Climate change effects to Tokyo
Historical data of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that annual average air temperatures in Japan rose by a rate 50% higher than the global mean temperature rise over the last century. Experts view that Japan’s temperatures are likely to increase by 2°C to 3°C during this century, others view that it could even rise by 4.8°C by 2100. In certain parts of Japan, the availability of seasonal vegetables and certain fish has changed or delayed in some areas. The phenomenon articulates the limits of some plants and animals against climate change and make us fear the potential impact to Japanese culture and industries. For instance, one of the major impact will be on the rice harvest, which will suffer a decrease of up to 40 percent in central and southern Japan. As of today, 60 percent of the nation’s food is imported and a further rise of it’s proportion could impact the food and agriculture industry of the country. (For comparison, the United Kingdom imports about 25 percent of its food, and the United States exports more food than it imports) .
Tokyo action plans towards 2020
To resolve the situation, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has rolled out the climate change strategy that involves all sectors in the city (see Table A). The main drivers of the strategy are Commercial & Industrial sector, Residential sector, and Transportation sector. In 2010, the world’s first urban cap-and-trade program was introduced by the Industry and Commercial sector. A series of Green Building programs which requires a thorough environmental qualification for new buildings were implemented by the Residential sector .
Table A History of Development of Major Plans and Programs 
Hydrogen development in action
For the transportation sector, TMG has set up a ¥40 billion ($330 million) fund to promote the use of hydrogen energy and build up Japan’s ecological technologies ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. The fund covers the cost of building hydrogen stations, promoting fuel cell vehicles, and providing fuel cells for business and industrial use. Experts view hydrogen as a prime energy source because it does not emit carbon dioxide when burned and emits only water as a byproduct. It also contributes to a new source for energy security after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, because hydrogen can be sourced from all over the world. TMG views this project not only for the Olympics, but also to promote renewable energy to create a sustainable society for the future of Japan.
Since 2013, there have been 105 hydrogen station built nationwide (compared to less than 40 public hydrogen stations in US), over 3,000 gas fuel vehicles, and 2 gas fuel public buses started operation last September.
Going forward, TMG targets 150 hydrogen stations, 6,000 gas fuel vehicles, and 100 gas fuel public buses by 2020 and 250 station and 100,000 gas fuel vehicles by 2025 .
- There are high expectations for hydrogen, but there are also many hurdles to overcome, including how to lower the cost of using it. For now, TMG offers subsidies on purchases of fuel-cell cars. For example, the Mirai, Toyota’s car is going for around 4.2 million yen, or $35,000, after incentives from Tokyo and the central government that slash the price by more than a third. There needs to be constant challenges to lower the price to an affordable level .
- Compared with regular gas stations, hydrogen stations require higher capital investments. To absorb the intensive capital, more fuel-cell cars are expected on the road. However, the cars will be limited by the number of and accessibility to hydrogen station. The external environment is more or less of a headwind. Because of the Fukushima nuclear accident, many power companies are strapped for cash. Furthermore, manufacturers see little attraction in hydrogen when coal and natural gas prices are low. Both government and private sector needs to align their plans to create a new society .
- What cannot be left out is the education towards the society. Public awareness is still relatively low about the advantages and safety guidelines of the energy. The fuel cell car’s benefits of long distance (over 300 miles when fully charged), short idle time for battery charge (less than 15 seconds), and zero emission of CO2 should be a great merit to the consumers. A misconception of “danger” against Hydrogen shall be removed by proper advertisement and education as well.
Thoughts for the future
To make hydrogen energy something anyone can use, the whole society must get on board. How can Tokyo Metropolitan Government , Japanese government, and the private sector further spread the vision to it’s people and the world ?
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