Tokyo Seeking to Be the World's Most Sustainable Megacity

Today more than half of the world's population live in cities. This fact places a great responsibly on the world's urban leaders to create and put in place sustainability initiatives to address climate change as well as sustain our economies and societies.

Many megacities around the world are rising to this challenge and some of the most important and interesting trends in global sustainability are being undertaken by regional and local governments. Cities are on the front line of the impacts of the planet's changing climate - from typhoons and other extreme weather events, to rising sea levels. We cannot wait for multilateral treaties to protect our citizens.

As the world's largest metropolitan area with 37 million citizens, Tokyo has a special responsibility to provide global leadership in sustainability. We have put in place a comprehensive strategy to reduce our harmful impact on the environment, while simultaneously promoting economic growth and addressing important social needs.

Most notably, Tokyo's cap-and-trade scheme has achieved a 25 percent reduction in emissions (compared to the 2010 base year) in just its fifth year since coming into force. Companies in Tokyo first moved to reduce energy usage in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami event in March 2011, which created severe electricity shortages, but have continued to implement sustainability measures even as that crisis abated.

Tokyo is also taking steps toward a "smart energy city." We intend to increase the percent of energy from renewable sources to 30 percent by 2030. We are creating public-private partnerships to achieve this target. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has invested $37 million to create six energy funds worth over $350 million in private investments.

Transportation is also critical to our sustainability plans. Tokyo already has one of the world's most efficient and low-carbon public transportation systems. And like many cities, we are reducing emissions by expanding pedestrian zones and establishing bike-sharing programs. But we are also investing in a bold effort to reduce emissions from vehicles by creating a hydrogen-based society. We are investing $350 million to promote hydrogen-powered automobiles and the necessary infrastructure to fuel them.
Japanese auto manufacturers are leading in researching and commercializing these next-generation vehicles, which produce no harmful emissions and do not require electricity for recharging. By 2030, Tokyo plans to have a network of 150 hydrogen refueling stations in operation supporting 200,000 vehicles on our streets and highways.

Tokyo is also investing in its water infrastructure, which has been a fabric of the city's economic and cultural life for hundreds of years. We want to ensure our waterways are used sustainably to promote economic development, as well as provide new venues for cultural events such as marathons and festivals. Our waterways will receive further development later this year when Tokyo's world famous Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the world's largest, will be inaugurated at its new location in Toyosu, and will include many sustainability practices and improvements.

In the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami tragedy, Tokyo has invested in disaster preparedness to be a more resilient city in the event of future extreme weather events or natural disasters. We're building new protections against storm and tsunami flooding and investing in earthquake-resistant buildings, roads and other infrastructure. Regular evacuation drills and exercises are undertaken, and safety information is produced in multiple languages to ensure both our citizens and visitors are prepared.

Finally, sustainability is an important factor in our planning for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Any host of so prominent a global event must demonstrate a real commitment to minimizing the impact on the environment. The 2020 games will be an environmentally friendly event, with this being achieved by our reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by using renewable energy, public transport and low-energy vehicles. All Olympic facilities will be repurposed after 2020 to ensure their continued use in future decades.

All of these efforts are combining to showcase Tokyo as one of Asia's and the world's most sustainable megacities. The payoffs will be significant: a cleaner environment and a more livable city, to be sure, but these efforts will also offer us a competitive advantage in attracting foreign investment and tourist visitors to Tokyo, resulting in economic sustainability as well.

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Yoichi Masuzoe is Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.