EU-Japan Conference | Cities, regions, clusters: on the road to zero carbon | 26-27 October 2021

“Think global, act local”. In Japan and Europe, local stakeholders – clusters, cities, municipalities, regions, prefectures – are at the forefront of decarbonization. Building on a strong sense of ownership and belonging, local ecosystems are well placed to take and implement initiatives for the green transition. Connected with other local actors both at national and international level, they share experiences and learn from others, expanding the range and scope of their efforts.

Transport, construction, urban planning, local renewable energy, circularity of resources, citizens engagement… In all these key areas for the decarbonization of our economies and societies, Japanese and European regional clusters and local governments already take ambitious and innovative actions. Their efforts also expand to other sectors deeply connected to territories, such as agriculture or tourism.

What are the best practices in Europe and Japan? How do regional industrial clusters contribute to these efforts? What are the existing cooperation initiatives between Europe and Japan at the local level? How can national policies unlock local initiatives, and local initiatives inspire national policies? How can stakeholders from Japan and the EU further cooperate on these matters? 

This online event took the audience into a virtual tour of leading European and Japanese clusters, cities and regions on the pathway towards carbon neutrality.

Day 1 | Local planning, renewable energy, agriculture

Video recording

Opening session

Delegation of the European Union to Japan
H.E. Dr. Patricia Flor, Ambassador of the European Union to Japan

The Delegation of the European Union to Japan develops and strengthens bilateral political, economic, cultural, educational, scientific and other sectoral cooperation between the EU and Japan. It leads various activities and projects contributing to EU-Japan cooperation for decarbonization, including climate diplomacy, organization of events, promotion of European green businesses in Japan and matchmaking between European and Japanese cities.

Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), Japan
Mr. Masayuki Nankouin, Managing Director

The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations is a government-affiliated foundation that works to support the internationalisation efforts of local governments in Japan through providing training opportunities, fostering people-to-people exchange, supporting multiculturalism, and carrying out research on behalf of local governments. CLAIR is the Japan-side manager of the Regional Cooperation Helpdesk of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation.

European Center for Japanese Studies in Alsace (CEEJA), France
Mr. Olivier Becht, President, Member of the French Parliament

The European Center for Japanese Studies in Alsace was created in 2001 in eastern France, with the aim of promoting and developing cultural, academic and economic relations with Japan, CEEJA works with universities in Europe and Japan. It is the Europe-side manager of the Regional Cooperation Helpdesk of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, counterpart to CLAIR on the Japanese side.

Thematic Session 1: Local planning for decarbonization and energy transition

Using long-term planning, governments from regions and cities in Europe and Japan guide local stakeholders – economic actors, public operators, citizens – towards clean energy and decarbonization. How do they set achievable goals at municipal or regional scale? How do they translate these goals into sectorial guidelines? What mechanisms, from regulations to subsidies, do they use to accompany and accelerate the decarbonization of their territories?

Nagano Prefecture, Japan | A carbon-neutral prefecture in 2050
Mr. Takashi Maseki, Director of Environmental Policy Division

Nagano Prefecture, in the center of Honshu island, is known for its mountains, hot springs and architecture. In 2019, it was the first Japanese prefecture to issue a declaration of climate emergency. Nagano now aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. The prefecture is implementing a comprehensive plan towards this long-term goal, including measures in the areas of transportation, buildings, industry, energy, infrastructure and education. 

Regional Municipality of Bornholm, Denmark | A fossil-free island region by 2040
Mr. Thomas Thors, Mayor

Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea. The regional municipality of Bornholm has set the goal to become fully fossil-free by 2040. It has established an ambitious plan to transform its energy system with mid-term targets, including 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and 100% renewable heat by 2032. As part of this strategy, Bornholm will be home to a 2 GW offshore wind farm that will also supply electricity to the nearby capital Copenhagen.

Toyama City, Japan | A compact city aiming for zero carbon
Mr. Mitsuharu Toufuku, Manager of Environmental Policy Division, Environment Department

Toyama is a coastal city on Japan’s main island Honshu. Known for its castle and rich natural environment, it is also recognized as a successful example of “compact city” in Japan, with an urban development adapted to depopulation and a renovated public transport system. Toyama adopted in 2021 a Zero Carbon City 2050 declaration, supported by a plan including measures such as promotion of renewable energy, energy conservation and green finance.

State of Saxony, Germany | Transitioning away from coal
Mr. Peter Lucas, Desk Officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport

Home to Leipzig and Dresden, Saxony borders Poland and the Czech Republic. The eastern-most state of Germany is still deeply dependent on lignite mining. It is implementing a master plan for energy and climate to guide and accompany the transition towards a decarbonized economy, as the whole country is phasing out from coal. Projects under the plan cover sectors such as renewable energy, hydrogen and clean transport.

Thematic Session 2: Mobilizing local renewable energy

Renewable energy sources are, by nature, decentralized. Sun, wind, biomass, geothermal, energy from rivers and seas are geographically distributed across regions in Europe and Japan, placing local actors at the forefront of their mobilization to locally produce renewable electricity, heat and gas. What policies do cities and regions implement to accelerate the substitution of fossil fuels by clean sources of energy? How do industrial clusters and agencies facilitate local innovation for the transition to renewable energy?

Grenoble Metropolis, France | Promoting local innovation for renewables
Mrs. Anne-Elisabeth Cotte, Innovation Project Manager

Grenoble Metropolis gathers 49 towns and cities, at the foot of the French Alps. The region’s rich economic fabric includes major companies, SMEs and startups active in the energy transition, gathered in the Tenerrdis cluster. The metropolis supports innovation for renewables through various initiatives such as green hydrogen experimentation. The area also boasts one of the largest urban heating networks in France, fueled at 70% by fossil-free sources.

Iki City, Japan | Towards a 100% renewable-powered island city
Mr. Kazunori Ogawa, SDGs Future Section Manager

Located in Nagasaki prefecture off the coast of Japan’s western island Kyushu, Iki is an island city blessed with lush surroundings and home to many shrines. Like other island communities across Japan, Iki has its challenges – an aging population and natural disasters aggravated by climate change. Running on its own power grid, Iki set the goal to replace fossil fuels entirely with renewable sources – sun, wind, marine energy – in its electricity mix by 2050.

Energy Cork, Ireland | An industry-driven cluster for clean energy
Mr. Kieran Lettice, Cluster Manager

Home to over 500,000 people, the Cork region is an economic, social and cultural hub for southern Ireland. It is also a key component of the national energy landscape, supplying 25% of Ireland’s energy needs. Cork’s natural resources include massive amounts of renewable energy. The Energy Cork cluster supports innovation in the regional industry, promoting and facilitating projects in onshore and offshore wind, solar power and other clean energy sectors.

Fukushima Energy Agency, Japan | An agency for regional energy transition
Mr. Yasuhiro Hattori, Managing Director

The prefecture of Fukushima is located on Japan’s eastern Pacific coast. After the 2011 disaster, Fukushima has made renewable energy a pillar for its reconstruction, aiming at covering local energy needs with 100% renewable sources by 2040. To support this transformation, the Fukushima Energy Agency was established in 2017. It promotes collaborative R&D, is an incubator for local companies, organizes trade fairs and supports international collaboration.

Discovery Session 1: Initiatives for a low-carbon agriculture

Important emitters of greenhouse gases, agriculture and the food industry are also part of the solution for carbon-free societies, and essential components of the local economy in many regions. What initiatives do regional actors from Europe and Japan implement for low-carbon agriculture and food systems? How could Japan and Europe further cooperate on this issue?

Shiga Prefecture, Japan | A pioneer of low-carbon agriculture in Japan
Ms. Tomoe Aota, Director, Agricultural Policy Division, Agriculture and Fisheries Department

Located to the east of Kyoto, Shiga has the highest share of land designated as natural parks among all Japanese prefectures. Back in 2011, Shiga formulated a strategy to adapt agriculture to climate change. The plan now also aims at reducing the sector’s emissions, through initiatives such as carbon storage in soils, local renewable energy for farming and new cultivation methods.

Lombardy, Italy | Innovating for a low-carbon agrifood industry
Dr. Raffaello Prugger, Director General Tecnoalimenti, CAT.AL Lombardy High Tech Agrofood Cluster

With 50,000 farms and 8,000 alimentary firms, the northern Italian region of Lombardy tops the country’s agricultural sector. CAT.AL, the Lombardy High Tech Agrofood Cluster, supports innovation efforts from regional enterprises, universities and research bodies. Activities include the promotion of renewable resources and waste minimization, for more sustainable, decarbonized food production systems.

Day 2 | Transport, housing and construction, tourism

Video recording

Second day opening remarks

EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation
Dr. Philippe de Taxis du Poët, EU-side General Manager

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation supports exchanges between businesses and regional stakeholders from Europe and Japan, through activities such as business matchmaking, training programmes, information dissemination and organization of events. In 2020-2021, the Centre organizes a cycle of seminars and conferences gathering Japanese and European experts from sectors contributing to decarbonization.

Thematic Session 3: Decarbonizing transport in cities

Reducing the environmental footprint of transport is a major challenge for all cities and regions, as the transport industry has been built on fossil fuels for more than a century. From bicycle-friendly roads to smart public transport, from zero-emission vehicles to shared mobility, how do municipalities, regions and transport operators tackle the CO2 emissions of urban and interurban mobility across Europe and Japan?

Utrecht City, Netherlands | The most bicycle-friendly city in the world
Ms. Erlijn Mulder, Senior Advisor Strategic and International Affairs

Located in the centre of mainland Netherlands, Utrecht is the fourth-largest Dutch city. Its central position within the country makes it an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It is also known as the cycling capital of the world, with a road system that has been designed for bicycle traffic for more than 30 years. With a rapid increase of its population until at least 2030, the city is adapting its cycling infrastructures and creating new ones.

Toyota City, Japan | Smart multimodal mobility in the city of cars
Mr. Kazuaki Yamai, Director of the Future City Promotion Division

Toyota is located in north-central Aichi Prefecture. The longstanding ties with Toyota Motor – several plants of the car manufacturer are located there – gave the city its current name. To reduce the environmental footprint of transport, Toyota City works on new forms of multimodal urban mobility, combining zero-emission individual vehicles and smart public transports.

Metro Mondego, Coimbra, Portugal | A route for electric buses on an old railway
Mr. João Marrana, President

About 460,000 people live in the region of Coimbra, the fourth-largest urban centre in Portugal. The closure of a local railway line in 2009 led to an increase of CO2 emissions and road congestion, as cars became the only mobility solution for residents. To tackle these issues, local public transport operator Metro Mondego now works on the transformation of this old railway into a 42-kilometer route dedicated to an electric bus rapid transit service.

Odakyu Railway, Machida & Kawasaki, Japan | On-demand mobility for lower carbon emissions
Mr. Hugues Chataing, Next Generation Mobility Team, International Collaboration Manager

Kawasaki and Machida are located in the south-west of the Greater Tokyo urban area. In these two cities, local transport company Odakyu Railway is conducting experiments of new on-demand public transport services. On-demand mobility can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and urban space congestion due to transportation, by providing a convenient alternative to private cars when traveling to a railway station.

Thematic Session 4: Low-carbon housing and construction

From raw material procurement for construction to energy consumption during the lifecycle, the housing sector is one of the largest emitters of CO2 both in Europe and Japan. How do local governments steer the construction industry towards low-carbon buildings? How can environmental efforts in the housing sector be combined with social benefits for tenants? What techniques and technologies, from biomaterials to energy efficiency systems, are being developed by local innovators to reduce the carbon footprint of residential and commercial buildings?

Tottori Prefecture, Japan | Low-emission houses in a rural prefecture
Mr. Shoji Makihara, Planning Officer, Housing and Community Development Section

Least populous prefecture in Japan, renowned for its agricultural products, Tottori is located in the south of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The prefecture has one of the most ambitious programs to reduce the climate impact of the housing sector, including subventions for low-emission houses, promotion of wood construction and insulation standards designed to cut heating and cooling consumption by 70% compared to national standards.

Wood Industry Cluster, Ljubljana, Slovenia | Mobilizing wood for low-carbon housing
Mr. Friderik Knez, Head of Department

Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe. To take full advantage of this asset, woodworking companies and research institutions established in 1999 the Wood Industry Cluster. The cluster supports collaborative work between its members, including projects focused on the role of wood in decarbonizing the housing and construction sector. A recent initiative focuses on creating a wooden smart home with reduced carbon footprint.

Tokyo Metropolis, Japan | Expanding zero-emission buildings in the capital
Mrs. Toshiko Chiba, Deputy Director for Carbon Policy Planning

With 14 million inhabitants, the metropolis of Tokyo is one of the most populated in the world. In 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government released its Zero Carbon Strategy, aiming at placing the capital on the pathway towards carbon neutrality in 2050. Accounting for 70% of the emissions, buildings are a key target in this strategy. Through a comprehensive set of measures, Tokyo will guide both new and existing constructions towards zero emission.

Ghent, Belgium | A one-stop desk for energy saving in housing
Ms. Joyca Leplae, Coordinator-Expert, Environment and Climate Service

Ghent is a 250,000 inhabitants port city in northwest Belgium. Several years ago, the city decided to fight energy poverty – while at the same time enabling CO2 emissions reduction from housing. Today, the city offers a one-stop desk for energy efficient renovation, the “Energiecentrale”. This service facilitates access to information and financial support to cut energy needs and carbon emission in existing homes.

Discovery Session 2: Initiatives for a low-carbon tourism

Both Europe and Japan are privileged destinations for local and global tourism. As the world will recover from the pandemic, how do local actors make sure that tourists can enjoy their visits and stay with the lowest possible level of CO2 emissions? How can Japan and Europe work together towards a low-carbon tourism?

Global Omnium/Visit Valencia Foundation, Valencia, Spain | Paving the way for carbon-neutral tourism
Mr. Juan Luis Pozo Calderón, Chief Sustainability Officer

The port city of Valencia lies on Spain’s southeastern coast. Third-largest city in the country, it is a privileged destination for tourists. In 2021, as part of its sustainable recovery plan after the pandemic, Valencia became the first city worldwide to start verifying the carbon emission of local tourism, with the support of a public-private partnership. Valencia’s vision: to become a leading example of a carbon-neutral tourism destination.

Niseko Town, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan | Tackling carbon footprint of mountain tourism
Mr. Kenya Katayama, Mayor

Niseko is located on Japan’s northern island prefecture of Hokkaido. It is a celebrated ski resort in the Asian region, renowned for the quality of its snow. Conscious of the impact of tourism on the environment and climate, Niseko Town made ecotourism a central theme of its Eco-Model City plan adopted in 2013. The municipality promotes initiatives such as renewable energy in touristic facilities and reduction of travel distance between points of interest.

Closing session

Concluding the conference, two cities recognized for their commitment to decarbonization illustrated how they became local leaders for climate action, paving a way towards carbon neutrality and acting as a role-model for other cities and regions.

Kyoto, Japan | Heritage city on the pathway to carbon neutrality
Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, Mayor

Kyoto, Japan’s former capital, is a city of history and legacy. Home to 17 World Heritage sites, it is also the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, a milestone in the global fight against climate change, a decade before the Paris Agreement. Kyoto now prepares its future, towards carbon neutrality. Member of ICLEI and Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, it is one of the pioneer cities leading the local decarbonization movement in Japan.

Lahti, Finland | European Green Capital 2021
Ms. Milla Bruneau, Executive Director

Growing city of 120,000 inhabitants, Lahti is the EU Green Capital in 2021. The city combines a rich natural environment and the originality of a small city, with bold climate action, energy solutions and green business. Lahti is also internationally known as a winter sports city and a culture hot spot. Historically, Lahti has always been an important trade route and marketplace, between Finland’s capital city Helsinki and Russia’s St. Petersburg.

Moderator: Karen Coleman

An award-winning Irish journalist, Karen Coleman has moderated a significant array of events over the years including major international conferences for clients such as the European Commission, European businesses and environmental organizations. Among other events, she worked on past editions of the European Green Week, the European Smart Regions Conference and the Transport for Smart Cities Conference.

The organizers wish to thank the following organizations for their kind support to the preparation of this event: Embassy of Belgium in Japan, Embassy of the Netherlands in Japan, Embassy of Denmark in Japan, Embassy of Italy in Japan, Embassy of Finland in Japan, Embassy of Germany in Japan, Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate Japan / Nagoya University, IGES, ICLEI Japan.

Supported by

This event is organized with the financial support of the European Union’s Partnership Instrument. The opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the organizer and speakers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Organized by

EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation

Co-organized by

Delegation of the European Union to Japan

With the support of
EU-Japan Regional Cooperation Helpdesk
European Cluster Collaboration Platform
Enterprise Europe Network

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