OECD's Environmental Performance Reviews: Japan

  • Evaluation
    • Prior to the 2008-09 global economic downturn, Japan's economy had grown steadily, albeit at a much lower rate than in other Asia Pacific region and OECD countries. The economic expansion phase was characterised by a reduction in both energy and resource intensities. Progress was made in reducing some pressures on the environment, notably air emissions, water abstractions and municipal waste generation.
    • Further efforts are needed to reduce the generation of non-municipal waste, manage the risks associated with chemicals, and tackle air and water pollution in some areas. Greenhouse gas emissions have grown and are above the Kyoto target. Pressures on nature and biodiversity have also intensified.
    • In recent years, there has been a move from a strictly environmental interpretation of sustainable development to a more integrated approach, recognising the linkages between environmental protection, economic growth and social change. These linkages are given much emphasis in the 2006 Third Basic Environment Plan and the 2009 New Growth Strategy. The 2007 Strategy for a Sustainable Society outlines the pillars of Japan's sustainable society model: low-carbon economy, sound material-cycle and harmony with nature.
    • However, there is no specific institution that co-ordinates governmental policy on sustainable development. While mechanisms are in place to ensure policy co-ordination, integrated policy-making remains difficult, with ministries and local authorities focusing on the implementation of their respective sectoral and local plans.
    • As recommended by the 2002 OECD Environmental Performance Review, Japan reinforced its evaluation procedures to ensure accountability for the implementation of environmental plans. The Ministry of the Environment and its major advisory body, the Central Environment Council, annually conduct progress reviews and disclose the results to the public.
    • However, these reviews do not sufficiently assess the cost-effectiveness of the policy mix. In many cases, considerations other than effectiveness and efficiency guide policy choices, which are often selected from a limited set of options. Japan's environmental administration would also benefit from further strengthening the independence of its advisory bodies.
  • Recommendations
    It is recommended to:
    • clarify linkages and priorities among different sectoral plans and the basic environment plans;
    • strengthen inter-institutional co-operation, so as to ensure more effective and coherent integration of sectoral and environmental policies at all levels of government;
    • improve the evaluation of environmental policy by strengthening ex ante and ex post economic analysis and enhancing the independence of advisory bodies.