Sustainable Cities: The Tokyo Initiative

tokyo-sustainable-cityFor most people, Tokyo is regarded the epitome of a techno-mecha, a city that fosters technologies of tomorrow. Tokyo is the largest region in the world, having reached 35 million inhabitants by 2007.

As a result, a safe assumption would be that Tokyo is an unsustainable metropolis and probably one of the most polluted areas in the world. However, contrary to popular belief, Tokyo is renowned for its forward-thinking environmental conservation.

In 2009, a report was released by the World Bank, demonstrating Tokyo’s Climate Change Strategy, a 10 year project that started in 2007. This was a carefully thought-though project, with a set of goals, policies, and the initiatives that needed to be followed in order to meet their objectives.

The 5 aims were:

1. A new approach towards energy use. The target was to shift to a low-CO₂ society, a society where people are able to enjoy a comfortable urban life on minimal use of energy

2. More effective use of renewable energies, such as solar power, to enhance Tokyo’s independence on fossil fuels

3. Progress in the passive use of energy, using wind, light and heat naturally, especially in homes. The idea revolves around dynamics between buildings, and the relationship with surrounding nature

4. The development of a greener city, with the low-CO₂ social systems and technologies that generate new urban-style businesses

5. Finally, the 10-Year Project for a Carbon-Minus Tokyo focuses on reducing Tokyo’s 2000 GHG emissions by 25% by 2020

In order to achieve these goals, 5 initiatives were created.

1. Promote private enterprise efforts to achieve CO₂ reduction: GHG emissions from the business and industrial sector of Tokyo, accounted for more than 40% of the city’s total emissions. As a result regulating the emissions from these sectors was crucial for reducing the total GHG emissions of Tokyo.

2. Achieve CO₂ reductions in households by low-CO₂ lifestyles: This initiative included the promotion of low-energy appliances, such as fluorescent lamps. The initiative included the building of houses that make most use of natural light, heat and wind.

3. Lay down rules for CO₂ reduction in urban development: Formulation of energy conservation specifications for building which were applied to facilities of Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG); promotion of effective utilization of energy and use of renewable energy in local areas.

4. Accelerate effort to reduce CO₂ from vehicle traffic.

5. Create a TMG mechanism to support activities in respective sectors.

As a result of this campaign, Tokyo was named the greenest city in the Asia-Pacific region, according to an evaluation by specialist consulting firm Solidance, in 2011. The evaluation was based on CO₂ emissions, energy usage, transportation facilities, air quality, water, waste treatment, “green space” and “environmental governance”. Although Tokyo represents more than 43% of Japan’s urban population, its emissions levels per capita are far below compared with other high-income developed countries.

Concluding thoughts

A proud member of the C40 Cities initiative, Tokyo has a long way to go in order to reach its goal by 2020. What is important though, is that it has shown the path cities and governments should take in order to become more sustainable. Considering that 67% of energy related GHG are produced from cities around the world, cities should be on all government’s priority lists.

Recommended Reading
This book investigates how the meanings and politics of urban sustainability are being radically rethought in response to the economic downturn and the credit crunch. In this ground-breaking contribution, prominent scholars provide up to date coverage of the impacts of recent changes on key areas of urban planning, including housing, transport, and the environment, and map out core areas for future research. The Future of Sustainable Cities: Critical Reflections

About the Author Charles El-Zeind

Charles El-Zeind is passionate about communicating environmental issues such as climate change and sustainability. Charles is currently involved in a grassroots community project with the Fiveways and Hollingdean Transition Network and writes regularly for the Sustainable Business Toolkit. He holds a bachelor degree from the University of Brighton in Environment and Media Studies.

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