October 20, 2009


City of Kyoto Partnering with Businesses, Citizens on Green Initiatives

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.85 (September 2009)
"Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan" (No. 27)

Japan's ancient capital, Kyoto, is a historical city, with over 12 centuries of proud history and an inheritance of refined traditional culture. This city of 1.5 million people is a tourist destination that attracts 50 million visitors annually from Japan and abroad. It is also blessed with many natural areas, including forests, which cover three-quarters of its area.

It was December 1997 that the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3) was held in Kyoto, making the city well-known around the world because of the resulting Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted during this session. Here, we introduce what the city has achieved in regards to the protocol and what it is aiming to do.

Ahead of COP3, in October 1996, the city started its Biodiesel Fuel Production Project, the first of its kind in Japan. This project involves collecting used cooking oil from households, and then converting it into fuel for the city's garbage-collection trucks and buses.

This initiative started as a project to "kill-five-birds-with-one-stone," by cutting the amount of waste through recycling, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, generating a lower volume of black smoke and sulfur oxides in the exhaust, promoting citizens' awareness through recycling projects, and invigorating local communities through collaborative activities.

Since November 1997, all the city's garbage-collection trucks have been using this 100-percent-biodiesel fuel. Since 2000, it has been used in some city buses, which have been run on a diesel mixture containing 20 percent biodiesel. In 2004, a fuel plant producing 5,000 liters a day started operation.

In fiscal 2007, a total of 1,515 kiloliters of biodiesel fuel was used, eliminating 3,969 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. As of the end of fiscal 2008, used oil from households was being collected at 1,352 collection points, to then be used as biodiesel fuel for all of its roughly 170 garbage-collection trucks and 100 city buses.

In July 1997, in the run-up to COP3, the Kyoto city government started tackling global warming by formulating its City of Kyoto Global Warming Countermeasures Promotion Plan, which was aimed at reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from the city's area by 10 percent relative to the 1990 level by 2010.

In November 1998, the city formulated the Miyako Agenda 21 Forum, a partnership organization representing the municipal government, local citizens, and local businesses. In the forum, the following eight working groups (now five groups since June 2008) were formed: lifestyle, business/industry, eco-tourism, eco-friendly transportation, eco-museum, organic waste recycling, alternative energy, and the green festival group. Various players joined the working groups to develop initiatives.

Kyoto Local Agenda 21 Forum

Though it is a common approach today for many municipal governments to form partnership organizations with citizens and businesses, Kyoto's Miyako Agenda 21 Forum was the first of its kind in Japan, and it has proven to be a significant platform for its various initiatives.

One initiative created by the Miyako Agenda 21 Forum is the establishment of a local environmental management system, called the Kyoto Environmental Management System Standard (KES). In November 1999, the city conducted a survey questionnaire, targeting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the city. According to the results, nearly 80 percent of the SMEs surveyed were not very active in environmental initiatives, although 70 percent of respondents recognized the importance of acting on environmental issues. The major reasons for their reluctance were cited as lack of information, and cost.

To cope with this, the business/industry working group of the forum launched a program to help SMEs obtain ISO 14001 certification, believing it critical to promote environmental activities among the roughly 90,000 SMEs in Kyoto. This program did not work well, however, because obtaining the certification requires considerable time and effort, as well as high fees.

The working group therefore decided to create a local environmental management system that can be easily adopted by SMEs. After a lot of investigation and discussions, it finally completed the KES, a set of environmental management standards similar to ISO 14001, which aims for continuous improvement through the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle.

The KES standard uses simplified design and terminology, and provides two different categories, Step 1 and Step 2, to cover organizations of any size and kind, including businesses, local governments, schools, and households. Step 1 is an entry level with minimum requirements, which is suitable for organizations that have just started their environmental activities and intend to get more experience and information. Step 2 is designed to help organizations move to a higher level in the future, by requiring the meeting of standards equivalent to those for ISO 14001. The cost to obtain the KES certification is just under 300,000 yen (about U.S.$3,100), only about one-tenth of the cost of ISO 14001 certification. The KES certification and registration was started in May 2001.

To promote the wider use of the KES system, Kyoto regularly holds seminars for companies, and provides technical and financial support. When grading companies qualified to participate in competitive bidding, the city provides the same ranking to those with either ISO 14001 or KES certification. In some cases, as well, it limits bid participants for construction contracts to companies that have either ISO 14001 or KES certification.

Currently, 739 SMEs in Kyoto have achieved the KES certification. According to an analysis of 503 companies engaged in efforts to increase energy efficiency, annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were cut by about 11.6 tons per company, demonstrating the effectiveness of the KES system.

An increasing number of other local governments are recommending the introduction of a KES-based environmental management system. The use of KES certification as a condition of green procurement is also spreading among companies across Japan. Now, over 2,600 companies in Japan have some kind of environmental certification, including that under the KES. In addition, more and more municipalities are interested in creating a local SME environmental management system specific to their area.

Japan's Trend for Local and SME Versions of Environmental Management Systems

In December 2004, Kyoto enacted an ordinance to combat climate change, the Kyoto City Global Warming Countermeasures Ordinance, which is the first of its kind created by a municipality in Japan. The ordinance stipulates that greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto should be reduced by 10 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2010. Under the ordinance, large companies are required to submit their emission reduction plans and performance reports.

"The standard energy-efficiency labeling system," which is today used nationwide, grades electrical appliances according to energy efficiency, and the label shows information such as electricity consumption when used, in order to help consumers select the best energy-saving models. The system first started as an initiative in local communities.

In Kyoto, in order to create energy-efficiency labels that could be understood easily by citizens, the Miyako Agenda 21 Forum was instrumental in establishing the Energy-Efficient Product Green Consumer Campaign Committee, with a membership drawn from groups including local residents, citizens' groups, consumer appliance retailers, and others. The committee had many discussions to that end, and decided to indicate energy-efficiency performance (shown on a scale of one to five based on standard energy-efficiency values) and price (the product's retail price and the electricity charge for the average number of years of use).

In July 2004, the Kyoto Energy-Efficiency Labeling Council was established, and in the same year, under the Kyoto City Global Warming Countermeasures Ordinance, retailers were also obliged to affix energy-efficiency labels to their products. Furthermore, in October of the same year, the National Energy-Efficiency Labeling Council was created, and use of this labeling system has now spread throughout Japan.

In response to the rise of the energy-efficiency labeling movement, the Energy Conservation Law was amended in August 2005 to mandate consumer appliance retailers to provide information on the energy-efficiency performance of their products. As a consequence, a standard nationwide energy-efficiency labeling system was launched in October 2006.

Since Kyoto was the host city for COP3, a deep-rooted environmental awareness had been established in not only the government but businesses and citizens, as well. In regard to partnerships, the city has nurtured a platform where all stakeholders such as governments, businesses, and citizens are willing to have dialogues to promote various initiatives -- before environmental problems become evident. Under this situation, it is assumed that various innovative and feasible initiatives can be implemented based on partnership initiatives.

In January 2009, Kyoto City was selected as one of 13 Eco Model Cities by the Japanese government. The city's CO2 emissions reduction targets are 40 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050, compared to the 1990 levels. Furthermore, Kyoto is proactively seeking to be a "zero-carbon city," with no greenhouse gas emissions.

Conceptual Basis of the Movement to Create and Propagate 'Eco-Model Cities'

The city's strategies as an "Eco Model City" are being promoted based on partnerships among stakeholders to (1) make Kyoto streets pedestrian-friendly, (2) to make it a city where people take good care of their "wood culture," and (3) to promote lifestyle changes and technological innovation through the "Do You Kyoto?" project. Aiming to promote these projects, a citizens' meeting was established to plan strategies and act in collaboration with citizens and businesses. The strategies, now under preparation, will be formulated and implemented later this year.

The city will promote its initiatives as an Eco Model City, utilizing the lessons learned from history, and continue to form partnerships with citizens and businesses, with the aim of being a more prosperous city. Kyoto has become a showcase of the effects of its proactive initiatives, and will become an ideal model for the world's local governments.

Written by Junko Edahiro