i. Climate change context
According to the World Bank, Japan has a population of over 120 million people and a land area of 364,485 km2. Japan consists of four main islands and 6,800 smaller islands. The World Bank indicates that Japan has a high risk of storms, referring to the Key Natural Hazard Statistics for 1980-2020. The biggest threats caused by climate change are hurricanes, flooding, and forest fires.
Current data in the Global Carbon Atlas indicate that CO2 emissions in Japan were 8.1 t CO2 per person in 2020. Japan is ranked as the 6th highest-emitting country globally, with total emissions of 1031 Mt CO2 in 2020. Japan’s highest-emitting sector is coal. Electric power generation is the main factor in increasing CO2. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism indicates that approximately 50% of Japan’s total CO2 emissions derive from urban activities.
Japan declared a Climate Emergency in 2020, related to the country’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The Climate Emergency is a non-binding declaration, mainly targeted at sending a message about Japan’s commitment to a carbon-free future.
ii. Relevant government agencies
Under Japan’s Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Cabinet Office and 12 ministries function together to build a sustainable society in Japan. The Cabinet Office often assists in administrative tasks of the Cabinet on essential measures and coordinates among relevant ministry and government institutions.
Article 10 of the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures (1998) establishes the Global Warming Countermeasures Promotion Headquarters in the Cabinet. The Headquarters now includes the Director-General (Prime Minister); the Chief of Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of the Environment, and the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry as deputy directors; and all other ministers as participating members. The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology is not on the organizing team.
The Ministry of the Environment‘s responsibility is to prevent pollution, protect the natural environment, and secure the safe use of nuclear power.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism set up the Green Society Realization Promotion Headquarters. The Ministry updates its Environmental Action Plan (2008, 2014, 2021) and created its Climate Change Adaptation Plan in 2015. For climate change communication and education, the Ministry primarily focuses on education for preventing water disasters due to climate change. The Ministry created a disaster prevention education portal that includes materials for Grades 1 to 9 on wind, flood, and snow damage.
Affiliated with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, the Japan Meteorological Agency works to forecast climate change, global warming, and disasters. The Agency issues a yearly Climate Change Monitoring Report.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has an important role in climate action in Japan, in particular for adaptation and mitigation measures in agriculture. The Ministry published its Climate Change Adaptation Plan in 2015, but the Plan does not include education and communication methods. The Ministry has an important role in Japan’s decarbonization efforts.
Under Article 25 of the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures (1998), the Ministry of the Environment designated the Japan Center for Climate Change Action in 1999. The Center organizes awareness-raising activities; collects, analyzes, and provides related information and materials; undertakes liaison and coordination; and conducts research and study on controlling greenhouse gas emissions. In 2022, Japan has 59 regional centers for climate change action.
In August 2010, the Ministry of the Environment created Japan’s Network for Climate Change Actions to activate climate change actions and present global warming countermeasures. In 2022, Japan has 55 organizations in this Network.
In 2013, against the backdrop of international policy on climate change impact and adaptation, and to organize existing research on climate change prediction and impact, Japan set up a Climate Change Impact Evaluation Committee under the Central Environment Council Global Environment Subcommittee.
Education and communication
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology promotes education and lifelong learning and creates necessary frameworks to promote science and technology. The Ministry is active in research and development initiatives on renewable energy and related fields.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology and the Ministry of the Environment lead the high-level Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee on Education for Sustainable Development of the UN and the Education for Sustainable Development Round Table Conference. The Committee is responsible for creating and implementing education for sustainable development plans and for organizing the round table to exchange opinions on future promotion measures. Youth participation is emphasized through the Education for Sustainable Development Youth Forum (2020) and the National Youth Environmental Activity Presentation (2022).
The Research and Development Bureau in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology fosters research and development to address environmental and energy issues, earthquakes, and disaster prevention, including climate change. The Bureau consists of the Policy Division, Earthquake and Disaster-Reduction Research Division, Ocean and Earth Division, Environment and Energy Division, Space Development and Utilization Division, and Atomic Energy Division.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry ensures a stable and efficient supply of mineral resources and energy, working mainly on secure economic development and industrial growth. The Ministry promotes the Environment Social Governance investment, which aligns with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enables business with companies involved in climate change adaptation technologies.
iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans
Japan’s Constitution (1946) does not include references to the environment, nature, or climate, but has a strong focus on peace and the rights of all nations to a peaceful life.
The Basic Act on the Environment was first announced in 1993 and amended in 2018. It consists of general provisions, basic policies for environmental conservation, and a description of council systems on environmental conservation. The Act also clarifies the responsibilities of different stakeholders to protect the ecosystem’s delicate balance. Article 25 specifically illustrates education and learning on environmental conservation:
The state is to take measures necessary to deepen citizens’ and business operators’ understanding of environmental conservation and motivate those to engage in activities for environmental conservation by promoting environmental education and learning and improving public relations activities regarding environmental conservation. (Article 25)
In 1998, to take measures to control greenhouse gas emissions, Japan released the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures (amended in 2006). This Act confirmed the responsibilities of the Japanese national government, local governments, businesses, and citizens in implementing comprehensive and systematic global warming countermeasures under the Kyoto Protocol. For climate change communication and education, the Act indicated setting prefectural promotion centers for climate change action and dedicated positions for climate change action officers in each prefecture. The Minister of Environment designates the Japan Center for Climate Change Action. In addition, this Act suggests setting up regional councils on global warming countermeasures to discuss specific measures, necessary for preventing global warming, that are related to daily life.
The Basic Law for Establishing a Recycling Oriented Society was enacted in 2000. The government promotes the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).
The Law on Promotion of Low Carbon in Cities was issued in 2012. The Law stipulates formulation of basic policies for promoting low-carbon cities, taking measures to encourage creation of low-carbon town development plans by municipalities, and taking special measures such as the spread of low-carbon buildings. Together with the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures (1998),the Law aims to promote low carbon cities and contribute to their sound development.
The Basic Act for National Resilience Contributing to Preventing and Mitigating Disasters for Developing Resilience in the Lives of the Citizens (2013) establishes basic principles and clarifies the responsibility of the national government in recovering from large-scale natural disasters. The Act aims to
Foster security experts with specialized knowledge and technology concerning disaster prevention and mitigation, promote disaster prevention education, facilitate activities to hand down lessons and knowledge obtained through previous disasters, and strengthen the system to promote disaster prevention measures in local communities. (Article 8)
The Climate Change Adaptation Act (2018) recognizes climate change and focuses on its impact on daily life, society, the economy, and the natural environment. The Act’s purpose is to promote climate change adaptation through formulating plans and providing information on climate change impact and adaptation, thereby contributing to the health and cultural life of the Japanese people both at present and in the future. The Act clarifies the government’s role in climate action. Significantly, the Act indicates that “the minister of the environment shall prepare a proposal for the climate change adaptation plan” (Article 7-3). For climate change communication and education, the Act states that “The national government shall endeavor to take measures to increase the interest and understanding of businesses and the general public on the importance of climate change adaptation, through publicity activities, educational activities, and other relevant ways.” (Article 17) The role of the public is stated as “Members of the general public shall endeavor to increase their interest in and understanding of the importance of climate change adaptation and cooperate with national and local government programs for climate change adaptation.” (Article 6)
The National Plan for Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change was adopted by Japan’s Cabinet in 2015. The Plan provides the vision, targets, and goals of the Japanese government to 2025. Key principles are to mainstream climate change adaptation into government policies, increase climate change research, and increase cooperation of involved stakeholders through better information sharing. The Ministry of Education is a key partner of the plan.
The Basic Environment Plan (2018) was developed after adoption of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement by the international community. It is Japan’s fourth Environment Plan and follows integrated improvements on environment, economy, and society’s approach in the previous plan. Climate change is a key principle of the Plan, including a strong focus on research on emission reduction technologies, mitigation measures, and implementation of national environmental protection and climate change policies.
The Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2021) aims to integrate and strategically promote climate change adaptation policies, preventing and mitigating the impacts of climate change. The Plan focuses on public safety, a healthy society, economic growth, conserving the natural environment, and strengthening the land.
In the Long-Term Strategy under the Paris Agreement (2021), Japan’s government recognizes that “in moving toward resolving the climate change issue, it is important to foster values through education and continue practical actions that contribute to solutions” (p. 102). The Strategy consists of a long-term vision for each sector and policy directions and measures, cross-sectoral measures to focus on, and review and implementation of the long-term strategy. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating climate change, increasing use of renewable energy, and creating climate change adaptation measures are part of the Strategy.
The Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050 (Green Strategy) was formulated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in 2021. This is an “industrial policy to lead the challenging goal of carbon neutrality to a positive cycle of economic growth and environmental protection” (n.p.). Highlighting 14 fields as a priority, the Strategy covers comprehensive policies for budgets, taxes, regulation reforms and standardization, and international collaboration. The Strategy emphasizes cooperation between universities and industries.
Education and communication
The Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003, amended as Act No. 67, 2011) illustrates the basic policy on promoting environmental conservation activities and motivating participation in environmental conservation. The Act establishes cooperation for promoting environmental education, with officers from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and other administrative agencies. The Act also indicates financial measures such as taxation and funding to effectively implement the law. Climate change is not mentioned in this Act.
The Basic Act on Education (Act No. 120, 2006) includes in Article 2 “fostering the values of respecting life, caring about nature, and desiring to contribute to the preservation of the environment.” This Act enshrines the principles of environmental education in the national education system.
The Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2013) notes that the world faces global environmental, food, and energy problems. The Plan suggests reconsidering the past perspective of pursuing only material affluence and having all humankind working together to construct a sustainable society. The curriculum emphasizes promoting eco-schools, which teach about energy saving, reduction of CO2 emissions, and environmental education.
The Implementation Plan for Education for Sustainable Development in Japan (the second implementation plan, 2021) was declared by the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee on Education For Sustainable Development. As the highest-level plan for promoting education for sustainable development in Japan, it uses UNESCO’s Global Action Program on Education for Sustainable Development. Climate change is noted only as part of the background information, but promotion of environmental education and collaborative efforts was included in the umbrella term of ‘education for sustainable development.’
The Curriculum Framework of Elementary School (2016), the Curriculum Framework of Lower Secondary School (2017), and the Curriculum Framework of the Upper Secondary School (2018) include environmental education and climate change education.
The Third Education Promotion Basic Plan (2018) emphasizes the complexities of climate change and global warming. ‘Education for sustainable development’ and ‘environmental education’ are mentioned.
The White Paper on Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (2020) mentions ‘disaster prevention education’ but not ‘climate change education.’
iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication
Climate change communication and education in Japan are often incorporated into the umbrella term of ‘education for sustainable development.’ Other terms often used are ‘environmental education,’ ‘disaster prevention education,’ ‘low-carbon activities,’ and ‘environmental conservation activities.’
Japan promotes education for sustainable development through various channels, defined as
Learning and educational activities aiming to create a sustainable society, with the ultimate goal of ensuring bountiful living of humankind for future generations. Since modern society faces climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, deepening poverty, and various other problems resulting from development activities by humans, ESD is designed to encourage us to view these issues as our own challenges, to examine the fundamental causes of the problem, and to motivate us to “think globally and act locally,” thereby creating new values and invoking behavioral transformations that can bring into solutions for those problems. (Implementation Plan for Education for Sustainable Development in Japan, 2013, p. 1)
The social and emotional dimensions of facing challenges are often included in the umbrella term of ‘education for sustainable development.’ Cognitive and behavioral dimensions of the environment and climate change are usually included in ‘environmental education’ and ‘environmental conservation activities.’
The Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2008), the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2013), and the Third Education Promotion Basic Plan (2018) affirm the importance of education for sustainable development in future education in Japan. For example, in the five basic policies of Third Basic Plan, the policy of developing key competencies in realizing ambitions includes challenge possibilities, education for sustainable development, and environmental education as focuses to manage climate change. The Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2013) illustrates this.
To promote an education (ESD: education for sustainable development) that enables individuals to undertake the building of sustainable societies by thinking about modern and social issues with a global perspective, seeing them as their problems, and approaching them at a grassroots level. (p. 50)
The term ‘environmental conservation activities’ is used in the Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003). The term means
Voluntary activities aimed mainly at global environmental conservation, environmental pollution control, and protection and maintenance of the natural environment, such as conservation of biological diversity, formation of a sound material-cycle society, and other environmental conservation. (Article 2-(1))
The Basic Act on the Environment (1993, amended in 2018) uses the term ‘global environmental conservation.’
In this Act, ‘global environmental conservation’ means environmental conservation in response to global warming, ozone layer depletion, marine pollution, decrease in wildlife species, or situations affecting the whole or part of the world caused by human activities, which contributes to the welfare of humankind as well as to wholesome and cultured living of the people. (Article 2)
‘Disaster prevention education’ includes using research results on disaster phenomena and disaster prevention science and technology. For example, the Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2021) mentions climate change and disaster prevention education, including ecosystem-based adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Climate change and disaster prevention education also includes local energy production for local consumption for efficient energy use, regional revitalization, and avoiding risks such as power outages during disasters.
The term ‘motivating participation in environmental conservation,’ as used in the Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003), means “Offering information concerning environmental conservation and providing opportunities and accommodation for experiencing environmental conservation, which leads to a better understanding of environmental conservation and motivation for participation in environmental conservation activities.” (Article 2-(2))
The term ‘environmental education,’ as used in the Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003), means
Education and learning about environmental conservation at home, school, workplace, a local community, or any other place, to establish a sustainable society, to provide a better understanding of the link between environment and society, economy and culture, and other aspects of environmental conservation. (Article 2-(3))
The term ‘decarbonization’ is also used in climate change communication and education. For example, the Decarbon Road Map (2021) noted that decarbonization of daily life could be achieved using currently applicable technologies such as distributed energy and products with high energy-saving performance. The Road Map further clarifies the applicable areas of decarbonization: living areas, business areas, nature areas, and groups of facilities, where it is rational to unify energy management of public facilities.
v. Budget for climate change education and communication
According to Japan’s 7th National Communication (2017), the country’s gross domestic product for fiscal year 2016 was US$ 4.2 trillion (JPY 524 trillion). The budget for ‘Global Warming Countermeasures’ was US$ 6.58 billion (JPY 817.7 billion) in fiscal year 2017, which is 1.56% of gross domestic product. Within the budget for global warming countermeasures, 29% (US$ 1.8 billion) was allocated to greenhouse gas removal measures and 14% (US$ 0.9 billion) to commercial and other sectors.
The 7th National Communication (2017) shows that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology allocated US$ 378 million (JPY 44.383 billion) for matters related to Global Warming Countermeasures. Among these, US$ 117 million were allocated for basic measures, US$ 147 million was distributed for greenhouse gas reduction, and US$ 78 million was allocated to greenhouse gas reduction effects for after 2030.
The 7th National Communication (2017; p. 10) notes Japan announced a US$ 1.5 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund in 2014. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that in 2020–2023, Japan further commits US$ 1.5 billion to the Fund. In total, Japan commits US$ 3 billion and in 2022 is the second-largest donor to the Fund, following the UK.
To overcome energy constraints and to balance significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with economic growth, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology allocated a US$ 67 million (JPY 8.554 billion) budget for environment and energy area in 2021. Significantly, Japan assigned US$ 17 million (JPY 2.242 billion) to the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. This funding is to creating a climate change model (climate model MIROC6) and a highly accurate forecasting information system (Data Integration and Analysis System) as the basis of policymaking and concrete measures related to climate change. For climate change communication and education, the Ministry allocated US$ 0.6 million (JPY 80 million) in 2021 to apply knowledge from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences to support decarbonization and encourage universities to collaborate with the community.
i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education
The Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003, amended 2011) states the responsibility of the government, the prefectures, and the municipalities to take necessary measures that promote appropriate environmental education in schools and society through opportunities from childhood (Article 9-1). Climate change is not mentioned.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology developed materials on disaster prevention education for schools (2013) against the backdrop of the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011) and the Great Hanshin earthquake (1995). The White Paper on Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (2020) further states that the Ministry has taken initiatives for disaster prevention and mitigation measures to ensure the safety and security of students. In terms of climate change effects such as tsunamis, storms, tornadoes, and heavy rains, the White Paper emphasizes disaster prevention education (such as evacuation drills and disaster recovery) that aligns with conditions in a community.
The Third Education Promotion Basic Plan (2018–2022) calls for collaboration by schools, regional boards of education, universities, business corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and social education facilities to promote the practice of activities in education for sustainable development. This is to nurture students’ problem-solving abilities, enabling them to take global issues as their problems and tackle them from a familiar place to create a sustainable society. The Plan notes environmental education as a specific independent focus with equal weight to education for sustainable development. The Plan aims to enhance the activities of UNESCO Associated Schools and widely disseminate and share good practices nationwide in primary and secondary schools. The Plan also indicates that primary and secondary education should deepen students’ understanding of conservation in their local area, should strengthen students’ motivation to create a sustainable society, and should promote natural, agriculture, forestry, and fishery activities. Climate change is not specifically mentioned.
In content on the natural environment and civic life, particularly on cultivating the dimension of critical thinking skills, the Curriculum Framework of Elementary School (2016) focuses on the types and timing of disasters and disaster prevention measures in Japan. The Framework considers people’s relations with natural conditions. The Grade 5 curriculum covers content of natural disasters and weather changes due to typhoons, the relationship between typhoons and rainfall, and the accompanying natural disasters. A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile.
In terms of knowledge and skills, the curricula on society in the Curriculum Framework of Lower Secondary School (2017) and the Curriculum Framework of the Upper Secondary School (2018) support an understanding of the characteristics of Japan’s natural environment. Understanding is based on knowing the characteristics of Japan’s topography and climate, the characteristics of Japan’s land surrounded by the ocean, and natural disasters and disaster prevention. The Curriculum Framework of Lower Secondary School (2017) mentions understanding that economic and technical cooperation is essential for solving problems such as climate change, resources and energy, and poverty. Science content in the Curriculum Framework of Lower Secondary School (2017) includes climate change knowledge. The science curriculum in the Curriculum Framework of the Upper Secondary School (2018) covers managing phenomena such as global warming, ozone depletion, and El Niño in terms of human life, based on data.
The Curriculum Framework of Elementary School (2016), the Curriculum Framework of Lower Secondary School (2017), and the Curriculum Framework of the Upper Secondary School (2018) emphasize the target of respect for life and nature, to nurture an attitude of contributing to environmental conservation. The target of Grades 5 and 6 is understanding the wonder of nature and treasuring the natural environment. The target for students in upper secondary school is to develop an attitude of proactively engaging in the earth and the global environment, exploring scientifically, and contributing to conserving the natural environment. The scientific point of view is stated as the way to deal with environmental issues, while considering the importance of creating a sustainable society.
In 1996, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology began promoting school facilities (eco-schools) that consider the environment. Up to 2020, the Ministry has certified 1861 eco-schools. The three areas that comprise an eco-school are facilities (environmentally friendly design and construction), operations (intelligent and extended use), and education (benefits for learning). The Japanese government encourages constructing environmentally friendly buildings and renovating them to be sustainable through the eco-school program. Eco-schools have roles in promoting and highlighting global warming countermeasures in the community.
In August 1995, Japan began taking part in the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) project, which was created by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 2020, 123 countries and 230 more schools in Japan joined GLOBE. GLOBE aims to increase the awareness of students, teachers, and scientists about the scientific understanding of earth systems and the global environment. For climate change education, GLOBE Japan implemented a program of learning observable mechanisms of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and pedosphere.
As an example at the local level, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education implements a specific curriculum for environmental education in primary and secondary schools. In 2017–2018, teaching materials were created to give students the necessary knowledge about global environmental conservation, the importance of the 3 Rs, and environmentally friendly behaviors. Curriculum content includes protection of the natural environment, renewable energy, marine debris problems, realization of a sustainable society, heat island effects, garbage problems, biodiversity, and water pollution.
ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources
The Second Education for Sustainable Development Implementation Plan (2021) makes building capacities of educators a priority action area and recognizes educators as the main actors in supporting learners. For teacher training, the Plan indicates that “the government of Japan will stress the concepts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ESD in teacher training” (p.12). Climate change is not mentioned.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology supports several consortia of regional boards of education and universities. The Education for Sustainable Development Consortium has specialized knowledge, achievements, education resources, networks, and implementation resources on promoting education for sustainable development. One of its targets is to use knowledge from higher education, private sectors, and non-governmental organizations to empower teacher training and curriculum design in education for sustainable development and to promote the whole-school approach in Japan. For example, the Kinki Consortium web page indicates the competencies that teachers need in education for sustainable development: fundamental teacher competencies (curriculum design, facilitation, leadership), the cognitive dimension of interest in SDGs, and design of appropriate education for sustainable development curriculum from grass roots and local community sources. Climate change education is incorporated into education for sustainable development activities.
The Japanese National Commission for UNESCO (section 5-2) notes seven competencies and attitudes necessary to build a sustainable society for teachers and students: 1) ability to think critically, 2) ability to plan with anticipation of a future scenario, 3) ability to think in multidimensional and integrative ways, 4) ability to communicate, 5) ability to cooperate with others, 6) attitude to respect relations and connections, and 7) attitude to participate proactively. No specific information on climate change communication and education is mentioned.
For in-service teachers, the Japan National Commission for UNESCO stresses the importance of positioning education for sustainable development in the school management strategy, in a systematic and holistic way, through teaching plans and collaborations with the local community, universities, and businesses. No specific information on climate change education is mentioned.
A Guide to Promoting Education for Sustainable Development (2016) notes, for teacher training and capacity building, that “the government of Japan will invite foreign teaching staff to Japan and dispatch Japanese teachers overseas to explore good practices of ESD in different countries” (p. 16). No specific information related to climate change communication and education is mentioned.
The Field Studies Institute for Environmental Education at Tokyo Gakugei University implements environmental projects by cooperating with university faculty members, school teachers, and local resources for pre-service and in-service teachers. For pre-service teachers, the School of Education provides classroom management of the primary education teacher training course on environmental education, offering a variety of classes with an emphasis on field experience. For in-service teachers and working adults, the Professional School for Teacher Education provides the environmental education sub-program on advanced cross-disciplinary theory and applied research on water, environment, and biodiversity. This includes watching, observing, measuring, and investigating to acquire environmental literacy experientially and cultivate an environmental mindset.
The Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education (2003) calls for climate change education (‘systematic environmental education’) to build the capacity of teachers. The Act says,
In order to promote systematic Environmental Education for each development stage through each subject or other educational activities in school education for a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between the environment and humans, the State is to take necessary measures to enrich Environmental Education in schools, such as implementing hands-on learning of Environmental Conservation, to improve the quality of teaching staff involved in Environmental Education such as training of the teaching staff, and to provide information materials, etc. for reference and to develop teaching materials, etc. (Article 3-2).
In the White Paper on Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (2020), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology indicates that it will support training of faculties and staff, building a safety management system and a system of cooperation with residents and related organizations for disaster prevention education. The Ministry is developing specific educational methods that align with the actual conditions of the region for school safety issues such as disaster prevention. Climate change is not mentioned specifically.
The Third Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2018) emphasizes teacher training, especially promoting in-school training, team training, and training projects cooperating with universities and professional teaching colleges. The Plan uses the training materials and online platforms of the National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development and the National Institute of Special Needs Education. The Plan also mentions implementing training programs for instructors in environmental education, but no specific training details on climate change are mentioned.
Cooperatively, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology and the Ministry of the Environment organize environmental training programs (2021) for teachers and citizens through the Japan Environmental Education Forum. For example, the training includes an industrial waste recycling tour to learn about processes such as building demolition and disposal of industrial waste and recycling.
Project Wild was set up in 1983 in the US, originating from Western Regional Environmental Education Council. This Project was introduced in Japan in 1999 and is a recognized environmental course taught in kindergarten, schools, universities, community activities, corporate social responsibility activities, zoo activities, and aquarium activities. There are 27,200 educators (not public school teachers) and 600 facilitators trained in implementing Project Wild (2022). For climate change education, Project Wild implements content on aquatic animals, birds, terrestrial animals, growing up wild (especially for kindergarten), and science and civics. The impact of climate change on animals is mentioned.
iii. Climate change in higher education
The Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050 states that cross-disciplinary research and development, from humanities and social sciences to natural sciences, is needed for regional decarbonization. A knowledge base like the Universities Coalition on Contributing to Carbon Neutrality is needed. The Green Growth Strategy seeks basic knowledge to formulate national and regional scenarios and to introduce effective technologies and measures from a cross-policy perspective.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology is promoting basic research on environmental energy, to solve environmental problems centered on climate change and strengthen industrial competitiveness. For example, the Environment and Energy Division in the Research and Development Bureau implemented research programs such as the Social Implementation Program on Climate Change Adaptation Technology (2019) and the Integrated Research Program for Advancing Climate Models (TOUGOU) (completed in 2022). Currently, research programs are being conducted on environment-related technology in the Advanced Low Carbon Technology Research and Development Program, the Japan Science and Technology Agency Mirai (future) Program, and the Center for Low Carbon Society Strategy.
Numerous universities offer Master’s and doctoral programs in Environment Studies with global perspectives (including climate change issues): Kyoto University, Musashino University, Rissho University, Waseda University, Sophia University, Prefectural University of Kumamoto, Nagasaki University, Kyushu University, Kobe University, Tokyo Metropolitan University, The University of Kitakyushu, Okayama University, Hokkaido University, Ishikawa Prefectural University, Yokohama National University, Nagoya University, Kyoto Prefectural University, Tottori University of Environmental Studies, Tohoku University, and The University of Shiga Prefecture. Okayama University was awarded the SDGs Partnership Award of Japan in 2017 for aligning its entire education program with the SDGs.
In 1990, Japan established the Global Environment Research program, which aims to “promote multidisciplinary and international research through the interaction of related researchers from various fields, and accumulate important scientific knowledge to protect the global environment.” (n.p.) The 10 subjects recognized as Global Environmental Problems are global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, decrease in biodiversity, marine pollution, deforestation (especially tropical forests), trans-border transportation of toxic wastes, acid precipitation, desertification, environmental problems in developing countries, and protection of the internationally valued environment.
The Center for Global Environmental Research was “established in 1990 as a focal point for Japan’s global environmental research” (n.p.) within the National Institute for Environmental Studies. The Climate Change and Air Quality Research Program aims to provide a scientific basis for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. Beyond implementing climate change research programs, the Center supports monitoring the global environment, developing databases, and providing facilities for data analysis.
The Japan Center for Climate Change Action (1999), run by the Japan Network for Climate Change Actions, studies promoting measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions related to daily life, such as the use of electricity and gas, driving cars, and changing lifestyles. The Center is also estimating CO2 emissions reductions from global warming countermeasures. In addition, the Center conducts research comparing CO2 emissions of energy-saving and conventional home appliances. Supported by the Ministry of the Environment, the Center lends environmental lecture materials to educators on climate change, such as global warming simulation, prediction of changes in surface temperature in the 21st Century, and the sick globe. The Center supports off-campus learning for students, including international students (Japanese, English), such as quiz-style programs to learn about the current state of global warming and the effects of global warming, and workshops to think about the energy used around us.
With the enforcement of the Climate Change Adaptation Act (2018), the Center for Climate Change Adaptation was established within the National Institute for Environmental Studies. The Center’s principal role is to create information infrastructure on effects and adaptations of climate change and to provide and assist local governments in formulating adaptation plans. Under the 5th Medium- to Long-Term Plan of the National Institute, research is conducted at the Climate Change Impact Observation Laboratory, Climate Change Impact Assessment Laboratory, Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Laboratory, and Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Laboratory. The Center for Climate Change Action also organizes, analyzes, and integrates information, in cooperation with institutions and universities, related to climate change impacts and adaptation for national and local governments.
iv. Climate change in training and adult learning
According to UNESCO, technical, vocational education and training in Japan is provided in institutions, upper secondary schools, and higher education.
The Ministry of the Environment has been operating the certification system of Experience Opportunity Venues since 2017, which has certified 20 organizations and influenced 27,000 citizens. This certification system is targeted at building a sustainable society by recognizing the environmental contributions of different organizations. By participating in experience learning in a certificated organization, students, teachers, and schools strengthen their competence and deepen their understanding and interest in environmental issues. For example, based on the knowledge that forest conservation activities can help to absorb 60.4 t CO2 (p. 6), Experience Opportunity Venues promotes playing in the forest and learning from forest projects. It also supports experience in renewable energy companies that can replace coal for energy.
The Ministry of the Environment developed materials (2022) for strengthening Japan’s competitiveness, recognizing human capital training towards green development for the short- and long-term. For example, short-term training (to 2030) aims to strengthen the knowledge of municipalities, management capacities in decarbonization (emission assessment) for corporations, and financial support from financial institutions. Long-term capacity building is in the primary, secondary, and higher education sectors.
The Prime Minister’s authorized establishment of the Organization for Landscape and Urban Green Infrastructure to create, protect, and nurture green cities. Activities have been designed, including raising urban greening funds and public participation in greening campaigns such as the Green Vision, Survey, and Study Symposium. A social and environmental green evaluation system has been developed to certify the effects of initiatives. Through green urban activities, citizens have opportunities to incorporate cognitive and knowledge learning related to environmental issues and climate change impacts into their daily life.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism encourages citizens to use urban parks to design environmental programs, including environmental lectures, environmental field learning, and nature observing. Citizens interact closely with urban parks, which provide a space to transform social and emotional feelings into practical behavior and influence more people and organizations.
i. Climate change and public awareness
Since 2005, the Ministry of the Environment has operated the COOL BIZ campaign (BIZ is short for business) each summer and the WARM BIZ campaign each winter to promote global warming prevention. By disseminating information through the internet, television, newspaper, and radio, this campaign reaches large numbers of people with tips such as dressing cool in business areas in summer and setting the air conditioner to 28 °C, then dressing warm in winter and setting the heating to 20 °C. According to 2005 and 2006 surveys by the Ministry of the Environment and the 2007 survey by the Cabinet Office, over 90% of people recognize these campaigns. The campaigns involve large numbers of citizens and promote their awareness of reducing CO2 emissions through daily actions.
With various ministries, the Cabinet Office organizes the Council for Promoting Energy and Resource Conservation Related Measures each summer and winter. The government took the lead in reducing temperature and light settings. During the summer campaign (June to September) and the winter campaign (November to February), the government further advocates for industry and citizens to participate in energy-saving activities. In 2021, the Cabinet Office implemented a survey on climate change awareness that 1,767 Japanese completed. The survey shows that 88.3% of people are concerned about global warming, 84% know of the Paris Agreement, 91.9% would like to contribute to a decarbonized society, 93.6% understand climate change impact, and 11.9% know about climate change adaptation.
In March 2016, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology and the Ministry of the Environment organized a conference on setting up Education for Sustainable Development Resource Centers of Japan across the country. By 2022, there were eight Education for Sustainable Development Field Resource Centers and one National Education for Sustainable Development Resource Center of Japan. The overarching targets of the centers are to promote activity networks of education for sustainable development, share related information, organize conferences, and use related resources, including professional lectures. The centers focus on Themes such as environment, development, human rights, peace, disaster prevention, consumption, and culture, with climate change incorporated in themes.
According to the 7th National Communication (2017), to raise public awareness on environmental issues, Japan celebrates Environment Day (June 5), Environment Month (June), Global Warming Prevention Month (December), Ozone Layer Conservation Promotion Month (September), and 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Month (October). Activities include lectures, symposiums, environment-themed exhibitions, award ceremonies giving commendations to people and technologies, eco-life fairs, and mass media campaigns.
The Voluntary National Review 2021 Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda: Toward Achieving the SDGs in the Post-COVID19 Era (2021) states that Japan hosted, together with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the “largest online international conference on climate change in the world to date” (p. 77): the Platform for Redesign 2020, with 96 countries participating. Another large-scale event highlighted in the National Review is the International Forum on Decarbonizing Cities in 2021. The event will be repeated in 2022.
ii. Climate change and public access to information
The Climate Change Adaptation Act (2018) guarantees that the national government will systematically collect and provide information on climate change and adaptation measures. For example, the National Institute for Environmental Studies is responsible for creating the Center for Climate Change Adaptation. To provide tailored, easy-to-understand information to local governments and local Climate Change Adaptation Centers, the Climate Change Adaptation Information Platform was built. The Platform disseminates data and materials on adaptation efforts by the national government, local climate change adaptation, adaptation for the private sector, and adaptation materials for individuals and communities.
COOL CHOICE is a website that promotes daily activities such as replacement of products, use of services, and lifestyle choices that can contribute to creating a carbon-free society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2. It is an effort to help us make all kinds of wise choices in our lives.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held Japan Climate Challenge Day 2022: The Future of Creatures and Climate Change on March 19, 2022. Twitter was used to invite comments on lectures related to the theme of climate change and animals. Audience members were also invited to participate in the panel discussions.
For eco-friendly transportation, eco-driving, and fuel-efficient vehicles, information related to preventing heat island effects (such as the automobile fuel efficiency list) was provided and distributed through the internet, according to the 7th National Communication (2017).
iii. Climate change and public participation
The Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2021) indicates the roles of Japan’s citizens, including 1) autonomous and positive participation in reducing greenhouse emissions and 2) participation in global warming prevention activities. To acknowledge our own energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the Plan encourages COOL CHOICE on national wise choices that contribute to reducing greenhouse emissions in 2030 by 26% (compared to 2013), and promotes a shift to a decarbonized lifestyle through initiatives such as COOL BIZ and WARM BIZ.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry uses a carbon footprint system and combines it with a carbon offset certificate system in the Donguri project どんぐり. In 2015, consumers could select 135 products in the carbon footprint system. This system displays greenhouse gas emissions generated throughout a product or service’s life cycle and enables citizens to participate in actively reducing their carbon footprint.
In 2005, the Forest Agency from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries initiated the Kizukai (due care for wood use) movement. It aims to use the Japanese forest and promote environmental conservation, for afforestation and continuing circulation of the forest.
To raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote participation in building a sustainable society, the Government of Japan created the SDG Award in 2017. Several schools and colleges have won the Japan SDG award. For example, in 2017 the Yanagawa Elementary School, Koto-ku, Tokyo, received an SDG Partnership Award for its leading education for sustainable development, developing an Education for Sustainable Development calendar and incorporating environmental education, multicultural understanding, and human rights/life education by the whole-school approach.
i. Country monitoring
The National Institute for Educational Policy Research has organized the National Assessment of Academic Ability, a study implementation survey. The Institute also develops environmental education for kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school guiding materials for climate change communication and education.
The Center for Advanced School Education and Evidence-based Research at the University of Tokyo is designing a monitoring and assessment system for education for sustainable development. The Center is accumulating data from the entire Asia Pacific Region, developing an international framework and indicators on education for sustainable development, and entrenching good practices to promote education for sustainable development and contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 4.
At the local level, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education conducted a survey (2018) to understand the current situation and issues of environmental education in Tokyo. Administrators from 62 middle schools (46 respondents, 10% of total possible respondents) answered questions on the learning dimension of global warming and energy-related content. Administrators reported that content learned in 2017 included global warming and the heat island effect (73.9%), acid rain (47.8%), air pollution and water pollution (52.2%), solar and wind energy (63%), water-saving (67.4%), energy-saving (82.6%), and eco-friendly lifestyle (52.2%). Administrators from 128 primary schools (98 responses, 10% of total possible respondents) reported that content learned in 2017 included global warming and the heat island effect (68.4%), acid rain (56.1%), air pollution, and water pollution (64.3%), solar and wind energy (65.3%), water-saving (76.5%), energy-saving (81.6%),and eco-friendly lifestyle (62.2%).
A 2015 project commissioned at Okayama University by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology determined five core competencies for students in measuring education for sustainable development activities: 1) value (diversity, respect the nature, inclusive); 2) communication and information analysis; 3) critical thinking, system thinking, and holistic thinking; 4) decision making, participation & action; and 5) leadership. The project report discusses reformulating the targets of disaster prevention education with the vision of education for sustainable development.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology uses a cyclic administrative control: the Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle. This includes measuring and evaluating revisions (Check), reflecting on subsequent planning and designing (Action), planning and designing (Plan), and executing (Do) in administrative control on education for sustainable development, environmental education, and disaster prevention education.
The Voluntary National Review 2021 Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda: Toward Achieving the SDGs in the Post-COVID19 Era (2021) lists evaluation and monitoring mechanisms that the Japanese government uses. Those include international large-scale projects, such as the SDG Dashboard by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and SDSN, as well as smaller national tools.
ii. MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined Japan’s Third Education Promotion Basic Plan (2018) and National Curriculum Framework (2017).
The National Curriculum Framework (2017) of middle school mentions ‘climate change’ 32 times, ‘environment’ 108 times, ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’ 24 times,’ and ‘biodiversity’ 5 times.
In the Third Education Promotion Basic Plan (2018), ‘Environment and Environmental Education’ was mentioned 8 times, ‘Disaster’ was mentioned 3 times, while ‘sustainable’ ‘sustainability’ was emphasized 46 times. It doesn’t mention ‘Climate Change,’ and ‘biodiversity.’
The Third Education Promotion Basic Plan focuses on the umbrella term sustainable or sustainability, while the National Curriculum Framework emphasizes more specific environmental issues.
This section will be updated as the MECCE Project develops.