Sustainable transitions towards a resilient and decentralised future: Japan’s Circulating and Ecological Sphere (CES)

In Sustainability Science
Peer-reviewed Article

Global environmental change, the depletion of natural resources, and unacceptable levels of pollution, among other anthropogenic impacts on the planet and its ecosystems, demand a radical shift in the way humankind develops. Global agreements like the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” or the “Paris Agreement on Climate Change” seek to promote sustainable development and its integration in policymaking. Against this backdrop, the Government of Japan in its Fifth Basic Environment Plan of 2018 proposed the concept of the Circulating and Ecological Sphere (CES) to guide sustainable transitions in light of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The CES provides a framework for a new paradigm in sustainable development bringing together existing approaches, namely, rural–urban linkages, ecosystem-based solutions, decarbonisation, and resource circulation. Still in an embryonic stage, some regional and local authorities in Japan have started to experiment with ways to apply this concept on the ground. Drawing on a systematic literature review on the different components covered by the CES, along with analysis of a case study in Suzu, Japan, this paper explores how this new concept can contribute to achieve a sustainable future.