The Basic Environment Law and Basic Environment Plan

The Basic Environment Plan was drawn up in December 1994 based on the Basic Environment Law, which outlines the general direction of Japan's environmental policies. The Basic Environment Plan is designed to engage all sectors of the society in a concerted effort to protect the environment. The Plan maps out the basic approach of environmental policies with the mid-21st century in view and identifies four long-term objectives. It also sets the direction of measures to be implemented by the early 21st century for achieving these objectives.

Enactment of the Basic Environment Law

Before the enactment of this law, Japanese environmental policies were based on two fundamental laws: the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control, enacted in 1967, and the Nature Conservation Law, enacted in 1972. These laws, which were drafted to combat serious industrial pollution and to preserve the natural environment, had worked quite successfully.
However, as our socioeconomic system and lifestyle had increasingly taken on the nature of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal, the then existing legal framework, which worked mainly by imposing restrictions, could no longer deal adequately with the newly emerged complex and diverse environmental problems, such as urban and domestic-type pollution, and global environmental problems.
Thus, in November 1993, the Basic Environment Law was enacted to chart a new direction for Japan's basic environmental policies. The primary objective of the law is to protect the environment, by recognizing it as our essential life-support system to be passed on to future generations. This objective shall be achieved by building a society that is economically sustainable without stressing the environment, and contributing positively to the conservation of the global environment.

A Summary of the Basic Environment Law

In its first chapter, the Basic Environment Law sets out three basic principles for environmental conservation and the responsibilities of each sector of the society -- including the national and local governments, corporations, and citizens -- in living up to these principles.
The second chapter gives a list of basic policies for environmental conservation, including the formulation of the Basic Environment Plan, promotion of environmental impact assessment, new policy measures such as economic measures to clear obstacles from environmental conservation practices, and measures to deal with global environmental problems. The third chapter stipulates councils needed to develop the policies listed in chapter two.

Structure of the Basic Environment Law

Chapter 1 General Provisions
Article 1 Purpose
Article 2 Definition
(Basic Principles)
Article 3 Enjoyment and Future Succession of Environmental Blessings
Article 4 Creation of a Society Ensuring Sustainable Development with Reduced Environmental Load
Article 5 Active Promotion of Global Environmental Conservation through International Cooperation
Article 6 Responsibility of the State
Article 7 Responsibility of Local Governments
Article 8 Responsibility of Corporations
Article 9 Responsibility of Citizens
Article 10 Environment Day
Article 11 Legislative Measures, etc.
Article 12 Annual Report
Article 13 Prevention of Air Pollution and the Like by Radioactive Substances
Chapter 2 Basic Policies for Environmental Conservation
<Section 1 Guidelines for Policy Formulation>
Article 14 Guidelines for Policy Formulation
<Section 2 Basic Environment Plan>
Article 15 Basic Environment Plan
<Section 3 Environmental Quality Standards>
Article 16 Environmental Quality Standards
<Section 4 Environmental Pollution Control in Specific Areas>
Article 17 Formulation of Regional Environmental Pollution Control Program
Article 18 Promotion of Attainment of Regional Environmental Pollution Control Program
<Section 5 Implementation of Policies for Environmental Conservation by the State>
Article 19 Consideration in Formulation of Policies by the State
Article 20 Promotion of Environmental Impact Assessment
Article 21 Regulations to Prevent Interference with Environmental Conservation
Article 22 Economic Measures to Prevent Interference with Environmental Conservation
Article 23 Promotion of Construction of Facilities and Other Projects for Environmental Conservation
Article 24 Promotion of Use of Products Contributing to Reduction of Environmental Load
Article 25 Education and Learning on Environmental Conservation
Article 26 Measures to Promote Voluntary Activities by Private Organizations
Article 27 Provision of Information
Article 28 Implementation of Researches
Article 29 Improvement in Systems for Monitoring and Others
Article 30 Promotion of Science and Technology
Article 31 Settlement of Environmental Pollution Disputes and Relief of Damage
<Section 6 International Cooperation for Global Environmental Conservation, etc.>
Article 32 International Cooperation for Global Environmental Conservation, etc.
Article 33 Ensuring International Cooperation for Monitoring, Observation and Others
Article 34 Measures to Promote Activities by Local Governments and Private Organizations
Article 35 Consideration in Implementation of International Cooperation and Others
<Section 7 Implementation of Policies by Local Governments>
Article 36 Implementation of Policies by Local Governments
<Section 8 Cost Bearing and Financial Measures>
Article 37 Cost Bearing by Causers
Article 38 Cost Bearing by Beneficiaries
Article 39 Financial Measures for Local Governments
Article 40 Cooperation between the State and Local Governments
Chapter 3 Environment Council, etc.
<Section 1 Environment Council>
Article 41 Central Environment Council
Article 42 Organization of the Central Environment Council
Article 43 Prefectural Environment Council
Article 44 Municipal Environment Council
<Section 2 Conference on Environmental Pollution Control>
Article 45 Establishment and Mandates
Article 46 Organization, etc.

Articles in red are new principles and policies characteristic of the Basic Environment Law

Formulation of the Basic Environment Plan

The Cabinet formulated the Basic Environment Plan in December 1994 based on the Basic Environment Law.
With the mid-21st century in view, the Cabinet laid out the Basic Environment Plan's concepts and long-term objectives for environmental policies and specified the direction of the policies to be implemented in the period toward the early 21st century for achieving these objectives.

Basic Concepts of the Environmental Policies
The blessings of the Earth's environment shall be enjoyed by both present and future generations. And, as joint owners of this environment, we have the obligation to maintain it. It is essential to switch to sustainable production and consumption patterns.
Four long-term objectives
Environmentally Sound Material Cycle, Harmonious Coexistence, Participation, and International Activities

The Performance Review of the Basic Environment Plan

The Central Environment Council monitors the progress of the Basic Environment Plan annually to ensure that the plan is implemented steadily. It holds public hearings at various locations in Japan in order to reflect the views and opinions of citizens in its reports to the national government.
The Central Environment Council presented its report on the third performance review of the Basic Environment Plan in August 1998. In the report, three key tasks were identified: conservation of the atmospheric environment, conservation of the water environment, and voluntary and active initiatives by each sector of the society. Other main recommendations of the report included: (1) the Basic Environment Plan should play a leading role in showing a clear picture of a sustainable socioeconomic system and the way to realize it; and (2) measures for promoting environmental conservation should be implemented in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

Review of the Basic Environment Plan

The Basic Environment Plan specified that the plan should be reviewed in about five years after the Cabinet decision on the plan. Since the current Basic Environment Plan was supposed to be reviewed in 1998, the Prime Minister requested the Central Environment Council to start deliberation on the review of the plan in June 1998. Work on the review began immediately.

Structure of the Basic Environment Plan

Part 1 Background and Significance of the Plan
Part 2 Principles of Environmental Policy
Basic Concepts
Long-term Objectives
Environmentally Sound Material Cycle: Realization of a socioeconomic system based on recycling to minimize the burden on the environment
Harmonious Coexistence: To ensure sustainable coexistence between nature and people
Participation: Achievement of participation by all sectors of society, each shares a fair burden
International Efforts: Promotion of international activities
Development of comprehensive indicators
Development and use of an index (or group of indices) that shows the progress toward the long-term objectives and the relationships between objectives and policy measures
Part 3 Future Policy on Environmental Conservation
Effective use of a range of policy measures according to the characteristics of environmental problems. Establishment of targets and formation of plans for specific problems
Environmentally Sound Material Cycle Harmonious Coexistence Participation International Activities
Measures Forming the Basis of Environmental Policy
Part 4 Effective Implementation of the Plan