April 30, 2007


Take Action Now! -- Make Your Life More Eco-Friendly to Create Low-Carbon Society

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.56 (April 2007)

CO2 Emissions from Japanese Households Increasing

Two years have passed since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005 as an instrument to fight global warming. As stated in Article 3, the protocol requires industrialized nations to reduce their overall emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by at least 5 percent from 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008-2012.

Japan has implemented various policies and measures to tackle global warming in the past 10 years. For example, the Global Warming Prevention Headquarters led by the Prime Minister was established to achieve the nation's emission reduction target of 6 percent below 1990 levels, and the Law Concerning the Promotion of the Measures to Cope with Global Warming was enacted to call for concerted efforts by the national and local governments, businesses and citizens. In April 2005, the government also formulated the Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan to meet its commitment and continuously reduce GHG emissions on a long-term basis.

In spite of these initiatives, however, Japan's GHG emissions in fiscal 2005 were amounted to 1.364 billion tons, up 0.6 percent from 1.355 billion tons in the previous year, and an 8.1 percent increase from the 1990 base year, according to a preliminary report released by the Ministry of the Environment. This means that Japan needs a total of net 14.1 percent reduction from current levels to meet the goal. Even if 3.8 percent of GHG emissions are offset by forest sinks and 1.6 percent are reduced through the Kyoto Mechanism (e.g. emissions trading), an 8.7 percent reduction is still necessary to achieve the required 6 percent reduction from 1990 levels.

Emissions of some GHGs, such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and chlorofluorocarbon substitutes, have significantly decreased compared to 1990 levels. Thus, the focus is now on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In terms of energy-derived CO2, the largest emitter is the industrial sector, which released 466 million tons in fiscal 2005, or nearly 40 percent of the total. When compared to 1990 levels, however, this sector has achieved a 3.2 percent reduction, showing slight increases or declines on an annual basis. By contrast, CO2 emissions have increased greatly in the following sectors: transportation (up 18.1 percent from the base year), commercial, service and office (up 42.2 percent), and households (up 37.4 percent).

The substantial increases in CO2 emissions from two sectors (commercial/service/office and the household) in fiscal 2005 are thought to be a result of increased consumption of energy for heating due to the cold winter that year. In addition, the mean temperature in the summer 2005 was higher than usual and the number of "tropical days" (with daytime highs of 30 degrees Celsius or over) was higher than average. These factors might be responsible for the large increase in CO2 emissions from the two sectors in fiscal 2005, but if we look at emissions in fiscal 2004, when the winter temperatures were within the normal range, a problem is evident. Even in 2004, CO2 emissions from these two sectors were up 37.9 percent and 31.5 percent from 1990 levels, respectively. It is clear that we need to reexamine our work styles and lifestyles to fight global warming.

National Global Warming Campaign 'Team Minus 6%'

In April 2005, the Global Warming Prevention Headquarters led by the government launched a large-scale national campaign called "Team Minus 6%" in collaboration with businesses, aiming to provide information and raise public awareness about the issue. The campaign focuses on sharing simple tips to help prevent climate change. This is because, as some surveys show, people are less likely to translate intent into action without knowing where to start to tackle global warming.

With the concept that many small actions make a big difference, the campaign aims to have individuals, businesses, and other organizations work together to achieve a 6 percent reduction of GHG emissions. In particular, it calls on people to take following six actions:

  • set air conditioners at 28 degrees Celsius (temperature control)
  • avoid wasting water at the tap by not letting it run unnecessarily (wise use of water)
  • choose and buy energy-efficient and eco-friendly products (green purchasing)
  • stop car idling (smart driving)
  • say no to excessive packaging (waste reduction)
  • unplug devices when they are not being used (wise use of electricity)

On the campaign website, any individual, business, and organization that agrees with the campaign concept can register as a "team" member. So far, 1,090,629 people and 11,038 entities were registered in total as of April 10, 2007. Once they become team members, they are allowed to use the campaign logo on various media such as business cards, posters, and company magazines. In doing so, they contribute to increasing awareness about the campaign as well as promoting their initiatives both inside and outside their companies and organizations.

One of the examples of widely known campaign initiatives is to promote wise use of air conditioning and heating in offices by setting temperature at 28 degree Celsius in summer and 20 degree Celsius in winter. Together with business-wear fashions called "Cool Biz" in summer and "Warm Biz" in winter to help office workers adapt to these room temperatures, it has been gaining momentum among businesses year by year. Engaged in this energy conservation program, many companies have reported that they could save on electricity bill at the same time as they are saving energy. With such success among businesses, the campaign has launched a similar initiative targeting individuals to save energy at home called "Uchi-Eco!" ("uchi" means "home") especially in terms of clothing, food, and housing.

Sapporo's Initiatives toward Green Lifestyles

The city of Sapporo, with about 1.88 million citizens in Japan's northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido, has been working on a program to fight global warming since February 2005, to involve up to 100,000 citizens to help reduce CO2 emissions by 10 percent per person from 1990 levels by 2017.

One of the reasons that the city launched this program is that the most of the CO2 emissions are not from industries like factories but from activities closely related to citizen lifestyles. In Sapporo, the transportation sector, commercial/services sector, and household sector are the three major sources of CO2 emissions, accounting for roughly 90 percent of the total.

In its action program for CO2 reduction, the city set the target of encouraging 100,000 citizens, equivalent to about 15 percent of the city's households, to make "ecolife" declarations. The planners believe that when more and more citizens declare their intention to live environment-friendly lives, the momentum of environmental activities in the city will grow. Sapporo aims to be a leading environmental city in the world, where environmental awareness is ingrained in people and thus they will more deeply committed to green purchasing, smart driving and energy saving efforts.

To join the program, people declare their commitment to take more than five energy-saving actions out of 20 proposed by the city, such as "I'll turn off the light when leaving the room," and "I'll save heating energy by wearing another layer." They can also set their own targets if they do not find five actions suited to them on the list. In October 2006, the 100,000 target was achieved, and the number of participants had risen to 127,628 (including 26,489 children) as of March 31, 2007.

To achieve the goal 100,000, "Ecolife Declaration Promoters" have actively encouraged people to make declarations, visiting schools, communities, and various events to advocate the importance of environmentally conscious actions.

How to Evaluate One's Own Ecolife

After making ecolife declarations, the next stage follows. By using an environmental accounting sheet to calculate how many points they can gain by reducing CO2 emissions, people can review progress each week to evaluate their environmental lifestyle.

For example, by keeping light off for an hour while a room is not used, people can earn one point by reducing CO2 emissions by 25 grams. After entering the scores they can obtain from Sunday through Saturday, they can learn the volume of reduction of CO2 emissions by multiplying the total score by 25 grams. Other examples include switching off the heater for one hour (reducing CO2 emissions equivalent to 239 grams, calculated as one point), refusing a plastic bag at the checkout counter when shopping (reducing CO2 emissions by 10 grams). By counting their scores for each action, people can easily learn the amount of household CO2 emissions reduced for the week.

After 52 weeks, people can determine the volume of CO2 emission reductions for the year. The guidebook for the declaration shows how to calculate how many liters of crude oil are reduced, how much money is saved, or how many trees would have to be planted to absorb that amount of CO2.

Further Efforts to Promote Ecolife

Today we use various useful devices in our daily lives, and energy-efficient home appliances are being promoted widely. Compared with year 1990, however, personal computers, wide screen TVs, shower toilets and other various kinds of new products have been introduced into our lives, thereby resulting in new sources of CO2 emissions.

Today we use various useful devices in our daily lives, and energy-efficient home appliances are being promoted widely. Compared with year 1990, however, personal computers, wide screen TVs, shower toilets and other various kinds of new products have been introduced into our lives, thereby resulting in new sources of CO2 emissions.

To use such knowledge to take concrete actions, it is essential for us to transform our sense of values, while starting to take action where we can. To create a low-carbon society, we must all explore what we can do in our daily lives and take action immediately.

(By Kazumi Yagi)