January 25, 2011


Kawasaki City's Latest Cutting-Edge Environmental Technologies for the World

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.100 (December 2010)
'Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan' (No. 32)

Kawasaki is a major city, with a population of 1.4 million, located just across the Tama River from Tokyo, Japan's capital. Since it only takes about 20 minutes to commute from Kawasaki to major transit centers like Tokyo Station, many Kawasaki residents work in Tokyo, and the population of this bedroom community for Tokyo commuters keeps growing. Kawasaki boasts Japan's first "eco-town," built on reclaimed land on the edge of Tokyo Bay, as well as companies and plants that have some of the nation's leading-edge technologies, and is also home to a large number of workers from overseas.

Known as an industrial area even before the Second World War, the city of Kawasaki supported Japan's high postwar economic growth from 1960 to 1970, functioning as the core of the Keihin Industrial Belt, which extends from Metropolitan Tokyo to Kanagawa and Chiba Prefectures. Over a period of time, however, industrial activities caused environmental problems such as air and water pollution. The city in response passed the Kawasaki City Ordinance for Pollution Prevention, the first such local ordinance in Japan, and formulated a compensation system for pollution victims, while it also concluded air pollution control agreements with 39 plants in the city. Thus Kawasaki has largely dealt with its pollution problems and is now well known in Japan for pioneering antipollution measures.

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

Today the world is facing climate change, a global-scale environmental threat. In regard to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Kawasaki, those from the industrial sector account for as much as 75.9 percent of the total emissions from the city. On the positive side, however, the city can boast that its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in fiscal 2008, mainly those from the industrial sector, showed a 13.9-percent decrease compared to the base year level (CO2, CH4 and N2O: 1990/HFCs, PFCs and SF6: 1995)

Meanwhile, as GHG emissions from the commercial and residential sectors have tended to increase, partly because of population growth, local initiatives to address various issues involving nature, society, and the environment also continue to progress. As a model of such initiatives, in March 2009 in collaboration with citizens, the city formulated policies to promote the establishment of a sustainable local society called "Eco-City Takatsu" in Takatsu Ward, located at the center of the city, which would utilize the resources in the ward.

The promotion of the Eco-City Takatsu initiative focuses on two areas: "mitigation," which aims to reduce GHG emissions and take measures to absorb these gases; and "adaptation," which responds to the harmful effects of climate change such as floods and loss of biodiversity.

Currently, Eco-City Takatsu is promoting 12 projects in line with its three basic goals, which are (1) creation of a low-carbon, resource- conservation society; (2) regeneration of urban areas in harmony with nature; and (3) development of disaster-prevention measures specific to each community. One of the 12 projects, for example, is aimed at creating or improving biotopes -- small areas that provide habitat for a diversity of species -- at individual schools in the watershed area. These biotopes provide children with an opportunity to learn about the water cycle, and serve as a local base for protecting ecosystems and a variety of small wildlife. Another project is working to revitalize a community based on agricultural resources, with an eye on the valuable green spaces and farmlands still remaining in urban areas.

Under Kawasaki's Ordinance regarding the Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures, enacted in April 2010, emphasis is given to international contributions through green technologies, as well as anti-global warming measures in daily life and preferential use of renewable energy sources.

One of the initiatives leading to international contributions is a project called "Low-CO2 Kawasaki Brands," which supports products and technologies helpful in creating a low-carbon society. The project aims to properly assess the emissions reduction efforts of companies and other organizations based on their carbon footprints throughout the life cycles of their products and technologies. This approach examines not only direct emissions from production but also emissions from other processes, including procurement of raw materials, distribution, sales, usage, and disposal. Since 2009, the project has selected nine products and technologies as fit for the Low-CO2 Pilot Brands. Among them are items from Tokyo Electric Power Co. and JFE Engineering Corp., both of which are located in the coastal area of the city.

The Kawasaki City Global Environment Knowledge Centre has been actively engaged in joint research projects by inviting various participants from industry, academia, the public sector, and citizens. One project is working on water purification in enclosed waters with the use of carbon fiber technology at a fishing pond in a green space in the city. In another project, a joint research team developed an air conditioning system that utilizes geothermal energy, which was installed in a children's center in the city. Under a three-year international contribution project that started in 2007, a portable water purification unit was developed using environmental technologies. The unit, which is compact enough to be loaded on a bicycle, is now widely used in developing countries where it is difficult to carry or install larger systems.

In support of this type of initiative, the city has been holding the Kawasaki International Eco-Tech Fair every February since 2009 to expand promotion of its homegrown environmental technologies to the world. The fair exhibits a wide range of environmental technologies that meet the policy needs of Asia and cutting-edge environmental technologies that help to address global environmental issues. A total of 124 companies and organizations, mostly from the city, participated in the fair in 2010, which attracted about 10,500 visitors over the course of two days.

Kawasaki has also been contributing to the world through the Asia-Pacific Eco-Business Forum held jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In February 2009, Kawasaki and the city of Shenyang, China, concluded their "Agreement on Cooperation in the Development of a Circular Economy" with the aim of further implementing cooperative efforts to solve environmental problems by promoting a virtuous cycle between the environment and the economy. Kawasaki's fair in 2010 enjoyed a number of overseas visitors, particularly from other Asian countries.

The next fair, to be held on February 16 and 17, 2011, will again exhibit a variety of advanced technologies from the companies in the city, including those in the fields of environmental improvement, waste disposal, recycling, renewable energy, and energy saving.

Besides this, Japan's largest-scale solar power plants, with a total output of about 20,000 kilowatts, are now under construction in Ukishima and Ogishima, located in the waterfront area of Kawasaki. The total energy production of the plants will be enough to satisfy the needs of approximately 5,900 households annually, and they are attracting attention from all over Japan.

Japan's Largest-scale Photovoltaic Power Plants to be Constructed in Waterfront Area, Kawasaki

Finally, taking advantage of its experience in dealing with environmental pollution, as a bedroom community for Tokyo commuters, the city of Kawasaki plans to continue with its efforts to realize international cooperation and industrial exchanges through the transfer of environmental technologies.

Written by Nobuko Saigusa