Leading Japanese Cities Leave Their Mark on COP27

At a side event of COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the cities of Yokohama and Tokorozawa shared their leading initiatives on transitioning to net zero carbon.

At the 2022 Climate Change Conference – COP27 – currently underway in Egypt and other major events for negotiating international treaties, government delegations play a central role. But side events provide a platform for local governments, NGOs, and other observer organizations outside the formal negotiations to leave their mark.

When it comes to global warming, cities often get a bad rap for their greenhouse gas emissions. But in fact, urban areas around the world are leading in innovations aimed at carbon neutrality, and Japan is no exception.

On November 17, representatives from two pioneering Japanese cities shared their experiences at a COP27 side event. Held in the COP27 Japan Pavilion and titled "Leading Actions towards Zero Carbon Cities," the hybrid event was also live streamed on YouTube.

Japan Aiming for a Domino Effect

"Cities account for roughly 70% of global emissions," said Yoshihiro Mizutani, Director for International Cooperation for Transition to Decarbonization and Sustainable Infrastructure at the Ministry of the Environment, in his opening remarks. Therefore, Japan is channeling efforts into helping cities reduce their carbon footprints.

Mizutani explained, "Japan aims to designate more than one hundred leading decarbonization areas by 2030…to trigger a decarbonization domino effect."

The city of Tokorozawa is one of these promising areas. Mayor Masato Fujimoto was in attendance at COP27 and presented at the side event.

Blueberry seedlings growing under solar panels in Tokorozawa City (photo courtesy of Seibu Landscape).

Fujimoto introduced Tokorozawa's urban planning policies that promote walking and its community-based renewable energy projects.

"I place the highest importance on reconnecting humans and nature, and that leads to my main policy frameworks—achieving a decarbonized city and creating a people-centered town," he noted.

Yokohama, which participated in a similar event at COP26 in Scotland in 2021, was the other leading Japanese city at the podium.

Kazuaki Takahashi, Executive Director of Yokohama's Climate Change Policy Headquarters, described the city's innovative projects and plans. He said, "In Yokohama's Minato Mirai area….we able to build a model of decarbonization in urban areas with public-private partnerships."

Yokohama's Minato Mirai district designated for decarbonization initiatives (© Sankei by Mizuho Miyazaki).

Takahashi also stressed that carbon neutrality necessitated new lifestyles, but that these could be "attractive." Yokohama, home to 3.77 million people, has recently launched a program designed to innovate attractive lifestyles.

The initiative aims to generate ideas about climate-friendly lifestyles involving all aspects of citizens' lives from fashion and food, to housing and leisure. Digital technologies are to play a key role.

Japanese Cities Collaborating Around the World

Other cities presenting at the side event included Dublin, Ireland, and Hai Phong, Vietnam. Interestingly, Hai Phong's intiatives involved a Japan connection – cooperation with Kitakyushu City.

Screenshot of Dung Nguyen Thi Bich, Deputy Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Hai Phong, Vietnam, presenting virtually at the COP27 side event at the Japan Pavilion (from webcast).

Dung Nguyen Thi Bich, Deputy Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Hai Phong, attended the event virtually. She described the many achievements of the Hai Phong-Kitakyushu partnership. These include Kitakyushu's support for formulation of Hai Phong's Low Carbon Scenario, and development of eco-industrial parks in the city.

The side event was co-organized by the Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan (MOEJ), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).

COP27 is scheduled to wrap up on November 18.