“Green Japan”: a model for environmental stewardship

Research shows multiple options available to governments to meet Kyoto obligations

March 3, 2008

Waterloo, Canada - Japan's experience sets an example for other nations facing tough standards set by the Kyoto Protocol, finds new research released this month from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

In CIGI's newest Working Paper, Green Japan: Managing the Intersection of National Politics and Global Environmentalism, CIGI Senior Fellow Carin Holroyd reviews Japanese government policies and initiatives that are enabling the country to meet targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. Measures discussed in the paper include initiatives to combat global warming, production and use of low emission technologies, recycling laws, and "Eco Towns."

The Kyoto Protocol established firm guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions to decrease the impacts of global warming on the environment. Canada and other signatories acknowledged the need to change their national policies. Many governments, however, have treated the Protocol as an aspirational document, providing a guideline and targets to be balanced against national economic and social realities.

Japan, on the other hand, has taken the guidelines seriously. Dr. Holroyd's paper provides a detailed description of the many government programs launched in that country with considerable support from the population.

According to Dr. Holroyd, Japan has been successful in moving toward a sustainable environment through a combination of national, governmental leadership and a commitment to public engagement. Rather than focusing on punitive restrictions and costly regulations, Japan has emphasized changes in behavior that can be taken by every person, family, company and community. This position has drawn support from business and citizens.

Dr. Holroyd notes that Japan's government has been proactive in adopting new, environmentally-friendly technologies and that this in turn has encouraged the private sector to undertake "green" product, service and process development, examples of which are described in her study. Japan's corporate sector is becoming more environmentally conscious and is discovering new business opportunities in the process.

In Japan, academic, government and commercial research scientists have all been mobilized to develop solutions to environmental challenges, the paper states.

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions by GDP of Japan is the least among major industrialized countries in the world and public transportation accounts for 47% of all movements of people in Japan. The country emerged as a global environmental leader after the oil shocks of the 1970s, and has pursued a reliance on clean energy, particularly nuclear power, resulting in a number of major reclamations projects and conservation measures.

"International protocols are the primary currency of global governance," argues Dr. Holroyd. "Japan's approach to environmental protection and awareness is worthy of study because it demonstrates that the effort of a single government can bring the imperatives of Kyoto Protocol to bear on the national scene and provide a measure of guidance to other national seeking to tackle the same challenge."

For more information and to download this and other CIGI Working Papers, please visit: http://www.cigionline.org/publications

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.