Japan's Ecological Footprint

Posted on 27 October 2010  | 
Japan’s Ecological Footprint for consumption in 2006 was 4.1gha (global hectare)* per capita,  about one and a half times the global average of 2.6 gha per capita. Japan's biocapacity was only 0.6gha per capita about a third of the global average of 1.8 gha per capita.

This means that if everyone lived based on the Japanese standard of living we would currently require the equivalent of 2.3 Earths to support the world population.

Japan’s large Carbon Footprint

Japan’s high Ecological Footprint of 4.1gha per capita is explained by the size of the land required to absorb carbon dioxide. 65% of the total Ecological Footprint is taken by Carbon Footprint. The Carbon Footprint increased to 13 times in the late 1990s in comparison with the 1961 level.

High dependency on imports

While having biocapacity of only 0.6gha per capita, Japan’s Ecological Footprint is 4.1gha per capita. This implies that Japan depends on imports to offset the gap.

For example, Japan, a maritime nation having a large fishing ground in its territory, has a large fishing grounds footprint of production. However, Japan is unable to supply local demand and depends on fisheries products imported from overseas. A slump in fisheries in recent years has made Japan even more dependent on imports.

With regard to forest products, Japan, a well forested nation, has a high forest biocapacity. Japan theoretically can supply all domestic demand from its own biocapacity. However, Japan depends on imports and supplied only 20.3% of the demand in 2006 (“Timber Demand & Supply Sheet”, 2006, Forestry Agency).

Japan’s cropland biocapacity was extremely low. As such large portions of grains are imported into Japan. This also makes Japan vulnerable to any global declines in production due to climate change.

In these cases, Japan has a bad balance between production and consumption when it comes to primary products.

How to reduce Japan's Ecological Footprint

Food represents the largest contribution (36%) to the Ecological Footprint of Japanese household consumption. It is a serious problem that residents of Japan throw away around 13.8 million tonnes of food every year. Eliminating food waste, which is 1.7 times the food aid provision of the entire world, could, potentially, reduce the Japanese Ecological Footprint.

Carbon Footprint makes up two-thirds of Japan's Ecological Footprint. However, Japan has not introduced any strong policy or regulations on carbon dioxide. In other words, there is a huge potential to reduce Ecological Footprint through appropriate implementation of domestic emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes.

Japan has a large Ecological Footprint, but measures to effectively reduce it are relatively clear. Japan, a nation very dependent on large imports, must make efforts to reduce its Ecological Footprint from both global and domestic sustainability perspectives.

It is time for Japan to make concrete policies to reduce Ecological Footprint.

About the report

WWF-Japan and the Global Footprint Network (GFN) recently published the first Ecological Footprint Report of Japan in Japanese and English.   Prior to the 2010 edition to be published in Fall 2010, WWF Japan and GFN have complied “Japan Ecological Footprint Report 2009”, the first report on Japan’s ecological footprint, by analyzing ecological footprint from data between 1961 and 2006. The report indicates the present situation and challenges for Japan.

Japan's Ecological Footprint
WWF-Japan and the Global Footprint Network (GFN) recently published the first Ecological Footprint Report of Japan in Japanese and English.
© WWF-Japan Enlarge

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