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Japan’s place as the world’s second-largest vehicle manufacturer and third-largest market for automobiles lends it great significance for environmental policy makers in the transportation sector.
Japan's emission control requirements for vehicles are the strictest in Asia and among the strictest in the world. In 2005 Japan adopted the world’s first fuel-economy regulations for heavy-duty vehicles. The country is a leader in development of pollution control technologies. It also has some of the strictest efficiency standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Unfortunately, language barriers and rapid turnover of government officials have limited international adoption of Japan’s policy advances.
Japan has a long history of applying fiscal incentives to reward vehicle fuel efficiency, including indexing vehicle taxes and registration fees to vehicle weight and engine size. Taken in sum, these policies, along with the innovative work of its automakers, have helped Japan maintain one of the world’s most efficient passenger vehicle fleets.
Japanese automakers lead the world in the development and application of advanced drivetrains for passenger vehicles, including hybrid gasoline-electric engines, hydrogen fuel cells, and battery electric cars like the Nissan LEAF.
While Japan pioneered high speed rail development, allowing for quick and efficient passenger movement between major cities, its domestic aviation industry is much less efficient. The widespread use of long-range aircraft on short routes and overdevelopment of regional airports creates low load factors and increases emissions.
Local governments, particularly in the Tokyo region, have developed considerable expertise in controlling in-use emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses. In 2010 the ICCT and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on clean transportation initiatives including vehicle fuel economy standards, non-CO2 climate forcers, non-road emissions (with an emphasis on marine and aviation), and a climate change transportation roadmap. Priority will be given to projects that contribute to Tokyo’s climate change goals of reducing the transportation sector GHG emissions 40% below 2000 levels by 2020. The MOU formalizes a history of collaboration dating back to 1999, when ICCT chair Michael Wash partnered with the current Director General of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of the Environment, Teruyuki Ohno, on an in-use emission control policy for diesel vehicles.