I bookmarked a long time ago an article from the International Herald Tribune which is tackling Japan and its impressive energy efficiency policies.
As we are more and more talking about energy conservation (the IEA recently urged to work fast on this), this country is an example many could follow.
Indeed, according to the International Energy Agency, Japanese people consume nearly half less energy as Americans do but their GDP per capita is similar.
Here are the main elements of the article :
The national expression of concern for the earth dovetails nicely with the traditional Japanese reverence for nature (Shintoism sees gods in every mountain, rock, and tree), but in fact Japan has no choice: The country imports almost all its oil and 60 percent of its food.
(…) How do they do it? Partly, the Japanese have invented their way out of energy abuse. Hybrid cars from Toyota and Honda are just the most obvious examples. Four of the world’s five largest producers of solar panels are Japanese, with Sanyo commanding 24 percent of the market.
The government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is busy testing thin, flexible solar panels that, among many other uses, can be carried along to recharge a cellphone on the go.
“This is a problem of moral dimensions,” said Japan’s minister of environment, Masatoshi Wakabayashi. With a green feather in his lapel and a copy of Al Gore’s book on his desk, Wakabayashi is a bureaucrat with a cause. “I think we are receiving the message that our mother earth is in crisis,” he said. “We have a common consciousness of this fact.”
(…) Businessmen diligently separate their lunch box trash for recycling. Residential recycling is even more intense, with at least 10 sorting categories, including small metal items, bulky refuse, used cloth and chopsticks. Neighbors frown if the wrong items are in the bins.
Houses, cars, and appliances here are all much smaller than in the United States, but better designed.
(…) Government campaigns to urge energy conservation are myriad. There are tax deductions for consumers who buy “green tech” appliances and cars; a “top runner” designation for environmentally friendly companies; a “warm biz” and “cool biz” campaign that sanctioned the removal of suit jackets by Japan’s decorous businessmen in order to keep air-conditioned offices no cooler than 68 degrees;
(…) It doesn’t hurt that Japan is in a race for pride of place with the European Union. Earlier this month, the EU committed itself to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, with the added challenge that it would achieve 30 percent if the United States agreed to join.
To learn out more, I strongly recommend you to read the full article which was written by Renée Loth for the Boston Globe.
If Japan did it and still manage to makes it, why couldn’t we as Europeans do it ? Other countries are beginning to see the huge benefits they could get from increased energy conservation.
Indeed, the United States seem to go in this direction as a Ratatouille advertisement was released this summer to promote low energy light bulbs. Earlier this year, President Bush became aware of the situation.
While looking for additional data on the Japanese energy efficiency, I found a page from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs which details the energy strategy and diplomacy of the country.
You can also read the OECD page on their latest economic survey on Japan by clicking here.