The Challenge of Climate Change and Energy Policies for Building a Sustainable Society in Japan
In response to last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the role and safety risks of nuclear power are being reassessed globally. The 1990s witnessed an unprecedented recognition that environmental problems were occurring at a global level. Demonstrating Japan’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol it switched from fossil fuels to nuclear power as its primary energy source. Nuclear power has become central to its climate change and energy policies. The shift to secure increasing energy demand instead of reducing energy consumption has been widely criticised. Through an in-depth analysis of Japan’s climate change policy, this study assesses to what extent Japan has succeeded in environmental reforms without generating other environmental impacts to provide insight into this debate. Are the recent devastating events in Japan a warning to review its nuclear policies?
This article assesses Japan’s climate change policy to provide insight into the debate on sustainable societies within environmental sociology, which is contested on one side by Ecological Modernization (EM) theory and on the other mainly by political economy perspectives. Overall, this study finds that Japan’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol is unlikely to lead to a greening of the economy and lifestyles. Consistent with the claim made by EM critics, Japan’s climate change policy has negative environmental and social ramifications. Japan’s attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by switching its primary energy source from fossil fuels to nuclear power is likely to increase the uneven distribution of nuclear risks between rural and urban areas. The promotion of nuclear power to secure increasing energy demand instead of reducing energy consumption has also contributed to a worsening of the urban environmental problem known as urban heat island.
Kondoh, K. (2009). The Challenge of Climate Change and Energy Policies for Building a Sustainable Society in Japan Organization & Environment, 22 (1), 52-74 DOI: 10.1177/1086026609333418