Green Japan preview

Here is a sneak peek of my incoming article “Green Chemicals Movement in Japan” for ICIS Chemical Business‘ October 27 issue.

This is an excerpt of my interview with Junko Edahiro, co-founder and co-chief executive of the non-profit group Japan for Sustainability (JFS).


JAPAN MIGHT be considered one the greenest industrialized countries in the world (if not the greenest), but nonprofit group Japan for Sustainability (JFS) thinks there is still room for improvement, especially in the country’s manufacturing and energy sectors.

JFS co-founder and co-chief executive Junko Edahiro points out that the Voluntary Action Plan initiated by Japan Business Federation Nippon Keidanren in 1997 has not really been effective in lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Under the Keidanren plan, 35 industry sectors, which include the chemical industry, are expected to lower their GHG emissions below the 1990 level of 512m tons of CO2 equivalent. In Keidanren’s 2007 report, overall CO2 emissions in 2006 were said to be 0.2% lower compared with the level from a year earlier, and 1.5% lower versus 1990.“There hasn’t been a lot of progress so far, especially coming from two of the largest GHG emitters in Japan, the iron and steel industry, and the electric power industry,” says Edahiro.”

Each industry has its own target levels, and Edahiro notes the difficulty of industry outsiders in assessing their reporting accuracy.

“The industrial sector, the chemical industry in particular, has a hard time communicating with the public compared to electronics or automotive because they don’t sell their end products to consumers. How they can police themselves and show what they’re doing to the general public is a big barrier,” she says.

The Keidanren voluntary plan is also not keeping up with Japan’s own 6% GHG emission-reduction goal, which was implemented with the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005, Edahiro adds.

“Although the industrial sector is trying to do something about global warming, the Keidanren plan is not sufficient enough to be at the same level with the national goal,” says Edahiro. “Industries in general have to come up with new business models where sustainability has to go hand-in-hand with profitability.”

Edahiro admits that Japan’s industrial sector is ahead compared to other countries when it comes to energy efficiency and waste disposal.

“But if Japan’s long term goal of a low-carbon society has to be achieved, the government needs to exert stronger leadership in order to regulate GHG emissions,” she adds.

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