Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 43 & 44, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 26-10-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
Coronavirus restrictions on eateries were lifted in the Tokyo area and Osaka on Monday 25 October despite concerns over a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, as well as Osaka, eliminated curbs on the serving of alcohol and the operating hours that had been introduced to keep coronavirus infections from spreading. The easing of curbs came as infections nationwide continue to be on a downtrend.
For the capital and Osaka, it is the first lifting of such countermeasures against COVID-19 in 11 months. Tokyo reported 17 daily cases Monday, the second consecutive day that cases fell below 20 since 17 June last year.
The latest seven-day average of new infections stood at 29.6 per day, down 48.6% from the previous week, according to the metropolitan government. Osaka also reported its fewest daily COVID-19 infections for this year with 26 cases. Nationwide coronavirus cases on Monday dropped to 153 compared with over 25,000 reported in mid-August in the fifth wave of infections.
Regarding the vaccination rate, the Japanese government says over 70% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Officials said on Tuesday that nearly 88.8 million people in Japan have received two doses. They said about 97.2 million people have received at least one vaccine shot. Total coronavirus vaccine shots administered stood at about 186 million. The government aims to complete vaccinations for everyone who wants the shots by early November.
Japan’s Princess Mako has officially left the Imperial household and is now a commoner. She married her former college classmate Komuro Kei on Tuesday 26 October.
Mako left the Imperial family’s Akasaka Estate in Tokyo on Tuesday morning. Her parents, Crown Prince and Princess Akishino, and her younger sister, Princess Kako, sent her off. An official from the Imperial Household Agency filed the couple’s marriage registration with a municipal government on their behalf. That marked her departure from the Imperial family.
Princesses are entitled to a lump-sum payment when they marry, but she has declined the money. The couple will not have the traditional wedding ceremony reserved for Imperial family members.
Reporters were told they could only submit questions in advance. The agency says Mako was very concerned with some of them, and a doctor advised the couple to give their answers in writing.
Since Japanese imperial family members do not have passports, the princess needs to apply for hers as an ordinary citizen. She is expected to leave for the United States next month at the earliest.
Japan adopted a new energy policy on Friday that promotes nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy to achieve the country’s pledge of reaching carbon neutrality in 2050.
The new basic energy plan, adopted by the Cabinet just in time for the climate summit in early November, calls for drastically increasing use of renewable energy to cut fossil fuel consumption over the next decade as Japan pushes to meet its ambitious emissions reduction target.
Japan has been undecided over what to do about its nuclear power industry since the 2011 Fukushima plant disaster. It now says reactor restarts are key to meeting emissions targets as Japan tries to step up in the global effort against climate change.
The 128-page plan compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says Japan should set ambitious targets for hydrogen and ammonia energy, carbon recycling and nuclear energy. It also calls for promoting offshore wind power and use of rechargeable batteries that have potential for growth.
“We will mobilize all options” to achieve the emissions target, the plan said, adding that the “supply of stable and low-cost energy is a prerequisite.”
The changes in the plan are meant to achieve the carbon emissions reduction target announced in April by former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. His successor, Fumio Kishida, a backer of nuclear plant restarts, took office this month.
Japan has pledged to reduce its emissions by 46% from 2013 levels, up from an earlier target of 26%, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Japan says it would try to push the reduction as high as 50% to be in line with the European Union’s commitment. China has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060.
The energy plan says renewables should account for 36-38% of the power supply in 2030, up from the current target of 22-24%, and that newly introduced fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia should comprise 1%.
The target for fossil fuel use was slashed to 41% in 2030 from 56%. The plan said Japan will reduce dependence on fossil fuel without setting a timeline. It said Japan will abide by a Group of Seven pledge earlier this year to stop providing overseas assistance for coal-fired generation projects that lack emissions reduction measures.
The 2050 emissions-free target has prompted calls to expedite restarts of nuclear plants. Progress toward reducing Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels has been hindered by the prolonged closure of most of its nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
The plan keeps the target for nuclear power unchanged at 20-22%. Japan says it aims to reduce its reliance on nuclear power as much as possible but that nuclear will remain an important energy source. Experts say a phase out is unlikely anytime soon.
Economy and industry minister Koichi Hagiuda has said “drastic energy conservation, maximum promotion of renewables and safe restarts of nuclear reactors” are key.
Japan will continue its nuclear fuel reprocessing cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel is converted to plutonium, despite the failure of its Monju plutonium-burning reactor and international concerns over safeguards for its plutonium stockpile.
A government taskforce will “accelerate” restarts of reactors, which have been slowed by stricter safety standards set after the Fukushima meltdowns, the plan says.
It did not mention the possibility of new reactors, despite such calls from some industry officials and pro-nuclear lawmakers. Japan is pursuing research and development of small modular reactors, or SMRs, considered a clean, affordable and safer nuclear power options in the future.
The atomic energy target will be difficult to achieve because of persistent anti-nuclear sentiment among the public and more time-consuming safety checks by the authorities. The energy plan gave no numerical targets, but experts say the 20-22% target would require restarts of about 30 reactors.
Twenty-four of Japan’s 54 workable reactors were assigned to be decommissioned after the Fukushima disaster, as utility companies opted to scrap old reactors rather than invest heavily in added safety measures required under stricter post-Fukushima standards. Only 10 reactors have restarted over the past decade.
Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has instructed his panel tasked with generating a “virtuous cycle of growth and distribution,” to draw up proposals for priority issues by early November.
The group instructed to create a new form of capitalism held its first meeting on Tuesday 26 October at the prime minister’s office. Kishida, Economic Revitalization Minister Yamagiwa Daishiro and experts from the private sector such as Shibusawa Ken attended.
Shibusawa is chairman of an investment trust company and the great-great grandson of Shibusawa Eiichi, an industrialist known as the father of Japanese capitalism.
Kishida said it’s important to realize the cycle and subsequent growth by improving productivity through growth strategies and distributing the profits in wages to widely elevate peoples’ income levels.
He said the Cabinet places priority on promoting the establishment of a science and technology oriented country focused on expertise in digital and clean energy.
Kishida said it’s important to strengthen economic security to establish a powerful supply chain in fields such as the semiconductor industry. He said investment in people through cooperation between the public and private sectors is also an urgent task.
The prime minister instructed Yamagiwa to compile emergency proposals on these high-priority tasks by early November.
Kishida indicated that he would create a panel to formulate a plan for a digital city and a provisional administrative digital study group. He suggested setting up a new social security panel to benefit all age groups and consider ways to improve the wages of nurses and caregivers.
Update on the Netherlands
The outgoing cabinet is considering additional measures to halt the flaring outbreak of COVID-19. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has been asked to come up with an advice earlier, said outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) on Monday after consultation with the most involved ministers.
A decision will be made on Tuesday 2 November, then there will also be another corona press conference. The press conference was previously scheduled for 5 November. The OMT will meet on Thursday to draw up the advice.
The number of corona patients in hospitals has recently been increasing faster than expected. De Jonge said earlier on Monday that politicians must be prepared to “take measures that relieve the burden on care”. It is not yet known what additional measures the government might wish to take.
De Jonge pointed out that hospital admissions are rising faster and earlier than expected. According to him, this brings “the next risk level into the picture and that also means that the cabinet will have to consider additional measures”.
The government will ask the OMT to properly analyze the current situation and to advise which measures this should lead to. “We see that we already have a high vaccination rate,” said the minister. “87% of adult people have already had their first shot, but we also see 13% of people who have not been vaccinated. If you look in hospitals, the situation is exactly the other way around.”
The climate in the Netherlands is changing faster and faster and the forecast for sea level rise in the North Sea must be adjusted upwards. This is what the KNMI concluded on Monday in Klimaatsignaal’21 (‘climate signal’), which is a calculation of the latest IPCC report supplemented with its own research.
KNMI makes a detailed analysis of the changing climate in the Netherlands every eight or nine years and then outlines scenarios for the future. The full version will be released in 2023. The report published Monday is a preview.
Most striking is that the expectation for sea level rise along the Dutch coast has been revised upwards considerably compared to the KNMI climate scenarios from 2014. That difference is especially large if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. According to the new report, sea level rise in the North Sea may have risen to about 2 meters by the end of the century. That is twice the increase as assumed in the previous KNMI scenarios.
There is still scientific discussion about part of this worst-case scenario, says sea level expert Sybren Drijfhout of the KNMI to NU.nl. “The current calculations have an upper limit of 1 meter 20 in the year 2100. If the ice loss in Antarctica accelerates, it could be even higher, up to 2 meters by the end of the century.”
The sea level rise as a result of current emissions will continue for many centuries after 2100. Scenarios with high and low emissions then differ several meters, says the KNMI.
At the moment, climate change is mainly noticeable in changing weather patterns. Among other things, the Dutch summer stands out: it is getting hotter, drier and wetter at the same time. This increases the chance of prolonged dry periods in the spring and summer as well as the chance of extreme summer downpours.
Recent Dutch summers also showed this erratic pattern. In July 2019, for example, it became more than 40 degrees in the Netherlands for the first time and the flood in Limburg last summer followed three exceptionally dry years.
Climate change is not an abstract matter, said outgoing State Secretary Steven van Weyenberg of Infrastructure and Water Management when presenting the report. “If we do nothing, our lives will change completely.”
Not happy news, says Van Weyenberg. “But it does show what climate change actually means. Sea level rise: what does that mean for our dykes and our flood defences? And what does climate change mean for the city where I live, where it might get very hot in the summer?”
According to the State Secretary, the KNMI research can contribute to more awareness about the consequences of climate change for the Netherlands. “It is code red for the climate. It is not my job as Secretary of State, but one of the biggest points that should be on the table with the formation is the question of how we are going to prevent climate change. And how we are going to adapt society to the changes that are already with us.”
Those who want to travel to the US by plane and who are not US citizens or have permanent residency must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from 8 November. They must also submit a negative corona test.
There are some exceptions to the vaccination requirement. This concerns, for example, minors and people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. They must also be tested for the coronavirus, unless they are under two years old.
In most cases this has to be done 24 hours before departure. For vaccinated persons and children traveling with vaccinated persons, the test may be three days old.
Airlines must ensure compliance with the new White House rules. They must, among other things, check whether travelers meet the vaccination requirements. According to the rules, someone is fully vaccinated if the last dose of the corona vaccine has been administered at least two weeks before the travel date.
These are vaccines approved by the WHO. This means that, for example, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not used in the US, is also valid. Previously, it seemed that this vaccine would not be allowed.
Schiphol and other aviation sector businesses presented a step-by-step plan to realize sustainable taxiing. On Monday 25 October, the sector presented a roadmap for this to the outgoing Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Barbara Visser. By 2030, taxiing at Schiphol must be done as standard using special tow vehicles.
With this step-by-step plan, sustainable taxiing will become the standard procedure throughout Schiphol by 2030 at the latest. The first step in this is two tow vehicles that will be taken into use at Schiphol in mid-2022 for a follow-up test. If successful, this pilot phase will then transition into a standard process in which the aircraft can taxi sustainably to and from the Polderbaan runway, Schiphol said in a statement.
During sustainable taxiing, aircraft are taken to and from the runway by a special tow vehicle and aircraft engines are largely switched off. This new taxi process requires major adjustments to infrastructure, processes and technology.
Many of the necessary adjustments are new to aviation and Schiphol is also the first airport in the world to introduce sustainable taxiing on a large scale. The roadmap offers a step-by-step plan to implement these adjustments in a timely manner based on the currently available knowledge, the airport reports.
Schiphol has drawn up the roadmap together with Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL), KLM, Transavia, Corendon Dutch Airlines and ground handlers dnata and KLM Ground Services. In mid-2022, two TaxiBot tow vehicles from Smart Airport Systems will arrive for a follow-up test, in which some of the aircraft will taxi sustainably to and from the Polderbaan runway.
Previous research has shown that sustainable taxiing at Schiphol results in an average halving of fuel consumption, thereby reducing CO2, nitrogen and (ultra) particulate matter emissions. Given the longer distance, when taxiing to the Polderbaan, fuel savings can be up to 65%.
If the test is successful, this will become a standard process, whereby certain aircraft types of a number of airlines will taxi sustainably to and from the Polderbaan runway. In the following years, the number of aircraft that can be brought to or from the Polderbaan will be expanded, so that in four years’ time, 18% of all flights are expected to be sustainable taxis.
The collaborating parties have the ambition to gradually add the other runways to this from 2025, so that by 2030 it will be the standard procedure throughout Schiphol.
To make sustainable taxiing to and from the Polderbaan structurally possible, infrastructural adjustments are already being prepared at Schiphol. This concerns markings to allow aircraft to stop in the right place so that they can be coupled to or from the tow vehicle.
Roads must also be widened, so that the special vehicles can travel to and from the Polderbaan without an aircraft before or after the towing operation, without hindering (taxiing) traffic. In the first instance, this concerns tow vehicles that use fossil fuels. At the same time, suppliers of the special tow vehicle are working on an improved and emission-free variant, electric or on hydrogen.
From now on, anyone who has to catch the train at Eindhoven or Den Bosch station no longer has to calculate how many minutes they have left before departure. As of last week, the NS is doing a trial there with a countdown clock. It should help travelers to make a better estimate of whether they can still catch the train. “The minute countdown is effective.”
On the station signs in Eindhoven and Den Bosch you no longer see what time the train leaves, but how many minutes it still takes. “We have adjusted the system behind the travel information. This makes more possible,” NS spokesman Arno Leblanc tells EditieNL.
On the platform itself, there is a countdown from five minutes. Further on, this already happens seven minutes before departure, because it is a longer walk from there. There is no countdown for delays. “Then we show the regular time with the number of minutes of delay.
The NS hopes not only to achieve that more people catch their train, but also that the trains run on time. “It is important that both the passenger and the staff are sharp. We see whether a train can run even more punctually than before.”
Consumer psychologist Tom van Bommel thinks that such a countdown clock can be very effective. “If you see 10.45 am on a sign like this, you have to calculate how long you have left. The NS takes a calculation step away. It’s just convenience.”
Counting down has an activating effect, says the consumer psychologist. “People are a little rushed. And if they have to calculate it themselves, they sometimes do it wrong; a calculation often turns out to be a bit tighter. With a countdown clock it is immediately clear. Your brain understands it, which is why it immediately has an activating effect.”
Such a countdown system is already used on several metros and buses. Also, some companies have countdown systems on their websites. “You see it on booking sites, for example. Then it says: this room is only available today. Countdown can influence our behavior.”
According to Van Bommel, it is only a convenient method at the stations themselves, and not for pre-planned journeys. “You should not enter this in the journey planner; then you will read that the train will leave in 45 minutes. That does not make much sense.”
Update on Dujat & Members
On Monday 22 november, we will gather with a group of members at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam for a tour and a networking reception. Registrations are still open, we welcome everyone who is interested in art, or who just looks forward to catching up with some members, to join this event. We hope to see you then!
Event announcement from Dujat member L&A Lawyers:
L&A Course – Fundamentals of Dutch Employment Law | 2 December | 9:30 – 13:00
Do you work in a position in which you regularly have to deal with Dutch employment law and would you benefit from getting a better understanding of the fundamentals of Dutch law? Are you faced with questions such as: how many employment contracts can we offer an employee? How to manage a sick or underperforming employee? What are the settlement options and rules regarding severance payments?
In that case our course ‘Fundamentals of Dutch employment law’ is perfect for you! The course will take place on Thursday 2 December from 09.30 – 13.00 CET at L&A Advocaten (De Cuserstraat 91, 1081 CN Amsterdam). You can sign up via the button below. The costs of the course are EUR 395 excl. VAT per attendee, including materials, drinks and lunch/snacks.
The course will cover the following topics:
- Do’s and don’ts in recruitment and selection;
- The contract options when entering into and continuing an employment relationship;
- Dealing with common issues in the employment relationship such as building a personnel file, conflicts, underperformance and sickness;
- The ways of terminating an employment contract.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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