Many Japanese municipalities have been actively engaged with the realization of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a local level, working them explicitly into their urban development plans and other aspects of the public sector. In response to this growing commitment, the Nikkei Newspaper Industry Area Research Institute recently conducted what it called the “SDGs advanced degree” survey of 815 local Japanese governments to chart to what extent the SDGs were being realized at the local level.
This survey analyzed cities based on the related fields of economic development, social progress, and sustainable urban development. The results, collected and analyzed through an independent evaluation of the participants’ sustainable urban development, were great news for ICLEI Members.
At the top of the list of 815 governments, and therefore realizing the SDGs more effectively than any other, was ICLEI Member Kyoto City, followed by ICLEI Member Kitakyushu City. Additionally, the Member cities of Toyota City, Okayama City, Saitama City, Itabashi City and Nagoya City were all ranked in the top ten of Nikkei’s index on local realization of the SDGs. All together, that means a total of seven out of the top ten positions were awarded to ICLEI Members.
Given the many diverse commitments to sustainable development that have been taken up all across Japan, this is a serious honor for our Members. For a glimpse of what real-world implementation of the SDGs can mean, here’s what the top two cities are doing right now:
Kyoto City is leading on pioneering measures against climate change and waste reduction. The city is focusing on efforts such as the expansion of pedestrian paths and the promotion of the “Park and Ride” system in which people can park their cars in the suburbs and uses public transportation. In addition, as the number of tourists has increased, the city undertook new planning that gives priority to public transportation. This led to a reduction in traffic volume in the central part of the city and earned high marks in the survey. Kyoto’s mayor, Daisaku Kadokawa, said in a column, “We would like to lead other cities in pursuing a sustainable society.”
Kitakyushu City earned the highest evaluation among cities in the field of “society”. The city has developed initiatives corresponding to all 17 objectives of the SDGs, and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) activities are being promoted mainly by “Kitakyushu ESD Council”, which consists of citizen groups, educational institutions, companies and the city administration. The city places great emphasis on poverty programs for families with children and on creating a network for school bullying prevention. Consideration for diversity, such as increasing the number of female committee members at the council, received high marks n the survey.
Japanese ICLEI Members will continue to scale and expand the model of sustainable city development, and they will lead and inspire other cities both within Japan and internationally.