The Basic Environment Law - Outline

Law No.91 of 1993.
Effective on November 13, 1993

The Basic Environment Law was passed in the 128th session of the Diet unanimously on November 12th 1993, and put into force on 19th of the month. Replacing the previous basic law, the Basic Law forms the basis of the structure of Japanese environmental laws and policies in this globalized world. The Law declares the basic principles of environmental policy, defines the responsibilities of each actor in the society, and prescribes the policy instruments to protect the domestic and global environment.

Before the enactment of this Basic Law, Japanese environmental policies had been promoted based on two basic laws. One is the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control, enacted in 1967 to combat the serious industrial pollution which overrode Japan in the period of rapid economic growth in the late 1950's and 1960's. The other is the Nature Conservation Law, enacted in 1972 to stop the destruction of outstanding features of the natural environment. Although these laws made considerable success in tackling the environmental problems they addressed, they became more and more insufficient to deal with new problems such as global environmental problems, urban pollution by everyday life, loss of accessible natural environment in urban areas and degrading environmental protection capacity in forests and farmlands. The Basic Environment Law was enacted to address all these problems, replacing the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control. A part of the Nature Conservation Law was also replaced by the new Law.

The Law establishes three basic principles of environmental policy. These are as follows.

  • The blessings of the environment should be enjoyed by the present generation and succeeded to the future generation.
  • A sustainable society should be created where environmental loads by human activities are minimized.
  • Japan should contribute actively to global environmental conservation through international cooperation.

Secondly, the Law defines the responsibilities of each actor in the society, i.e. central government, local governments, corporations and the people. These actors should make efforts to protect the environment through fair burden sharing, cooperating with each other.

Based on these principles and responsibilities, the Law stipulates the policy instruments of Japanese environmental policy. In addition to regulatory measures traditionally taken for pollution control and nature protection, the Law prescribes the following measures, among others.

  • Environmental consideration in policy formulation
  • Establishment of the Basic Environment Plan which describes the directions of long-term environmental policy. (This Plan was established on 16 December 1994 )
  • Environmental impact assessment for development projects
  • Economic measures to encourage activities for reducing environmental load
  • Improvement of social infrastructure such as sewerage system, transport facilities etc.
  • Promotion of environmental activities by corporations, citizens and NGOs, environmental education, and provision of information
  • Promotion of science and technology

International cooperation for global environmental conservation