Group picture with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and Tokyo Metropolitan Research Institute for Environmental Protection colleagues.
In the face of a shared issue urgent to all cities, officials from 3 EACAC cities (Beijing, Guiyang, and Shenzhen)and representatives from 6 other Chinese local governments visited the Japanese EACAC city Tokyo and its neighboring city of Kawasaki from September 11-15 for a week long technical exchange on air quality topics.
Co-organized by ICLEI East Asia and the Energy Foundation China, the tour was made possible with the organizational support of ICLEI Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Institute for Environmental Protection, Kawasaki Environment Research Institute, and the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies.
The study tour provided a platform for Chinese and Japanese cities to understand each other’s previous solutions and current efforts in the field of air quality management. Main topics covered during the tour include air quality monitoring and emergency response, research and implementation of transportation and VOC measures, as well as industry engagement, energy generation, and climate co-benefits.
As the earliest modernized country in North-East Asia, Japan, and Tokyo as its capital, experienced serious air pollution in the 1960s and again in the 1990s due to increased traffic; however, with regulations and continuous efforts over the years they managed to significantly improve their air quality. The country’s experience in doing so without hindering economic development has become a valuable reference for Chinese cities that are often concerned with the interlinked dynamics of economics and air quality, as well as air quality impacts on public health.
Among the Chinese local governments that participated in the tour, Beijing is particularly interested in regional cooperation and setting up legal institutions for air pollution management; Qinghai expressed their interest to more comprehensively establish and run monitoring stations; Shanxi is concerned about illegal private emissions in the area; Shuozhou is working on negotiating measures with their heavily polluting factories; Hunan and Changsha hope to improve their air quality monitoring network; and Shenzhen, now ranked as one of the least polluted cities in China, will be implementing a 2017-2020 air quality improvement plan across seven areas.
In Tokyo, air pollution monitoring equipment has been installed at 82 different locations across the metropolitan area, with 16 air quality monitoring stations carrying out in-depth analyses. During the week-long tour, the Chinese officials visited two such stations: the Harumi Monitoring Station in the Chuo Ward, specialized for ambient air pollution monitoring, and the Oshima Monitoring Station in the Koto ward which focuses on VOC sampling. Real-time use of data and the automated procedures in generating analysis reports were demonstrated to the participants.
A day of extensive dialogue with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Environmental Protection Bureau centered around regulations on ambient air monitoring, measures against diesel engine exhaust, and VOC countermeasures set by the bureau. Various programs and services have been implemented under the framework, including a number of which were particularly interesting for the visiting delegation: industrial VOC consultation services, citizen reporting hotline, enforcement checks for diesel trucks/diesel particulate filters carried out by a team of retired police officers and firefighters, and a cooperation pilot with industry associations allowing sectors to develop their own plans for lowering VOC emissions.
Hosting the delegation on the first day, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Institute for Environmental Protection is in charge of research in air quality improvement and technical support to the TMG, for example through capacity building trainings. The institute carries out analyses of emission sources and pollutants, with labs for testing interrelationships and modelling, as well as simulation rooms for replicating mobile sources or gauging technology efficiencies. The delegation was very engaged in understanding the institute’s procedures in analysis and testing and appreciated learning of research results, additionally highlighting areas where further research could be carried out.
The study tour delegation also visited TEPCO’s Shinagawa Thermal Power Plant. TEPCO is the largest power generating company in Japan, and the Shinagawa Thermal Power Plant voluntarily sets their emission standards and environmental impact assessment targets more stringently than those of the metropolitan government. With its new Advanced Combined Cycle technology, which combines a steam turbine, gas turbine, and heat recovery steam generator, the Shinagawa Plant has now reached the highest thermal efficiency of 55% based on LNG (liquid natural gas) fuel. The delegation was also given a view of their machinery infrastructure and their 24-hour control room, including the monitoring panel for air emissions data recorded and sent to the municipality online.
The delegation made its way to the neighboring industrial city of Kawasaki on the 14th, leaving the highly urbanized capital city for a day. For participating Chinese local governments, Kawasaki’s city profile and its experiences of environmental improvement demonstrated a learning model of how a city with a primarily industrial economy can maintain its operations and outputs while implementing measures to drastically curb back pollution emissions. The Kawasaki Environmental Research Institute introduced the city’s history of pollution and their measures to address and redress the issue. At the height of the issue, among the measures was a special hospital set up to take care of citizens impacted by the pollution, and a major air pollution prevention agreement made by the companies present in the city.
To get a taste of the private engagement in the city, the delegation visited a factory based in Kawasaki — one of Showa Denko’s facilities. This facility is dedicated to transforming otherwise non-recyclable PET to highly specialized gas forms for industrial use—not only demonstrating their technology and environmental safeguards, but also giving participants insight into a business contributing to a circular model for society.
Finally, the delegation visited the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies’ Tokyo office to wrap up the tour with a training on the co-benefits of integrated air quality and climate change policy. The concept of co-benefits and how to identify and integrate these into policy, demonstrated the benefits to political decision making, to citizen health, and to engagement of stakeholders for social improvements. These were exemplified with cases from South Korea, Japan, China, and Malaysia, across sectors such as clean energy, building energy efficiency, waste management, and environmental education.