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3. Policy measures for global environmental problems: A Japanese perspective

Sozaburo Okamatsu

Let me thank the organizers of this conference for giving me the honour to address this distinguished audience on a subject of great interest and concern to all of us: global environmental problems.

In my current post as the Vice Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, I am responsible for all external policies, including environmental policies. However, a few years ago, I was serving as Director General of the Environmental Protection and Industrial Location Bureau, and in that capacity I was directly involved in the planning and formulation of Japan's environmental policies. The critical importance which environmental issues have for the world has been increasing rapidly in recent years. Today, I would like to show how we in Japan are working to meet the global challenges that environmental issues place before us.

Before proceeding, however, I would like first to emphasize the importance of harmonizing the "three Es" which appear in the title of this conference: environment, energy, and economic development. Should the proper balance between the "three Es" be lost, this certainly would give rise to some very unfortunate developments for humankind.

The history of humankind is also the history of its increasing demands on the global environment. While having benefited from the increase in living standards propelled upward by a quantum leap in industrial activities, particularly since the Industrial Revolution, we have been using up at an ever-increasing pace the wealth of the earth's natural resources, which has resulted in environmental damage all over the world.

The first problem was industrial pollution, i.e. the pollution of our atmosphere and contamination of water arising from pollutants emitted by factories and other manufacturing operations. Industrial pollution has long been a serious problem for both developing and industrialized countries. Industrial pollution is, however, generally a local phenomenon, having effects on a limited area only. Moreover, many of the means of dealing with industrial pollution and handling industrial polluters are well established. For example, desulphurization technologies and water treatment technologies are well established and widely available, making resolution of industrial pollution largely a domestic matter for the country concerned.

However, explosive growth in both the scale of economic activity and the world's population in recent years has changed the basic nature of environmental problems. As human activities expand, their impact on the environment transcends national boundaries and spills over to future generations. Global environmental problems today include the following: global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer, acid rain, the endangerment of animal and plant species' desertification, deforestation, marine pollution, transboundary movement of hazardous waste, and environmental problems in developing countries. Among these, the first three are of special concern, while the issue of global warming deserves our most critical attention.

I intend to focus my talk today on global warming and present an outline of the Japanese perspective on this problem.

First, I wish to emphasize the nature of global warming and set it apart from other environmental issues. For instance, take the destruction of the ozone layer and acid rain. One is caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), while the other is caused by sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). CFCs are synthetic substances and certain advances have already been made in developing substitutes. As for SOx and NOx, we already have well-established technologies for filtering out these compounds and preventing their build-up. Therefore, the present discussion is centred on the practical application of these technologies. In other words, on acid rain and the destruction of the ozone layer, we are already committed to policies of stopping the manufacture and preventing the generation of these problem-causing substances. What is more, the crucial problem-solving technologies already exist, and we are now at a stage of grappling with the issues of implementation.

But on global warming, on the contrary, the major cause is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is a compound which has been with us since the beginning of humankind. And humankind has continued to produce carbon dioxide since we first learned to use fire. Humankind has depended on fossil fuels in its quest for ever-increasing amounts of energy to meet the demands of a rapidly growing world economy, and growing CO2 emissions are an inevitable by-product. Energy consumption negatively affects the environment by increasing CO2 emissions but, at the same time, we cannot enjoy economic development without energy consumption.

The important thing here is maintaining a proper balance between the "three Es," which I mentioned earlier. Striking this balance distinguishes global warming from the other issues. Suppose we were to choose one of the "three Es" - for instance, the environment - and assign absolute importance to it. This, in itself, would be very easy to do. The problem, however, is that humankind will continue to aspire toward further economic development. As a practical matter, we are unable to concentrate solely on the environment at the expense of all future growth.

Economic growth does not merely increase the burden on the environment. Economic growth also provides the conditions that are necessary to protect the environment by making it possible to bear the costs of environmental protection.

So, environmental protection and economic growth, far from each other, should be thought of as interrelated concepts. It is fundamental, therefore, that maximum effort be exerted to secure the coexistence of these two notions, under the concept of "sustainable development."

But this is not easy to do. The "New Earth 21" which we have been advocating is aimed at developing some solutions to this difficult problem. Its basic concepts are promotion of energy conservation, introduction of cleaner energy sources, technology transfer, and innovative technological breakthroughs with a view to coping with population growth and increasing CO2 emissions.

The earth today is inhabited by 5.6 billion people. A review of past trends shows that the time it has taken to increase the global population by an additional 1 billion has been shortened from 13 years to 12 years to 11 years. This trend can be expected to continue in the future. According to UN projections, the global population is expected to pass the 10 billion mark some time around the year 2050. This population growth, accompanied by rising standards of living, is raising carbon dioxide emissions.

A breakdown of total CO2 emissions in 1987, expressed in terms of the weight of carbon, shows that the advanced industrialized countries generated 2.7 billion tons, the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc generated 2.1 billion tons, and the developing countries generated 1.2 billion tons, totalling 6.0 billion tons. On a per capita basis, these figures translate into 3.3 tons per capita per year in the advanced industrialized countries, as opposed to 1.4 tons and 0.5 tons in the Eastern bloc and developing countries, respectively.

Let's go back to population. Based on current trends the population distribution among these three groups of nations in the second half of the twenty-first century, when the global population reaches 10 billion, will be as follows: the advanced industrial countries will have a population of 900 million, the former Eastern bloc countries will have 2.3 billion, and the developing countries will have 6.8 billion. Let us assume that per capita emissions remain unchanged for the advanced countries, while increasing by 50 per cent and 100 per cent in the Eastern bloc and developing countries, respectively. This means that, by the second half of the twenty-first century, annual CO2 emissions would amount to 3.0 billion tons in the advanced nations, 5.0 billion tons in the Eastern bloc countries, and 6.2 billion tons in the developing countries. It is surprising that the figure for the developing countries alone exceeds the world total of CO2 emissions in 1987.

Demanding an immediate reduction in these figures means the denial of future improvements in living standards. This is not realistic. Energy conservation and the introduction of cleaner energy sources will certainly help to improve living standards while maintaining a balance among the "three Es." At the same time, major technological breakthroughs are indispensable in the search for truly effective solutions. What the world must do is to develop and exploit new technologies which hold out the promise of acceptable solutions to this dilemma.

How can we do this? Some people advocate a tax on CO2. Let us suppose that the CO2 tax is adopted. Responding to the introduction of such a tax, enterprises would move to promote energy conservation and the use of renewable-energy sources, including changes in the product/process technology mix in order to reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed. If there was existing technology that would allow manufacturers to reduce fossil fuel consumption without reducing production output, then companies would weigh the cost advantages of simply paying the CO2 tax versus the cost of such technology. If such technology did not exist, companies might cut production as a way to reduce their fossil fuel consumption. Therefore, availability of appropriate technologies will influence the effectiveness of a variety of environmental countermeasures.

Two hundred years have already passed since the inception of the Industrial Revolution. The reduction of the atmospheric level of CO2 which has accumulated over the past two centuries and the restoration of the atmosphere to pre-Industrial Revolution conditions will require the development of truly revolutionary technologies. This also cannot be achieved immediately.

Therefore, we must first challenge ourselves to develop the necessary new technologies which can be used to return the atmosphere to the conditions of 200 years ago. The next 50 years, say, could be spent in developing the technologies. Then the next 50 years would be given to the practical deployment of these technologies. This 100 years would be spent in returning the atmosphere to its previous condition. This is the basic concept of the "New Earth 21" approach.

We presented this concept to the global community at the White House Conference [on Science and Economic Research Related to Global Change] held in Washington D.C. three years ago [17-18 April 1990]. Since that time, our approach has attracted wide attention, both at home and abroad. We have no intention of allowing our concept to end as a "noble dream." To realize its objective, we have divided our task into two areas, where we have already begun working. The first area is called the TREE concept (an acronym for Technology Renaissance for Environment and Energy). The essential idea here is that the advanced industrialized countries should come together and cooperate to develop new technologies in the area of energy and the environment, assuming around 2050 or 2100 as the final stage. The second area of action is the Green Aid Plan, which is aimed at transferring to the developing countries the environmental protection technologies already possessed by the advanced nations from a relatively short-term perspective.

Let me go into these two concepts in some greater detail.

Regarding the TREE concept, we presented our proposals in the preparatory sessions for the [1993] Tokyo Summit [of the G7] and believe that we have gained a certain degree of understanding and appreciation from other countries. This is reflected in the 1993 Tokyo Summit Economic Communiqué, which stated that "We welcome the analysis being done by OECD/IEA on the contribution of environment and energy technologies in meeting global environmental concerns." This indicates the acceptance of our proposal.

Pursuant to this, a working group meeting of the major advanced nations and the OECD/IEA secretariat will be held in Tokyo on Thursday and Friday of this week [28 and 29 October 1993]. Following the discussions of this working group, the OECD/IEA secretariat is scheduled to draw up a blueprint for the implementation of the TREE concept. Based on this blueprint, steps will be taken toward initiating international joint research projects, which will be conducted through existing international organizations. Heading up to the discussions on Thursday and Friday, I would like to explain Japan's basic stance on the fundamental aspects of the TREE concept as we prepare to engage in this discussion. First of all, solutions to global environmental problems must be found within a framework which provides for both environmental protection and economic growth. So, we consider the development of innovative new technologies, in the area of environment and energy, indispensable to any viable solution. Second, the development of environment- and energy-related technologies is the common responsibility of the advanced countries, which possess the necessary scientific knowledge, manpower, and financial resources. Given our limited resources and the urgency of the problem, it is essential that the advanced countries reach a common understanding and become involved in a cooperative programme for technological development. This is the most efficient approach. Third, we believe that it is appropriate to go step-by-step with international cooperation, since this is long-term cooperation and may require substantial financial resources. In this step-by-step process, we might, for example, first come up with commonly shared concepts by the international community and then make a blueprint or work programme, based on those concepts, to be followed by actual implementation of international cooperation.

Let me next turn to the Green Aid plan. This plan was first advocated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in August 1991 and is primarily geared toward supporting the self-help efforts of the developing countries in the area of environment- and energy-related problems. Specifically, based on our own past experiences in the area of pollution control, Japan is offering to undertake energy and environmental improvement projects in the developing countries in response to their particular needs.

In the latter half of the 1960s, as the Japanese economy shifted into high gear, severe industrial pollution problems, including air pollution caused by sulphur emissions, emerged. However, due to the development of exhaust gas desulphurization technology backed by both public and private sector efforts and its widespread dissemination by means of government regulation and support, Japan reached the highest level of environmental protection. During this period (1970-1992), Japan maintained an average annual GDP growth rate of 4.4 per cent, thus attaining continuous high economic growth while increasing environmental protection. The Green Aid Plan is intended to assist developing countries in improving their environmental situations based on such Japanese experience.

Four specific areas of pollution control are targeted in the Green Aid Plan: preventing the pollution of waterways; preventing atmospheric pollution; waste disposal and recycling; and energy conservation and utilization of alternative energy sources.

When undertaking a project, of course we will have to take into account the needs of the developing country and avoid forcing our environmental policies upon that country. To do so, we will take a two-step approach consisting of extensive policy discussions and the implementation of a comprehensive support plan for energy and environmental policies.

Allow me to comment briefly on the first step: the policy discussions. The policy discussions are aimed at reaching a common understanding between Japan and the developing country with regard to energy and environmental policies, and consist of high-level discussions between the responsible offices designed to promote effective implementation of the programme.

The second step is the implementation of a comprehensive support plan. That is based on the conclusions reached in preceding policy discussions, and is aimed at implementing energy and environmental assistance projects which fit the specific needs and conditions of that country. The second step is itself divided into two areas: technical cooperation and demonstration projects.

In the area of technical cooperation, we would dispatch specialists to and accept trainees from participating developing countries, in order to foster the human resources necessary for effectively coping with energy and environmental problems. This part of our programme is also aimed at undertaking joint research projects in areas of special interest to developing countries, such as the development of energy and environmental technologies suited to the needs of these countries. We are also involved in undertaking feasibility studies for energy and environmental measures being considered by the developing countries.

In the area of demonstration projects, we are involved in various experiments in developing countries aimed at identifying optimal technologies from the perspective of the host country and its specific needs. Such demonstration projects are focused on desulphurization methods, improvement of energy efficiency, and the development of clean energy sources.

In addition, we have established a Centre for Energy and Environmental Technologies in Bangkok, which functions as a communications and administrative centre to effectively implement the Green Aid Plan and we plan to build the same type of facility in other countries.

We believe that there are some important key points to the successful promotion of the Green Aid Plan. We ourselves must take the initiative to begin a dialogue with the developing countries. From that point on, the self-help efforts of the developing countries are at the heart of our approach. We would stand ready to help in the formulation of policies and to provide the necessary support.

Allow me to summarize the main points of my presentation. Firstly, global environmental problems today have become very critical international issues which form a common theme for all nations. The Environmental Summit held last year [1992] in Rio de Janeiro especially served to heighten interest in global environmental problems, not only of the leading nations of the world but also of the developing countries. What we must do now is to find ways of translating this newly found consciousness and concern into action.

Japan and the United States concluded the so-called framework agreement [for bilateral economic talks] at the July [1993] Summit [of the G7]. One of the most important aspects of this agreement is bilateral "cooperation" in coping with international issues and problems. The first theme for this bilateral cooperation is the environment. This bilateral cooperation was discussed by our two sides at the first framework meeting held in Washington D.C. on September 9 [1993]. At that meeting, I made the following proposal to the US government and received the support of the American side: "This scheme for bilateral cooperation is not solely limited to our two countries. Through this cooperation, let us take the leadership in calling on the rest of the world to join in this cooperative effort. Let us work together to promote the cooperative framework among the leading nations."

As I have stated, several actual projects are already under way. Let us expand the scope of these projects, and I would like to leave you with this message: through the cooperation of all humanity, let us take action now to "win back the green earth."

Thank you very much.

4. Environment, economy, energy, and sustainable development

Yoichi Kaya

Global environmental degradation is one of the most serious threats facing humankind as a result of the expansion of its activities around the globe. One of the international responses to global environmental problems - the Framework Convention on Climate Change - was ratified and came into effect in March 1994. The convention aims not only at stabilizing CO2 emissions in developed countries but also at ultimately reducing man-made CO2 emissions globally so as to stabilize the global climate. However, with fossil fuels comprising nearly 90 per cent of primary energy sources in the world, the final target of the framework convention seems very ambitious.

Environmental degradation cannot be singled out as an independent matter among various global issues. Also important are the interactions among economic development, stable energy supplies, and globe] environmental conservation. In the next few decades fossil fuels will continue to be the principal source of energy driving economic development. The source of fossil fuels is stable and their extraction is affordable. Attempts to restrict the use of fossil fuels for environmental reasons are likely to have a negative impact on economic development and the overall availability of energy. The objective of this volume is to present papers focusing on the "three Es" - environment, energy, and economic development - to offer readers a way to comprehend the complexity of the problems involved and to elaborate possible measures for mitigating those problems.

I offer here a strategy for mitigating "three Es" issues, that is, a strategy for environmentally sustainable economic development. Herman Daly's well-known three conditions for sustainability are as follows:

1. The consumption rate of renewable resources is not higher than its recovery rate.

2. The consumption rate of non-renewable resources is not higher than the rate of increase in renewable resource supply.

3. The emission of pollutants is within the absorption capacity of the environment. (Daly, 1990: l-6)

Unfortunately these conditions have been violated for years. Examples of respective violations typically include deforestation, the depletion of fossil fuels, and the increase in CO2 concentration in the air. Such violations may be hard to reverse in the short term but, unless long-term remedial action is taken, present global development trends will not be sustainable. In particular, a substantial reduction in resource consumption and emissions of pollutants is essential for the development of a sustainable human society on this planet.

There are, however, a number of barriers that impede the adoption of strategies to realize sustainable development. The most serious among them is the wide disparity in levels of economic development around the world. For instance, whereas overeating is a health concern in some Western countries, malnutrition and poverty are at a crisis point in other parts of the world - developing countries that hope to alleviate their social ills through substantial economic development. It is neither appropriate nor possible to ask such developing countries simply to reduce their consumption of resources if this would result in their economic development being handicapped.

What, then, are promising strategies for the entire world to restore Daly's three conditions? One answer is for developed countries to reduce their resource consumption through technological and social policies aimed at substantial gains in energy- and resource-use efficiencies and through the introduction of clean resources such as solar energy. Complementing this, developing countries should introduce energy- and resource-efficient technologies wherever this is economically viable. The latter requirement essentially means that developing countries adopt what is known as a "no regret" strategy - that is, one that contributes to their economic development without causing unacceptable damage to the environment.

The essence of this strategy is for both rich and poor parts of the world to undertake efforts to their own advantage that also contribute positively to the global realization of the conditions of sustainable development as suggested by Daly. Developed countries would need substantially to improve their use of energy and other resources, and then to reduce resource consumption even under conditions of higher economic growth. Developing countries, for their part, would need to be sensible and flexible enough to introduce resource-efficiency technology and other economic lessons, where applicable, from the developed world.

The feasibility of such a strategy depends very much upon the future availability of technological innovations that have potential application for improving energy efficiency, recycling resources, reducing pollution emissions, and increasing biomass production. The outlook is positive, and below I introduce two technologies as typical examples.

The first is the use of heat cascading, both within industries and between industries and residential/commercial sectors. The basic concept is simple: demands for heat energy differ not only in quantity but also in quality. For example, a metal-melting process may require a certain amount of heat energy where temperatures reach 1,000°C or more. A water-heating process, on the other hand, under normal pressure may require the same amount of heat energy but only at temperatures of 100°C or lower. Utilization of waste heat from the metal-melting process in the water-heating process would halve the total energy required for the two processes combined.

Such a heat cascading process has already been put into practice in various forms. A typical example is combined-cycle power generation where natural gas is burned in a gas turbine at a temperature of more than 1,100°C, producing, in turn, steam, which drives a second turbine. The total efficiency of the plant is about 20 per cent higher than the efficiency of a normal, simple gas-fuelled power plant.

The concept of heat cascading can also be applied to other systems in various sectors of society - with the collaborative efforts of energy customers, producers, and government. Of course, the appropriate location of complementary users of heat energy is essential for the effective realization of heat cascading. It is not easy to find such complementary sets of users within a single factory and this is the main reason heat cascading has so far not been widely used. The idea of a "heat combine" will arise where industries try to locate their factories so as to utilize heat as efficiently as possible through cascading. A combine could also include residential/commercial users who require only low-temperature heat. Owing to the relatively low price of energy, such a heat combine has yet to be established. Nevertheless, taking into account the importance of both energy resources and the environmental impacts of energy use, the idea of heat combines should be seriously investigated as an effective means of improving energy efficiency.

The second technology is the development of recyclable products. Nowadays most industrial goods, except certain materials such as steel, are discarded after their first use. Such disposal often occurs regardless of whether the material is still physically reusable or not, because goods and materials are recycled only when it is economically viable to do so. Needless to say, resource-use efficiency will be enhanced with more recycling. What, then, are possible ways to make recycling more economically viable?

Of course, the cooperation of the public in the process of recycling is indispensable. From a technological point of view, however, a basic change is needed in design concepts to enable the easy decomposition of industrial products into their component materials. If still physically usable, the component materials can be utilized again in new products after any necessary treatment process. This idea has already been partly implemented in automobile industries. A key problem with a comprehensive recycling process is the development of production technologies that can produce products with sufficient mechanical strength while at the same time being easily decomposable. This is a new challenge for mechanical engineers engaged in the design of most industrial products, because mechanical strength and easy decomposability are in most cases contradictory requirements. Nevertheless, efforts at meeting these two requirements are currently being undertaken in various industrial sectors such as the manufacture of automobiles and office automation devices.

The above technologies are just examples of what are needed for substantial improvements in resource-use efficiency. I strongly urge developed countries to develop these innovative technologies. The results would be profitable not only for developed countries but also for developing countries through more efficient resource use, and for the global community through reductions in waste discharge and resource depletion.


Daly, H. 1990. "Toward some operational principles of sustainable development." Ecological Economics 2:1-6.

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