6 May 2010 – The OECD released the Assessment and Recommendations of the Environmental Performance Review of Japan. The full report will be launched on the occasion of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in Nagoya (Japan) from 18 to 29 October 2010. Japan is the first country to undergo a third OECD Environmental Performance Review.
The Review acknowledges the significant progress that Japan has made since the last Environmental Performance Review in 2002, particularly in managing the traditional range of environmental problems. Although the second largest economy in OECD, Japan has among the lowest levels air emissions per unit of GDP. The amount of energy and materials used per unit of output have continued to decrease. Overall, the quality of Japanese waters has improved and final disposal of waste has decreased. Japan has been a frontrunner in promoting the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) approach for sound materials management, both domestically and internationally. At international level, Japan has played a proactive role on several other environmental issues including climate change, chemicals management, water, and, most recently, biodiversity.
However, Japan is now facing a range of complex environmental problems that have important global dimensions. Japan has been struggling to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with its Kyoto Protocol commitment. Protection of biodiversity within and outside protected areas has not been sufficient to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. Although there has been good progress in recycling, further efforts are needed to reduce waste generation.
The Review commends Japan’s leadership in developing eco-innovation. Innovative policy instruments, such as the Top Runner Programme, have been used to promote the development of green technologies. Japan’s environmental goods and services sector has been increasing, providing new employment opportunities. At the same time, persistent economic difficulties, the large budget deficit and the ageing population have created new challenges for environmental policy and stimulated demand for a new growth model. The recently released New Growth Strategy to 2020 attempts to respond to these challenges and appears to include the main elements of the 2009 OECD Declaration on Green Growth.
The OECD makes 38 recommendations that should contribute to further environmental progress in Japan. One of the key recommendations is for Japan to enhance the overall cost-effectiveness of its environmental policy mix, and to make greater use of market-based instruments. Specific recommendations include:
• Mainstream environmental considerations in the 2011 tax reform, with a view to broadening the use of environmentally related taxes and reducing incentives and subsidies that have perverse environmental effects; this would help to achieve environmental objectives and to promote eco-innovation more cost-effectively.
• Put a consistent price on carbon, e.g. through a mandatory emissions trading scheme in combination with carbon-related taxes, with a view to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to achieve Japan’s climate targets more efficiently.
• Promote waste prevention and greater cost recovery in municipal waste services by expanding the use of waste charging schemes.
• Redesign agricultural support measures so as to reduce the negative impacts on, and to provide incentives to protect, biodiversity.
For further reading, see www.oecd.org/environment and www.oecd.org/env/countryreviews
For more on OECD work on Japan, see www.oecd.org/japan
Assessment and Recommendations available in Japanese on the website of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan at http://www.env.go.jp/press/press.php?serial=12446