Interview: How is Tokyo engaging with global stakeholders in the field of the environment?

2013 / 10 / 7 | Author: EcoNetworks

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Speaker: Ms. Kanako Sakai, Deputy Director, International Cooperation Section, Bureau of Environment, Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Interviewer: Kazunori Kobayashi


On September 2013, 10 winning cities from around the world were announced for the C40 (Cities Climate Leadership Group) and Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards.

So what is distinctive about Tokyo’s environmental initiatives in comparison to other world cities? And how is Tokyo engaging with other stakeholders including cities, international organizations across the world at the moment?

I talked with Ms. Kanako Sakai, Deputy Director, International Cooperation Section, Bureau of Environment, on the matter.


What is distinctive about Tokyo’s initiatives in comparison to other world cities?

Climate change measures form the core of Tokyo’s initiatives. Tokyo is a mega-city and consumes a massive quantity of energy, so we are putting effort into initiatives on the demand-side – in particular making buildings and structures energy-efficient. Other growing cities in Asia also have a lot of buildings and are starting to resemble Tokyo in their massive consumption of energy. As such, Tokyo’s initiatives are attracting attention.

One of Tokyo’s flagship measures is the total emissions reduction and emissions trading system building by cap and trade. Chinese cities are expressing a particular interest in this. In its 12th five-year plan (2011-2015), China has set out pilot projects for emissions trading markets in five model cities and two provinces (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen cities and the provinces of Guangdong and Hubei). Tokyo is engaging in exchanges with cities such as Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

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What kind of exchanges is Tokyo engaging in with overseas stakeholders?

Tokyo actively participates in a network called ANMC21 (Asian Network of Major Cities 21), in which it holds the position of secretariat. By way of activities through international organizations, there is C40 (Cities Climate Leadership Group). 61 cities participate in this group, exchanging information and holding discussions. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is the current chairperson*, and the group has launched a specialised network for each field with the goal of encouraging practical action.

Climate change measures include both mitigation and adaption measures. For the latter, for example, there are networks specialising in heat or flood countermeasures and the like. Tokyo participates in a network for energy conservation for private buildings, a field in which it excels.

Conference calls or webinars are held once every couple of months, during which representatives from seven or eight participating cities share case studies. Furthermore, Tokyo also participates in events run by overseas NGOs to share best practices for cities.

(*note: at the time of the interview)

Which cities are demonstrating leadership in this community of cities?

New York is a good example. Having experienced the impact of Hurricane Sandy, New York is putting particular effort into adaption measures this year. London is leading the way in initiatives such as creating no-car zones in areas outside of the city centre.

Then Tokyo has a lot of tenant-occupied buildings. In the current owner-tenant relationship the focus is on the owner, but it is important to somehow get the tenant involved as well. In London, the effect of energy conservation is incorporated into the rent, making it easy to understand the merits and demerits of energy conservation measures. Such market-based initiatives are also making progress in San Francisco.

The ICAP (International Carbon Action Partnership) is an assembly of regions that have announced and are carrying out a cap-and-trade program. Currently there are 30 countries and states participating, of which Tokyo is the only city from Asia.

So far the exchanges have been between the regions administering programs, but from now on the assembly aims to increase the number of regions embarking on in cap-and-trade programs. Representatives of Chinese and Central and South American municipalities, NPOs and other people are invited to a two-week training course in which model cases are studied. Tokyo is participating by dispatching lecturers. Tokyo places the emphasis on unaided reduction, but regions overseas tend to view business activation as a more economic scheme. For example, the Chinese NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) brought city officials to attend. If the scheme is applied in such a way that transactions are taxed, then it will form a source of revenue for the municipality, and this is an interesting element.

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Is there a change in the need for information sought from Tokyo?

Information on climate change, air pollution, waste issues and the like is still often requested, but the entities asking for the information have changed. In the past it was city hall staff that made the most inquiries, but those from overseas NGOs and private-sector businesses have recently been increasing.

A London-based NGO called The Climate Group is taking action to combat climate change, and held a workshop in Hong Kong in March. A German foundation came to research energy-efficient facilities and city policy in Tokyo. We are also in communication with a US non-profit organization called the Green Building Council. They are interested in citizen involvement and how the Japanese building standard (Casbee) handles elements not incorporated into their LEED standard.

Enquiries from policy researchers are also increasing. Many of these are on the subject of how much influence the Tokyo government has on national policy with its energy-saving strategies.

What kind of communication or involvement do you think will be required of Tokyo moving forward?

The situation of a given city and the issues it is facing are the key point here. Whether it’s best to have the traffic department or the factories implement the very same energy-saving measure depends on the city. In some cases it might even be better to start with air pollution measures. It is necessary to make a proposal in response to the needs of the other party and based on their experiences of the various measures they have developed to date.

When we hear about the needs of cities overseas, the measures Tokyo has enacted in the past can be of greater assistance than those Tokyo is currently promoting or our personal opinions.

The import point when actually introducing a program is to be aware of potential pitfalls – and this is equally true for the cap-and-trade program. It is more difficult to administer a program than to start it, for any city. Staff capacity building is also important, and Tokyo can also convey its experiences. In this respect, cooperation over a 5-10 year timeframe is considered necessary.

The government’s perspective has also changed in the last year or two, and we have started to hear the opinion that cities hold solution strategies. There is an organization called ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). Although the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP) is held every year, the ICLEI is an organization recognised to hold the unique position of representing local governments. Tokyo is participating through attending the ICLEI. While initiatives on a nation state level are stalling, cities are attracting attention from the government for their ability to take initiative and implement measures as entities. Exchanges between countries are also starting to involve inter-city programs, and I feel the ability of cities to communicate is increasing.


After the interview

Tokyo faces urgent yet long-term issues of increasingly apparent climate change, the current energy situation after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and disaster prevention measures.

The world’s attention on Tokyo’s initiatives for these seems likely to only increase. Tokyo’s main overseas stakeholders are the other metropolises of the world, which face the exact same issues. The city is becoming a leader of a community of focused and proactive cities. Seeing this trend, civil society organizations active in the field of climate change are exerting their influence in various ways. Moves by governments and civilian organisations are also progressing concurrently.

Stakeholder engagement seems likely to increase exponentially. Tokyo both influences and learns from other cities, and also leads the way together with these cities. Tokyo impresses this on civil society organizations and governments. Just how far can this inter-organisational learning be taken? I am looking forward to seeing how Tokyo’s leadership develops.

Kazunori Kobayashi