Is Resource Efficiency a Solution for Sustainability Challenges? -Japan’s Sustainable Strategy and Resource Productivity Policy in the 1990s to 2000s-

The 3rd International Wuppertal Colloquium on “Sustainable Growth and Resource Productivity – Harnessing Industry and Policy Towards Eco-Innovation”
September 4-6, 2010
Working Paper

This paper tries to overview Japan’s strategy for sustainability and environmental management in the 1990s to 2000s. The paper argues that Japan’s sustainable strategy can be characterized from its emphasis in improving resource efficiency and expansion of voluntary approach by comprehending environmental challenges as opportunities for further technical progress, innovation, and industrial competitiveness. Then, the paper tries to further clarify such characteristic of the strategy for sustainability through examination of Japan’s sound material cycle policy in the 1990s to 2000s with particular attention to its eco-town programme and recycling policies based on the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

After arguing a limitation of approach of increasing resource productivity in the different national context, the paper overviews and analyzes two recent sustainability strategies developed by Ministry of the Environment of Japan in the 2000s; “Strategy for an Environmental Nation in the 21st Century” in 2007 and “Clean Asia Initiative” in 2008. By doing so, the paper argues that Japan’s sustainable strategy continues to emphasize “increasing efficiency” and “voluntary approaches”.

Then, it concludes that it is a time give larger emphasis on total reduction in environmental impact from production and consumption to achieve the next step of sustainability for Japan and elsewhere in the world.