The megacity of Tokyo is like a country in many ways. It consumes as much energy as entire countries in Northern Europe, and its production matches the GNP of the world’s 16th largest country. And even before the national government of Japan took action, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has made major changes to steer Tokyo toward being a low-carbon city. It has made steadily progress in achieving results by designing and implementing effective measures, including the launch of a made-in-Tokyo emissions cap-and-trade program in April 2010. In this article, we introduce the measures that the TMG has implemented to address climate change, the results, and prospects for the future.

In June 2007, the TMG formulated the Tokyo Climate Change Strategy as a basic plan for the “10-Year Project for a Carbon-Minus Tokyo,” one of the measures aimed at realizing “Tokyo’s Big Change — The 10-year Plan,” formulated in December 2006. This strategy clarifies Tokyo’s basic policy on measures against climate change in the next decade and introduces major initiatives. The TMG says it “formulated this strategy in order to pose leading measures instead of depending on the national government — which has not yet been able to produce effective and workable plans — and take the lead in taking action on climate change.”

Tokyo Climate Change Strategy

The main points of the strategy are: (1) creation of a mechanism to bring Japan’s environmental technologies into full play; (2) creation of a mechanism to encourage large businesses, smaller businesses, and households to achieve carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction in accordance within their own capacities and on their own; (3) implementation of strategic and intensive measures during the first three to four years as an initial period of the shift towards a low-carbon society; and (4) the use of private and public funds, tax incentives, and bold implementation of the investments needed to achieve CO2 emissions reduction.

About half Tokyo’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the commercial and industrial sectors, and the other half is from the household and transportation sectors. Forty percent of emissions from the commercial and industrial sectors are emitted by large establishments, which the TMG set as the main target of its initiatives.

Tokyo set up five policies and major initiatives, including one to “powerfully advance CO2 reduction measures by companies.” Above all, defining the responsibility of large CO2 emitters to reduce their emissions and introducing the cap-and-trade scheme stirred considerable controversy, since the national government was far behind schedule with full-scale introduction of emissions trading; it was still at the level of discussing and testing a voluntary national emissions trading system.

About three years have passed since the Tokyo Climate Strategy was launched. So what has been achieved so far?

One of the TMG’s major achievements is the pioneering approach it has used to establish new initiatives, such as the cap-and-trade program it implemented in collaboration with companies and business groups in Tokyo. As part of the introduction of new initiatives for companies, households, and city planning in the Tokyo Climate Change Policy, it started various programs in accordance with the strategy within three years of its launch, including the cap-and-trade program which requires mandatory CO2 reductions from CO2 emitters that are large establishments and sets up an emissions trading system, a reporting program that requires small and medium-sized companies to report on their efforts to save energy, and enhancing a series of measures for sustainable urban development. These are pioneering efforts in Japan, and also represent some of the most leading-edge initiatives in the world.

In particular, Tokyo’s cap-and-trade program, launched in April 2010, was the world’s third such initiative, following the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading System (EU-ETS) launched in 2005, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the United States in 2009, the first mandatory, market-based initiative implemented by ten American Northwest and mid-Atlantic states to reduce their GHG emissions. It should be noted that the TMG’s program (Tokyo-ETS) is the first among these to set targets for business sectors.