This article reviews the Eco-home Diagnosis(*1) scheme developed by IGES, from a practical research perspective.
Endorsement of Eco-home Diagnosis as Public Policy
Although private households account for only around 20% of all CO2 emissions in Japan, the volume of household emissions is increasing significantly, and is therefore something that policymakers cannot afford to ignore.
After running a pilot scheme in fiscal 2008, IGES proposed Eco-home Diagnosis to Hyogo Prefecture, the Japan Center for Climate Change Actions (JCCCA) and the Ministry of the Environment, and they incorporated the scheme into their policymaking almost unchanged. Their willingness to approve the scheme was partly because the proposals offered a very effective means of encouraging changes in behaviour to reduce CO2 emissions, but also because we were
able to meet with the policymakers themselves and make the proposals face-to-face. If analysed, the key elements contributing to the decisions to endorse the scheme were probably:
(1) new policies to reduce household CO2 emissions were needed;
(2) the proposals were very detailed, enabling them to be put into practice quickly, with easily assessable results;
(3) we were able to respond fully to the policymakers' questions.
In other words, we were able to provide the key decision-makers with what they needed, in the right way, at the right time.
We are currently making proposals to key decision-makers in the Republic of Korea (they need to formulate CO2 reduction policies across all sectors in line with the Green Growth legislation).
Contribution to Electricity Conservation
As a result of the nuclear power plant accidents, Japanese households have been required to conserve electricity during the summer of 2011 and the winter of 2011/2012. When we talk about conserving electricity, however, Japanese people always seem to think of austerity and discomfort. Yet Eco-home Diagnosis can recommend specific and effective ways for each individual household to achieve the key aim of reducing energy consumption without having to resort to such sacrifices. That is the reason why it has been adopted as a means of providing diagnosis-based recommendations in the Kanto region and elsewhere. Even more stringent electricity conservation measures are likely to be required in the summer of 2012, so Eco-home Diagnosis may well become increasingly important.
Although IGES' Eco-home Diagnosis proposal was approved for implementation as public policy, there is a risk that those implementing the scheme (mainly regional centres for climate change action) might just go through the motions, without really understanding the philosophy and thinking behind it. If the scheme is not to become devoid of essence, the issue is how to communicate the philosophy and thinking fostered by IGES to those administering it. That is why we are offering support in the form of training to impart know-how and pass on skills.
It is likely that energy-related policy will change drastically as a result of the earthquake and its aftermath, and people are now very aware of the need to conserve electricity and reduce energy consumption. This is, therefore, an ideal time to forge a new way of life for the Japanese people. We could use minimal energy and emit less CO2, living an ecologically sound lifestyle that also ensures us good health and peace of mind. We could then suggest this "Japanese model" to others, including the developing nations that are the focus of IGES' activities.
I read a newspaper article the other day in which Hiroshi Komiyama(*2) maintained that it is essential for any leader to have a mission, to have passion, and to take action. I think this is also true of a researcher. As a researcher at IGES, I intend to nurture these three attributes in myself, as I continue to work for sustainable development in Asia.