Japan

   

Environmental Policies

#14
Key Findings
With post-Fukushima energy policy remaining controversial, Japan falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 14) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

Nuclear power plants have restarted following the Fukushima disaster, but concerns continue to keep this process slow. A new strategic plan envisions a 22% to 24% share for renewable energy and a 20% to 22% share for nuclear energy by 2030. Concerns are rising that wind parks and large solar fields may threaten the environment.

A new forest-management law promotes the commercialization of forestry, which could conflict with environmental goals. Biodiversity remains on a long-term path of decline despite recent proactive measures.

The country has said that climate change and ocean pollution will be high on the agenda for the G-20 summit it is hosting in 2019. The country’s resistance to giving up whaling remains a high-profile and emotional issue.

Environment

#18

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
6
Japan was a global leader in terms of antipollution policy and energy conservation in the 1970s and 1980s. More recently, Japan has been faced with the major concern of how to improve its domestic energy mix.

The triple 3/11 disaster led to some policy rethinking with respect to nuclear energy. However, the LDP-led government has reiterated that nuclear power will remain an important part of the country’s energy mix well into the future. The country’s 48 reactors were all shut down between 2011 and 2012. As of July 2018, there were (again) nine reactors operating that met the new, stricter standards.

According to the new 5th Strategic Energy Plan, released in July 2018, the basic proportions envisioned for the country’s 2030 energy mix remain unchanged, including the goal of a 22% to 24% share for renewables and 20% to 22% for nuclear energy. However, renewables are for the first time designated as a “major source.” This goal may still be ambitious, as public concerns are rising that wind parks and mega-size solar fields may seriously threaten the environment.

Japan has made great progress in terms of waste-water management in recent decades. Today the country has one of the world’s highest-quality tap-water systems, for example. The use of water for energy production is limited for geographical reasons.

The country has a proactive forestry policy, and in 2011 passed both the Fundamental Plan of Forest and Forestry and a National Forest Plan. A Forest Management Law introduced in mid-2018 promotes the commercialization of forestry. This may ultimately produce some tension with wider societal and environmental objectives.

Japan’s biodiversity is not particularly rich compared with other Asian countries. While the country has in recent years taken a proactive stance under its National Biodiversity Strategy, it has experienced a long-term decline in biodiversity due to its developmental path.

Citations:
Ministry of the Environment, Annual Report on the Environment in Japan 2017 (White Paper), https://www.env.go.jp/en/wpaper/2017/pdf/2017_all.pdf

Justin McCurry, Japan’s renewable energy puzzle: solar push threatens environment, The Guardian, 18 April 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/19/japans-renewable-energy-puzzle-solar-push-threatens-environment

Peter Bungate, Plotting Japan’s Energy Future, The Diplomat, 12 July 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/07/plotting-japans-energy-future/

The Japan Times, Problematic forestry management law (Commentary), 24 June 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/06/24/commentary/japan-commentary/problematic-forestry-management-law/

Global Environmental Protection

#12

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
7
For many years, international climate policy profited considerably from Japanese commitment to the process, with the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 as the most visible evidence. After Kyoto, however, Japan assumed a much more passive role. The Fukushima disaster in 2011, after which Japan had to find substitutes for its greenhouse-gas-free nuclear-power generation, rendered implausible a 2009 pledge to decrease greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by a quarter by 2020 (as compared to 1990). In the 2015 energy outlook for 2030, Japan announced that it would slash its emissions by 26% in 2030 (compared to 2013 levels).

Japan supports the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and has adopted relevant measures, including the May 2016 Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures. The plan reconfirms the 26% reduction goal for 2030, which is at the lower end for OECD countries. In 2017, the Environment Ministry published a long-term low-carbon vision, setting a goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% by 2050. However, the document also notes divergent opinions on specific policy directions.

The government has announced that climate change will be high on its agenda for the G-20 summit it will host in 2019. It also plans to address the issue of ocean pollution. This emphasis is in line with the Third Basic Plan on Ocean Policy passed in May 2018.

With respect to multilaterally organized conservation issues, Japan is particularly known for its resistance to giving up whaling, which remains a high-profile and emotional issue. The country supports numerous international environmental-protection programs by contributing funds and making advanced technologies available, including support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Citations:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), Analysis and Proposal of Foreign Policies Regarding the Impact of Climate Change on Fragility in the Asia-Pacific Region – With focus on natural disasters in the Region, September 2017

Ministry of the Environment (Japan), Outline of Long-term Low-carbon Vision, Tentative translation, 2017

Jiji, Climate change will be high on next year’s G20 summit agenda: Abe, The Japan Times, 25 September 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/25/national/politics-diplomacy/climate-change-will-high-next-years-g20-summit-agenda-abe-says/
Back to Top