During the 20 years after the establishment of the Environment Agency in 1971, the environmental situation at the national and global levels has undergone substantial changes. At the national level, notable achievements have been made in combating severe pollution during the period of high economic growth. However, air pollution by nitrogen oxides in major urban areas and water pollution caused by household effluent and waste disposal have continued to pose great problems. Furthermore, various development projects, such as resorts, have created more threat to the natural environment.
On the other hand, concerns over global environmental issues, such as global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, transboundary movement of acid rain, and hazardous waste, etc., are mounting worldwide. In the years after the Earth Summit, many countries are being urged to implement concrete actions and measures to realize sustainable development, which was agreed on at the Earth Summit.
In Japan, the Basic Environment Law, which set out basic principles and directions for formulating environmental policies, was enacted in November 1993. In December of the same year, the "National Action Plan for Agenda 21" was submitted to the United Nations. In December 1994, an action plan called "the Basic Environment Plan" is adopted. It was the most important measure introduced under the Basic Environment Law. The plan systematically clarifies the measures to be taken by the national and local governments, as well as actions to be carried out by citizens, businesses and private organizations by the beginning of the 21st century. It also defines the roles of parties involved and the ways and means for effectively pursuing environmental policies.
Moreover, the Environment Agency is proactively implementing supportive measures, including one measure to support the UNEP International Environment Technology Center as a core organization for appropriately transferring technology to enrich and reinforce the ODA system to realize sustainable development in developing countries.
Japan is particularly interested in the Asia-Pacific region because of its proximity to Japan. Countries in the region have been confronted with various problems because of population growth, poverty, accelerated consumption of resources and energy due to lifestyle changes, deterioration of urban environment, etc. To help overcome these problems, the Environment Agency is striving to preserve the regional environmental integrity and promote intra-regional cooperation through dialogues on environmental policies at the Environment Congress for Asia and the Pacific (Eco-Asia).
Environmental problems today are a common challenge to us all. They range from direct daily concerns to global issues, even affecting future generations to come. Due to the cumulative effects of individual environmental problems and the great impact they can have on the earth-our base for survival, it is vital for central and local governments, enterprises and individuals to cooperate and coordinate actions, both on the international and domestic levels, to effectively respond to these issues.