let's look at refrigerators. Electricity used for refrigerators typically accounts for about 20 percent of total electricity consumption at home. As their energy efficiency has improved in the last several years through the initiatives of manufacturing companies, many types of refrigerators consume only one-third to one-sixth the amount of electricity compared to those of ten years ago.

Regarding the dishwasher/dryer, which recently has become common in Japanese homes, Hitachi Home & Life Solutions, Inc. released the industry's first dishwasher/dryer that uses what it calls "nano-steam" technology. Compared to washing by hand, the appliance uses less electricity, gas or water, resulting in a reduction of CO2 emissions by 65 percent per year (equivalent to washing 60 dishes, or dishes for seven people).

Fuel cell cogeneration systems, which provide both electricity and hot water to homes, have been developed and installed in growing numbers. In 2005 Tokyo Gas and other companies started to install these systems in households and to collect operational data necessary for subsequent large-scale implementation.

Aiming to promote appliances that help reduce CO2 emissions, the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), in collaboration with power companies, launched a new loan program in April 2005 to facilitate the leasing to households of energy-efficient home appliances, water heaters and automobiles. This is because it is important not only to develop such energy-efficient appliances, but also to offer programs and systems to promote their adoption, if we are to reduce the environmental impacts of society as a whole.

Local municipalities have also been making efforts to develop systems that facilitate citizens' and corporations' activities to reduce CO2 emissions. For example, in its Master Plan for the Environment, adopted in January 2002, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) set a goal of reducing GHG 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.

In January 2005, the TMG revised its Municipal Environment Protection Ordinance and mandated large businesses to establish their own CO2 reduction targets. The TMG has also decided to promote several projects in collaboration with corporations, including a cooperative delivery system where supplies are delivered by consolidated delivery agents to multiple department stores in Tokyo.

When all of the 15 Tokyo-area companies (with 30 stores) belonging to the Kanto Department Stores Association participate in this project, in fiscal year 2005 the number of delivery vehicles on the road will be reduced by up to 50 percent, easing traffic congestion and reducing CO2 emissions by 4,000 tons per annum.

Many other local governments, including Iwate Prefecture, have also been encouraging companies by establishing rules such as those that officially recognizing those companies that actively implement environmental measures. On another front, Shiga Prefecture is supporting a citizens' environmental project -- an energy-saving point system -- in which a participating group of households is awarded a grant in proportion to the reduced amount of electricity consumed by the group in a year as compared with the previous year. This system is expected to raise citizens' awareness about global warming, to reduce their electricity bills and to support the group's activity.

In collaboration with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, consisting of about 470 local governments from 67 countries, Kyoto City, the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, has been seeking to create a "World Mayors' Council on Climate Change" (tentative name), an international network of municipalities dedicated to curbing global warming. This is a Japan-initiated global movement to achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets.

In this final section, we take a look at a system called "Household Environmental Accounting," one of Japan's special countermeasures against climate change. It is a system to calculate the amount of CO2 emissions from each household by measuring the consumption of electricity, gas and water as well as the amount of waste. A wide variety of organizations such as local governments, companies, and citizens' groups are involved in this initiative.

A prototypical household accounting book produced by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment features an easy-to-use environmental management system based on the PDCA (plan, do, check, and act) cycle. It helps citizens become aware of the interaction between their daily lives and the environment, take actions to reduce their environmental impacts and practice environmentally friendly lifestyles.

Shimonoseki City of Yamaguchi Prefecture provides the Household Environmental Accounting program on its website. It allows users to calculate the amount of CO2 emissions per household by entering their utility consumption data for electricity, gas, water, kerosene, gasoline and light oil. Their emissions data can be compared with the average of all users and families of the same size. There is also an "eco-saving" assessment feature that allows users to visually compare their energy costs with those of an average household.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., known worldwide as Panasonic, supports employees and their families to join a Household Environmental Scorecard program. The number of participating families has increased steadily from the initial 3,300 to 27,000 in 2003. The average CO2 emissions per household per year were cut 23 percent between 2002 and 2003.

Yamaha Motor Co., the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, introduced an "Eco-Commuting" system for its employees in December 2004. This was preceded by several years of Yamaha's involvement in an ecological accounting bookkeeping campaign, which revealed that huge fuel costs were being paid by its employees for commuting. In January 2005, the company began issuing a monthly allowance of 1,000 yen (about U.S.$9.71) to employees who walk and/or ride a bicycle more than two kilometers to commute to work. An allowance was also instituted for employees who use public transport "Park & Ride" services. The frequency of company commuter bus services was also increased. Introduction of the new system has encouraged 60 more commuters to walk part of the way to work, and the new allowances apparently led to this favorable reception.

We have described in this article how environmental activities of companies and individual citizens are facilitated by their own initiatives as well as municipalities' policies. It should be noted, however, that the emissions cut by over 14 percent, needed for Japan to meet its Kyoto commitments, would require a major shift in taxation and other institutions, including the introduction of a carbon tax and the compulsory purchase of power from renewable sources.

(Junko Edahiro, and Staff Writer Kiyoshi Koshiba)