Environmental Policy

Report on Auto-Related Environmental Taxes_1. Current State of Auto-Related Environmental Issues

1. Current State of Auto-Related Environmental Issues

1-1 Changing Situations Surrounding Automobiles

In Japan's socioeconomic system after World War II, automobile traffic has contributed greatly to industrial development and the improvement of people's living conditions. This was made possible because the car provides unmatched convenience. With a car, one may go whenever one needs to go, to wherever one hopes to travel, without the need to carry any luggage. As the result, the use of automobiles has grown steadily, with ownership reaching 72.86 million vehicles at the end of FY 1997 (vis-à-vis approximately 29.14 million at the end of FY 1975) and total driving distance reaching 615 billion km (vis-à-vis 286.3 billion km at the end of FY 1975).

Meanwhile, major environmental stress in the form of pollution and global warming implications has increased, and problems of traffic congestion and traffic accidents have also rapidly worsened.

With this as backdrop, in the area of automobile traffic, drastic changes in automobile policy are considered necessary to coordinate and reduce the demand for automobile use mainly in large cities.

1-2 Automobiles and Air Pollution

The condition of air pollution caused by nitrogen dioxide, suspended particulate matter (SPM) and photochemical oxidants is still quite serious, especially in large cities. In addition, the latter two substances spread to pollute wider areas. Thus, the automobile is a major contributor to air pollution.

(1) Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Annual means of atmospheric NO2 concentrations have been relatively stable in recent years. In FY 1997, 95.3 % of ambient air pollution monitoring stations and 65.7 % of roadside air pollution monitoring stations satisfied the environmental quality standard. In specified areas stipulated in the Law Concerning Special Measures for Total Emission Reduction of Nitrogen Oxides from Automobiles in Specified Areas (hereinafter referred to as "the Automobile NOx Law"), 78.95% of ambient air pollution monitoring stations and 34.3% of roadside air pollution monitoring stations satisfied the environmental quality standard.
Among various emission sources of NOx in specified areas stipulated in the Automobile NOx Law, the automobile is responsible for the largest portion of NOx emissions, e.g. in specified areas in Tokyo, 68% of the emissions came from automobiles (FY 1994).

(2) Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM)
Annual means of SPM concentration have been relatively stable in recent years. In FY 1997, 61.9 % of ambient air pollution monitoring stations and 34.0 % of roadside air pollution monitoring stations satisfied the environmental quality standard.
Among various emission sources, in FY 1994 the vehicle was responsible for 35% and 41% of SPM concentrations in the Kanto and Kansai areas, respectively. These percentages are higher than those generated by factories and business facilities.

(3) Photochemical Oxidants
Almost no monitoring stations in Japan satisfy the environmental quality standard for photochemical oxidants, which states that hourly values shall not exceed 0.06 PPM. In 1998, the equivalents of 135 days of warnings for photochemical oxidants were issued in 22 prefectures altogether.

Due to the extension of roads and the improved performance of vehicles, the use of vehicles has risen steadily as shown in Subsection 1-1. Diesel vehicles in freight transport are also increasing. These trends have partially offset the benefits derived from various auto-related environmental measures, and are contributing factors to the slow pace of progress in attempts being undertaken to solve air pollution.

1-3 Automobiles and Global Warming

In regard to the global warming problem, Japan set a target of "reducing the overall emissions of GHGs by 6% below 1990 levels in the commitment period from 2008 to 2012" at the Third Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC/COP3) held in Kyoto in December 1997.

However, despite the fact that emissions of carbon dioxide in FY 1997 decreased vis-à-vis the previous year by 0.4%, this figure represented approximately 9.4% more than the 1990 level, implying the need to take immediate action.

As for emission sources of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, the transportation sector is responsible for 20.9% of total emissions. And within this sector, emissions from automobiles account for the greatest portion. Moreover, the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted by this sector is rapidly increasing. In FY 1997, emissions were approximately 21.3% more than the 1990 level.

Thus measures to control CO2 emissions from vehicles are vital to overall efforts to combat global warming.

1-4 Automobiles and Other Environmental Issues

In addition to air pollution and global warming, automobiles are responsible for other environmental problems as well. For example, noise along roads poses a serious problem. In FY 1997, among monitoring stations at roadsides, as many as 86.7% did not satisfy the environmental quality standard for noise.
To make Japan a society with an environmentally sound material cycle, the reusing and recycling of used vehicles is another important issue. In Japan, the number of used cars amounts to several million units every year.

Among the various environmental problems presented above, the panel decided to focus on the impact on air pollution and global warming of automobile usage and how the tax system can contribute to solving the problems involved.

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