How to achieve a 1.5°C lifestyle? Japanese cities have unique tools to offer

We are in the middle of a planetary crisis due to climate change. The Paris Agreement,  set in 2015, strives to combat climate change and limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrialization levels. If the 1.5 °C target is to be met, we need to drastically change our lifestyles. 

To promote the 1.5 °C lifestyle three local governments in Japan have formulated unique toolkits. 

Itabashi Ward

In Itabashi Wards, nine environmentally friendly initiatives – the ‘Eco Action 9’ – are providing digital diagnostic tools to facilitate eco-friendly actions. 

Itabashi is emphasizing to residents that adopting a 1.5 °C lifestyle can be as simple as switching off the TV when you’re not watching or turning off unnecessary lights and buying energy-saving LED bulbs instead of conventional ones. They are making the point that small actions matter when scaled up across society.

Schools, children’s centers, community halls and other public facilities are also getting on board by growing ‘green curtains’. A ‘green curtain’ is a  living curtain of climbing plants such as ‘loofah’ or ‘bitter gourd’ that grow over external windows. They efficiently mitigate extreme heat and reduce the felt impact of intense summer sun within buildings, helping to keep the indoor temperature cool. As a result, green curtains create an energy-saving effect by minimizing the need for air conditioners and mitigating the heat island phenomenon as less heat accumulates indoors.  Due to the benefits of green curtains, Itabashi Wards is promoting their use through seminars, photo contests, stamp rallies, and so on.

Sapporo City

Sapporo City distributed an Eco-Life checklist that outlines easily implementable, eco-friendly behaviors such as “Get up and go to bed earlier!”, “Reduce TV watching and game playing time” etc., to all elementary and junior high school students. Students are encouraged to adopt these eco-friendly behaviors at home during the summer and winter vacations. The aim of the checklist is to foster eco-friendly thinking and action among children in a playful and accessible manner, while gathering new momentum for the 1.5 °C lifestyle 

Sapporo City’s 2021 motto is ‘Let’s aim for a zero-carbon city!’. In addition to the Eco-life checklist tool, the city is working on energy-saving initiatives and on supporting local production for local consumption, as well as awareness raising on issues of global warming and climate change. 

Kitakyushu City

In the City of Kitakyushu, 26,000 tons of food is wasted every year. 20 percent of this is generated by households as leftover food or as ‘untouched food’ that is not even consumed. According to a 2019 survey in Kitakyushu City, this equates to approximately 61kg of wasted food per household, costing families  around 37,000 yen (approx. 340 USD) annually.

Reducing food loss is therefore key in achieving the 1.5 °C lifestyle. The city has created a ‘food loss diary’ for citizens to tackle this issue and help them track and reduce their food loss. 

These unique and implementable actions from ICLEI’s Japanese members are the ‘small’ building blocks enabling ‘big’ changes towards our 1.5 °C climate goal. 

Co-Author Isabelle Ward