November 25, 2008


Creating a City Where "Environment" and "Economy" Go Together: Environmental Measures in Kawasaki City

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.74 (October 2008)
"Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan" Article Series No.22

History of Kawasaki City

Kawasaki is a large city located just across the Tama River from Japan capital's, Tokyo. Kawasaki is long and narrow stretching north to south. It has two basic areas with very different features: one is a heavy industrial area in its southeastern part along the coast of Tokyo Bay, and the other is a residential area or a bedroom community for Tokyo commuters, located in its northwestern hillside part. Its population has grown nearly 1.4 million from about 50,000 in 1924 when it was originally given city status.

Known as an industrial area even before the Second World War, Kawasaki City has developed markedly since the 1950s when large-scale power plants and petrochemical complexes including oil refineries were built one after another on reclaimed ground in Tokyo Bay off Kawasaki. These newly constructed plants as well as Kawasaki's older iron works helped support Japan's high postwar economic growth, functioning as the core of the Keihin Industrial Belt, which extends from Metropolitan Tokyo to Kanagawa and Chiba Prefectures.

At the same time, however, a large amount of waste containing sulfur oxides was emitted from these plants during fossil fuel combustion; due to inadequate treatment equipment and lack of technology at that time, these pollutants were released directly into the atmosphere, causing an increasing number of people living nearby to suffer chronic bronchitis or bronchial asthma. The city suffered from environmental pollution for a long time.

Thus, in 1971 Kawasaki adopted the principle of "Civil Life as Top Priority" and established a Pollution Bureau as part of the city government in order to implement measures for pollution control, affirmative relief of pollution victims, and preservation and restoration of the natural environment. In particular, backed by a civic movement, the "Kawasaki City Ordinance for Pollution Prevention" was enforced in 1972 as the first such local ordinance in Japan, followed by the "Kawasaki City Ordinance on Environmental Assessment" in 1976.

As a result of these measures and the city's efforts to implement them, Kawasaki's water and air quality now satisfy national standards. Its Pollution Monitoring Center, built in 1972, is still monitoring the ambient environment around the clock with an automatic analyzer, and now discloses the real-time information on the Internet.

The role of this center has been changing from year to year, and now it is in charge of research on more complex and diverse environmental problems.

Current Environmental Policy

Like many municipalities, Kawasaki sees global warming as one of the most important issues affecting its environment policy. After the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, the city formulated an Action Plan for Global Environmental Conservation in 1998, and the Global Warming Countermeasure Area Promotion Plan in 2004. In line with these plans, Kawasaki is now placing the highest priority on its Carbon Challenge Kawasaki Eco-Strategy (CC Kawasaki).

Kawasaki City has implemented measures with a view to balancing the needs of the city's coastal industrial area and residential area.
Similarly, under the CC Kawasaki strategy, the city intends to promote harmony and mutually beneficial interactions between the environment and the economy. With this approach, Kawasaki aims to make city-wide efforts to achieve a sustainable society by global standards.

In Kawasaki, practical activities to deal with global warming have been led by the Kawasaki Action Plan Promotion Committee for Global Environmental Conservation, which consists of four subcommittees, one each for citizens, businesses, schools and administrative bodies. The citizen subcommittee in particular is actively working on specific subjects, such as energy saving, solar energy, green consumerism and transportation.

One example of their initiatives is the "One Store, One Eco-Activity" campaign, which encourages individual stores in a local shopping district to choose and implement their own eco-friendly activity. This campaign has developed into a diversity of community-wide activities involving many people. Groups of local schoolchildren, for example, visit the participating stores and interview storekeepers as part of the school curriculum. The Kawasaki citizen's subcommittee was recognized for its achievements and granted the 2006 Environment Minister's Award for Activities to Fight Global Warming.

The cooperation of various players is needed to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions. As part of the CC Kawasaki strategy, the city established the Kawasaki Promotion Conference of Countermeasures against Global Warming (Carbon Challenge Kawasaki Eco Conference) which brings citizens and businesses together with the city government. The group aims to form a wide-ranging network for promoting practical activities with the collaboration of various players, rather than just municipality-led activities.

To take these initiatives a step further, the city set up the Global Environment Knowledge Center in May 2008. This center is designed to be a core institution to deal with various environment-related activities, such as collection and distribution of information on environmental technologies developed in Kawasaki, joint research projects by citizens, businesses and universities, and environmental education. For the convenience of citizens, the center is located in a commercial building downtown, not in city hall. This is one indication of Kawasaki's effort to come closer to citizens and improve its previous reputation as being not very good at public relations and sharing information with citizens.

From Kawasaki to the World

In 1997, Kawasaki created an environment-conscious town planning framework so-called Kawasaki Eco-Town; the project area was designated the first eco-town area by the national government. In 2002, a zero-emission industrial complex was established in the coastal zone; one of its aims is to recycle waste as resources. Other outstanding initiatives have also been promoted using the cutting-edge environmental technologies which characterize Kawasaki City's present-day industries.

Kawasaki City was also the first municipality in Japan to join the United Nations Global Compact. The city hosts global companies with environmentally advanced technologies, and joined the Global Compact as part of its commitment to contribute to the world by making use of such intellectual resources. The city also created its own Kawasaki Compact to further expand the UN Global Compact in the city; the Kawasaki Compact consists of a Business Compact and a Citizen Compact. The city hopes that not only businesses but individual citizens and citizen's groups will join the compact, and that collaboration will also occur between these two groups.

Urban and Industrial Symbiosis for Sustainability
Kawasaki City Joins UN Global Compact

As one way to contribute to the environment and the world, Kawasaki City has held an annual Asia-Pacific Eco-Business Forum since 2004 to enable exchanges of environmental technologies, updated information and ideas among government officials, business owners and researchers from Japan and abroad. The city has also cooperated with the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (UNEP IETC) for a project dubbed "Development of Eco-Towns in the Asia Pacific Region." In order to create a platform for sharing on-site challenges, in 2007 the city held meeting for the UNEP Eco-Town Project in the Asia-Pacific Region and invited persons responsible for implementation from four cities in Asia that belong to the project, including cities in Indonesia and Viet Nam. Kawasaki also accepts trainees from overseas and hosts various workshops to offer opportunities to learn about environmental technologies.

In close cooperation with other Asian countries, Kawasaki is now preparing new projects for 2009: the Kawasaki International Eco-Tech Fair 2009 and the fifth Asia-Pacific Eco-Business Forum will be jointly held in February 2009.

The Eco-Tech Fair plans: (1) To nationally and internationally introduce various environmental activities in Kawasaki, as well as outstanding environmental technologies developed by Japanese companies and energy-saving technologies that can be incorporated into production processes; (2) to transfer environmental technologies with the aim of making an international contribution through orchestrating environmental technologies, products and services in every field; (3) to organize tours to eco-towns in the coastal industrial zone in Kawasaki and to other related facilities; and (4) to hold environmental forums and seminars.

We expect that this gathering of visitors and businesses from Japan and abroad focusing on environmental fields will further promote environmental technologies and initiatives not only in Japan but throughout Asia.

Various phenomena emerged first in Kawasaki before they spread nationwide. We can say that Kawasaki has always been a model city in Japan. In that context, Kawasaki's future policies can be seen as harbingers of what will be coming up next in Japan. Let us keep our eyes on Kawasaki, its future initiatives and achievements.

(Written by Nobuko Saigusa)