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Conceptual Basis of the Movement to Create and Propagate 'Eco-Model Cities' -- Initiatives of the Japanese Government

Conceptual Basis of the Movement to Create and Propagate  Eco-Model Cities  -- Initiatives of the Japanese Government
In February 2008, the Japanese government established the Panel on a
Low-Carbon Society to discuss global warming and a wide range of issues
regarding the shift toward a low-carbon society. It was convened by the
Prime Minister and consists of 13 (originally 12) panelists from various
sectors, including academia, think-tanks and industry. The Prime
Minister also attends the panel's continuing discussions regarding
these issues.

In February 2008, the Japanese government established the Panel on a
Low-Carbon Society to discuss global warming and a wide range of issues
regarding the shift toward a low-carbon society. It was convened by the
Prime Minister and consists of 13 (originally 12) panelists from various
sectors, including academia, think-tanks and industry. The Prime
Minister also attends the panel's continuing discussions regarding
these issues.

The panel has set up three subcommittees which include several panel
members together with outside experts. One of the subcommittees was
convened to discuss the creation of model environmental cities,
or "Eco-Model Cities," and a low-carbon society. The author (Junko
Edahiro, one of the co-chief Executives of Japan for Sustainability)
sits on the Prime Minister's panel and on this subcommittee.

The subcommittee chooses model cities in order to promote drastic
reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging local communities
to promote integrated efforts that incorporate existing knowledge and
information into social and economic systems and make good use of local
characteristics. In April 2008, it was decided that some leading model
cities across the country would be chosen to receive government
financial support to promote environmental measures.

There are five categories of criteria for selecting Eco-Model Cities;

(1) Drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- Long-term reduction goals that exceed 50% by 2050
- Achievement of a peak and downward trend in emissions in the city or
region at an early stage
- Improvement in energy efficiency by 30% or more by 2020
(2) Leadership and innovation
- Innovative efforts with no precedents in the context of an integrated
- Functioning as an example and/or reference for other cities in Japan
and overseas
(3) Regionally adapted initiatives
- Unique ideas that identify and make good use of specific local
conditions and special characteristics
(4) Feasibility
- Reasonable planning for implementing initiatives to achieve goals
- Participation by a wide variety of interested parties: local residents,
local companies, universities, non-profit organizations, and others
(5) Ongoing development of initiatives
- Creation of long-term municipal vitality by presenting concepts for
new city development
- Environmental education of the next generation responsible for future
city development

Local governments have shown a strong interest in the program; 82 local
governments from around Japan applied to become Eco-Model Cities. In
July 2008, the subcommittee selected 6 cities and towns based on the
criteria combined with a policy of making a balanced selection from a
diverse range of large cities, provincial capitals, small towns and
villages. The communities selected in 2008 were : Yokohama (Kanagawa),
Kitakyushu (Fukuoka), Toyoma City (Toyama), Obihiro (Hokkaido),
Shimokawa (Hokkaido), and Minamata (Kumamoto). All have set ambitious
targets, such as a 50% or more reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions from the current level. In January 2009, seven additional
cities were selected: Kyoto City (Kyoto), Sakai (Osaka), Iida (Nagano),
Toyota (Aichi), Yusuhara (Kochi), Miyakojima (Okinawa), and Chiyoda ward

To encourage the setting up of more Eco-Model Cities that can tackle the
challenges of achieving drastic reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs),
etc., the Japanese government established another council on promoting
low-carbon cities, and held an international seminar on December 14,
2008. The present article introduces a speech given at this seminar by
Professor Shuzo Murakami of Keio University, who chairs the subcommittee
for creating eco-model cities and a low-carbon society under the Prime
Minister's Panel for a Low-Carbon Society. It aims to outline the
concepts and activities of movements that are creating environment-
friendly cities as a way of realizing a low carbon society in Japan.


From a keynote speech by Professor Shuzo Murakami, Keio University 

Why do we need to look at cities as we attempt to shift toward a
low-carbon society? The first reason is that cities themselves are mass
consumers of energy. In addition, energy consumption is rising sharply,
especially in the category of individual consumer use, which connects
directly to our daily lives. As the main entities that formulate and
perform measures adopted by cities, municipal governments have a
perspective that is directly linked to citizens' daily lives and thus
have a great deal of influence over energy consumers. They are also
responsible for providing stable local energy.

When we think about a low-carbon society, we should not focus solely on
CO2 emission reduction. We should at the same time aim at a balanced
triangle of environment, economy and society to create a good quality of

The unique characteristics of each environmental city will depend on the
scale, natural environment, social systems and industrial structure of
the city and the lifestyle of its residents. However, the shift toward a
new phase needs to happen in every aspect of the social system. For this,
we need an integrated approach that can mobilize all the necessary
measures. The typical approaches of the past were pursued in separate
policy fields, separate municipal departments, or even in the individual
fields of the players, but these approaches could not efficiently
implement environmental measures. Therefore, it is necessary to shift to
an integrated approach, and model eco-cities appear to be a workable
entity for trying out such an approach. In fact, at model city selection
hearings, many municipal governments told us that "When we compiled the
application for the environmental model city, we were able to work
together irrespective of the traditional barriers between departments."

On the national government level, the Cabinet Secretariat is supporting
the project rather than specific ministries, such as the Ministry of the
Environment or the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in order to
promote cooperation among the national government ministries, between
the national government and municipalities, and between businesses and

How should we, as a potential environmental city, proceed with the
establishment of a low-carbon society? First, we need an assessment of
the current status and future outlook of CO2 emissions of the city. Many
municipalities in addition to those selected as model eco-cities are
already engaged in this task. Next we need to identify the bottlenecks
and barriers and clarify the roles of each stakeholder. After that we
need to set a future vision, formulate a road map based on backcasting
and determine an action plan, not forgetting to do a follow-up on the
action plan. The council on promoting low-carbon cities was established
to facilitate this process.

The image of a model eco-city will differ depending on the scale of the
city. For big cities, reducing CO2 has a great deal to do with the city
structure itself, including a transformation in energy use and
transportation systems, reforming living structures and basing the
city's foundation on utilizing its specific natural environment. For
provincial capitals, transforming into a low-carbon environment requires
cooperation with their surrounding suburbs. The keys here lie in
creating compact cities and maintaining a good public transportation
system. For small towns and villages, low-carbonization should be
considered from the viewpoint of utilizing aspects of their natural
environment such as renewable energy and local resources.

In the future, we plan to support the efforts of environmental model
cities and provide follow-ups to track their achievements and to
disseminate best practices across Japan and to share information on
successful efforts with the rest of the world through cooperation with
foreign cities that are also actively involved in environmental

Lastly, I would like to briefly touch upon a subject of recent
discussions, city environmental performance assessments. It is difficult
to find the proper tools to evaluate a city's environmental performance,
because, despite the growing need for them, such specific tools have not
yet been fully developed.

Worldwide, many tools have been developed for evaluating buildings,
including the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental
Efficiency (CASBEE) in Japan, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED) program in the United States, and the BRE Environmental
Assessment Method, (BREEAM) in the U.K. For evaluating cities, however,
tools are not as widely available as they are for buildings. There is a
growing demand for tools to evaluate measures and activities on the
scale of a city or society as a whole.

Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency

We are currently working on developing such tools. One fundamental
principle guiding this effort is the need to reduce environmental loads
and create a low-carbon society while also improving the quality of life.
Clear, simple and comprehensive evaluation results should also be
presented, in a visual format, which is very important in obtaining
consensus from the general public.

CASBEE is a tool developed in Japan under the leadership of the Ministry
of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. It has several scales, such as
for housing and offices. Many municipal governments use CASBEE, for
example by requiring it in environmental performance assessments when
applying for a new construction permit. 

We are now engaged in developing a low-carbon version of CASBEE for
cities. Included in the process are the CASBEE tool for housing and
other buildings as well as a tool for urban development and a tool for
evaluating a city as a whole. The building and urban development tools
have been completed, and we are about to start work on the third,
comprehensive tool.

One example of the application of the CASBEE tool for urban development
is "Harumi Triton Square," a large-scale urban re-development area
located about one kilometer from Tokyo Station. This project was
evaluated "A with four stars" with ratings indicated with one to five
stars, attesting to the completion of this tool for evaluating urban
development. We need to expand the concept of CASBEE tool for "urban
development" to a city as a whole.

When we can visualize a city's environmental performance and create
simple indicators based on environmental efficiency, it will give
citizens useful information on how to reduce carbon dioxide. Even if we
create a superior energy-saving city, it will not be truly effective
unless the citizens embrace an energy-saving lifestyle. It is extremely
important to stimulate citizens with incentives to engage in low-carbon

Completed city environmental performance assessments would provide
strong support for environmental measures within each municipality, and
would also function as a tool for comparing the environmental
efficiencies of various measures with other cities. It would attract
more attention from citizens and enhance their sense of belonging to
their local communities. It is also expected to help activate the
community itself by introducing a competitive consciousness among cities.

If Japan is to meet its long-term target of reducing carbon emissions 60
to 80 percent by 2050, we must swiftly transform into a low-carbon
society. To achieve this, we need to provide information on what a
low-carbon society might be like, share the idea with all citizens in a
way that will increase their awareness. One effective way to do this is
to present an existing case study of an environmental model city. We
need to promote and exchange information on low-carbon societies in and
out of Japan in order to help environmental model cities succeed. We
believe this will be effective.

See also:
Presentation by Professor Shuzo Murakami of Keio University


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