Environmental management in Japan - statistics & facts
Following other countries, which declared stronger global warming measures at the beginning of 2021, Japan raised its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 46 percent until 2030 (compared to the level of 2013) and added a long-term goal to become entirely carbon-neutral by 2050.
This followed significant struggles to lower carbon dioxide emissions after 2011. Due to the suspension of domestic nuclear power generation after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan increased its usage of fossil fuels for its energy supply. Even in recent years, fossil fuels such as natural gas, and coal represented the main energy sources for electricity production. Consequently, Japan remained one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide emissions globally. To counter this problem, the Japanese government currently works on increasing the share of renewables as well as nuclear energy.
Waste management in Japan
Further frequently discussed environmental issues in Japan are waste disposal and the shortage of landfill sites. The widespread usage of plastic products, in particular single-use plastic products and plastic packaging, leads to huge amounts of plastic waste. The resulting pollution has become a major environmental issue.
With the incineration rate of municipal waste amounting to close to 75 percent, incineration remained the most widely used waste treatment method in Japan, as it can easily reduce the volume of waste. While the recycling rate of plastic waste increased to over 80 percent, the recycling rate of regular waste remained low at around 20 percent throughout the past decade. The remaining waste that cannot be recycled or incinerated is usually disposed of at landfills.
To reduce waste in general, the Japanese government promotes the so-called 3R initiative since 2004, encouraging businesses and citizens to focus on the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. Furthermore, the government prohibited all retail shops in the country from distributing plastic shopping bags for free starting from July 2020 to reduce plastic waste.
Water management in Japan
During the period of rapid economic growth and industrialization from the 1950s to 1970s, Japan experienced serious water pollution problems. Neurological Minamata disease, caused by severe mercury poisoning, for example, was detected in Kumamoto and Niigata Prefecture. Industrial wastewater produced high levels of mercury in water and affected thousands of citizens in the area. As a direct consequence, the government enacted the Water Pollution Prevention Act in 1970 to regulate public water and groundwater quality. Despite these measures, the achievement rate for water quality in closed water areas, such as lakes, rivers, and inland sea, still do not entirely meet the set environmental standards.
Furthermore, the Water Supply Act, which was enacted in 1957, ensures the supply of safe and drinkable water for the citizens, by regulating all water supply systems, the construction of water supply facilities, as well as hygienic measures. In recent years, over 98 percent of Japanese citizens had access to drinkable tap water. Over 92 percent of the Japanese population were served by wastewater treatment systems, with sewer lines representing the most widely accessed wastewater treatment facility.
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