Promote trailblazing local efforts on decarbonization as examples for nation

In an effort to realize decarbonization, a number of local governments have set a goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Many of them had already declared this target prior to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s announcement last October. Currently, 40 prefectures number among the over 380 local governments that have set the goal, encompassing 110 million people or about 90% of the nation’s population.

Local governments take the lead in community development with public facilities such as schools and hospitals. In this regard, their role in promoting decarbonization is significant.

As they are in close touch with their residents, local governments are expected to play an important role in encouraging energy conservation and other activities to raise awareness. They will hopefully accelerate their efforts toward decarbonization in cooperation with residents.

While the declaring of such targets is spreading, many local governments are said to be struggling to come up with concrete measures toward decarbonization. There is also a serious shortage of financial resources, so the support of the central government will be essential.

The central government has begun creating a schedule for the decarbonization of regional areas. The plan is to select more than 100 locations across the country as pilot areas and aim to reduce the carbon dioxide generated by electricity use in homes and offices in these areas to net zero by fiscal 2030.

It is envisioned that the central government will focus on supporting the expansion of renewable energy sources: for example, geothermal power generation and wind power generation in farming, mountain and fishing villages as well as remote islands, and the installation of solar panels on buildings and the improvement of thermal insulation in homes in urban areas.

The aim is to introduce these pilot cases to the nation as effective policy precedents to encourage local efforts toward decarbonization.

Some local governments are already moving forward with their own attempts.

Nagano Prefecture has set a goal of more than tripling its amount of renewable energy and is planning to install small-scale hydropower facilities at all rivers and irrigation canals where they can be deployed.

There are also moves among local governments to cooperate on the matter. Yokohama has signed an agreement with 13 governments in the Tohoku region to procure electricity from renewable energy sources produced there. A part of the proceeds from the electricity will be used to develop those Tohoku areas.

In Okayama Prefecture, the city of Maniwa is focusing on biomass power generation using local lumber to create jobs and revive the forestry industry.

Having such viewpoints of using renewable energy to revitalize local economies is important.

The central government plans to submit a bill to revise the law to promote measures against global warming to the current Diet session, with an aim at obligating prefectures, ordinance-designated cities and core cities to set goals for the introduction of renewable energy as well as requesting smaller local governments to make efforts to set targets.

Each local government must formulate measures to spread the use of renewable energy, making the most of local characteristics, while gaining the understanding and cooperation of residents.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 17, 2021.