OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

1990-0090 (online)
1990-0104 (print)
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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress towards their environmental policy objectives. Reviews promote peer learning, enhance government accountability, and provide targeted recommendations aimed at improving environmental performance, individually and collectively. They are supported by a broad range of economic and environmental data, and evidence-based analysis. Each cycle of Environmental Performance Reviews covers all OECD countries and selected partner economies.

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Japan 2010

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16 Nov 2010
9789264087873 (PDF) ;9789264087866(print)

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This 2010 review of Japan's environmental conditions and policies evaluates progress in reducing the pollution burden, improving natural resource management, integrating environmental and economic policies, and strengthening international co-operation. It includes coverage of policy for greening growth, implementation of environmental policies, climate change, waste management and the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and nature and biodiversity.

The review finds that since the last review, Japan has made steady progress in addressing a range of environmental issues, notably air and water pollution, and the management of chemicals and waste. The energy intensity of the economy has continued to decrease, particularly in the industrial sector, and is among the lowest in OECD countries.  Material intensity has also decreased. 

At the same time, several more complex, long-term challenges have come to the fore: climate change, sound waste, materials management, and  biodiversity conservation. Much of the last decade was characterised by sluggish economic growth, and environment and  green innovation are targeted as key drivers of future growth and job creation in Japan's New Growth Strategy.


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  • Executive Summary
    Since the last Environmental Performance Review in 2002, Japan has made steady progress in addressing a range of traditional environmental problems, notably air and water pollution, and the management of chemicals and waste. The energy intensity of the economy has continued to decrease, particularly in the industrial sector, and is among the lowest in OECD countries. Material intensity has also decreased. At the same time, several more complex, long-term challenges have come to the fore: climate change, sound waste and materials management, and biodiversity conservation. In 2007, Japan adopted the "Strategy for a Sustainable Society in the 21st Century" that presents Japan’s vision for responding to these challenges. The Strategy has a strong international dimension, reflecting Japan’s traditional proactive and constructive role in international environmental co-operation.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Sustainable Development

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    • Developments since the 2002 Review
      In a changing economic, social and international context, Japan has managed to reduce some of the pressures on the environment, notably energy use, air emissions, water abstractions and municipal waste generation. However, greenhouse gas emissions and generation of non-municipal waste have grown, pressures on nature and biodiversity have intensified, and air and water pollution remain of concern in some areas. Japan defined its own model of a sustainable society, based on a low-carbon economy, sound material cycle and biodiversity conservation. These three priority areas are reflected in the environmental plans that were approved at both national and local levels during the review period. Japan has also taken steps to improve inter-institutional co-ordination and the integration of environmental concerns into sectoral planning.
    • Greening Growth
      Following a period of modest economic growth, Japan’s economy was severely hit by the 2008-09 global economic downturn. The anti-crisis fiscal stimulus package included several environment-related measures. Reforming the tax system, expanding environmentally related taxes and removing environmentally harmful subsidies could help fiscal consolidation without hampering economic recovery. The long-term strategy to 2020 outlines a green growth path, and sees eco-innovation as the link between environmental improvement, economic growth and social progress. Japan is a leader in environmental and climate-related technologies and is promoting the development of green markets and employment. The declining and ageing population represents a new challenge for both economic and environmental policies.
    • Implementation of Environmental Policies
      Japan uses a mix of environmental policy instruments, including regulatory, economic and information-based measures. It is promoting wider participation of the public in environmental decision-making, and greater access to information and justice to support these efforts. This chapter also reviews progress in improving air management, in particular in urban areas, strengthening the management of inland and coastal waters and reducing impacts of chemicals on human health and the environment.
    • International Co-operation
      Japan is an active player in international environmental co-operation. In a changing international economic and political context, Japan has given more importance to regional and bilateral co-operation in the Asian region, notably in such areas as transboundary air pollution, fisheries management and marine pollution, which are analysed in this chapter. Environment is a prominent component of Japan’s development assistance. Japan has also taken action, at home and internationally, to tackle environment-trade issues arising from multilateral environmental agreements, such as trade in ozone depleting substances and tropical timber, as well as safety and environmental impacts of shipbreaking.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Selected Issues

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    • Climate Change
      The current trends in greenhouse gas emissions represent a major challenge for Japan. A wide range of voluntary, regulatory and economic measures has been put in place to reduce these emissions. Technological progress and negotiated agreements are distinctive features of this policy mix. Local authorities and the private sector play an important, often innovative, role in designing and implementing climate policy. Energy, transport and climate policies are generally mutually supportive, with a focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, infrastructure development and R&D. Japan is a world leader in climate-related R&D. Co-operation with developing countries and adaptation to climate change are receiving growing attention.
    • Waste Management and the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
      Over the last decade, Japan has shifted from a waste management policy to an integrated waste and material management approach that promotes dematerialisation and resource efficiency. Landfill shortage and dependency on natural resources imports have been key drivers of these changes. This chapter analyses progress achieved in building a sound material-cycle society based on the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle). With international movement of recyclables developing rapidly, loopholes have appeared in Japan’s advanced recycling system. This chapter examines steps taken to promote and spread the 3Rs strategy in Asia, and to prevent illegal transboundary movements of waste.
    • Nature and Biodiversity
      Nature conservation is identified as a priority in Japan, and is one of the three pillars of the 2007 Sustainable Society Strategy. However, biodiversity loss is increasing and greater efforts are needed to converge with good practices in other OECD countries. This chapter examines the management of biodiversity in protected areas and activities outside protected areas that affect species and their habitats, in particular agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
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