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Update on Japan
All new houses in Tokyo built by large-scale homebuilders after April 2025 must install solar power panels to cut household carbon emissions, according to a new regulation passed by the Japanese capital’s local assembly on Thursday.
The mandate, the first of its kind for a Japanese municipality, requires about 50 major builders to equip homes of up to 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) with renewable energy power sources, mainly solar panels.
Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko noted last week that just 4% of buildings where solar panels could be installed in the city have them now. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2000 levels.
Japan, the world’s fifth-largest carbon emitter, has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 but faces difficulty as it has relied heavily on coal-burning thermal power after most of its nuclear reactors were in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
“In addition to the existing global climate crisis, we face an energy crisis with a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war,” Narikiyo Risako, a member of Koike’s regional party Tomin First no Kai, said at the assembly on Thursday. “There is no time to waste.”
NHK has learned that the Japanese government plans to start a carbon pricing system for trading greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2026 as part of its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.
Under the system, companies will be able to trade credits they have earned by reducing emissions. A timetable drawn up by the industry ministry says power companies will be asked to pay emission fees starting in fiscal 2033 in an attempt to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
The ministry also plans to introduce a scheme for oil wholesalers and trading companies that import fossil fuels to shoulder some costs starting in fiscal 2028. It says the burden will be gradually raised.
The government plans to issue bonds worth 20 trillion yen, or about 145 billion dollars, to promote investments in carbon neutrality. It aims to repay the bonds by fiscal 2050 using revenue from the carbon pricing system.
The ministry plans to present the plan at a government meeting for a carbon-free society to be held within the year.
The Chinese character meaning “war” or “battle” has been chosen as the kanji that best symbolizes this year in Japan.
A Kyoto-based association promoting the use of kanji announced the result of its annual poll on Monday 12 December with a calligraphy performance at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto City. Chief priest Mori Seihan wrote the kanji “sen” on a large sheet of Japanese washi paper. The character received 10,804 votes, the most among over 223,000 entries from the public.
This is the second time that the kanji character has been chosen in the event’s history, following 2001, when the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States occurred. Association officials noted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Japanese people’s struggle with the impact of high prices and the weaker yen as reasons for the kanji’s popularity.
The officials also cite international sports events. They say Japan’s men’s national soccer team defeated former champions Germany and Spain in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and Japanese athletes demonstrated strong performance in the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Mori said he believes the Russian invasion of Ukraine had left a strong impression. He expressed hope that next year will be a good year in which everyone can live with peace of mind.
Bicycle riders in Japan will be required to make efforts to wear helmets starting on 1 April.
The Cabinet approved an ordinance related to the revised road traffic law on bicycle safety on Tuesday. All bike riders regardless of age must make efforts to wear head protection. The law also says people must try to make sure that anyone they ride with also wears a helmet.
Under the current law, guardians must try to have children under 13 wear helmets. The National Police Agency says the accident fatality rate during the five years through 2021 among cyclists who were not wearing helmets was 2.2 times greater than those who were.
The ordinance is only an obligation to make efforts to wear headgear, so offenders will not be punished. But officials say they hope everyone will regularly wear helmets to minimize injuries.
Toyota Motor will begin operating a wind power facility at its plant in Aichi prefecture, in central Japan, next year as it aims to make all its factories at home and abroad carbon neutral by 2035.
The Japanese carmaker will install five wind turbines, each 120 meters in diameter and up to 145 meters tall, with a total output of 21.5 megawatts, at the Tahara Plant, which makes luxury Lexus brand cars. This will be one of the nation’s largest as wind power generation facilities for use by a single factory.
The facility will provide more than 15% of the electricity consumed by the plant. Annually, it will generate about 43 gigawatt-hours of electricity, equal to the electricity needs of around 10,000 households.
The city of Tahara is located at the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula in southeastern Aichi, where the wind blows steadily throughout the year and is particularly strong in winter, making it an ideal spot for wind power generation.
The project is “rare” in Japan, as it is intended to generate power for its own factory, not to sell externally, and is “one of the largest examples” of its kind in the nation, according to the Japan Wind Power Association.
The Tahara Plant has been one of Toyota’s main production bases since it opened in 1979. Covering an area of 4 sq. kilometers and staffed with around 8,000 workers, it produces about 300,000 cars a year, including popular models such as the Lexus and the Land Cruiser Prado for domestic and overseas markets.
Toyota will “focus on avoiding or reducing carbon emissions to near zero” to decarbonize its plants, according to Masahiko Maeda, the automaker’s vice president.
Update on the Netherlands
Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized on behalf of the government on Monday 19 December for the actions of the Dutch State in the slavery past. He expressed the apologies in several languages in a speech at the National Archives in The Hague.
“We in the Netherlands must face our share,” Rutte said. Offering apologies is not the end of the matter for the cabinet. “We are not doing this to wipe the state clean. We are doing this now to find a way forward together.”
The emotion in the audience was particularly palpable through the silence after Rutte’s speech. “You’re going to whisper about it,” said one of those present. Some of the guests had tears in their eyes.
In his speech, the prime minister recognized slavery as crimes against humanity. “It has brought untold suffering and it affects the lives of the here and now.”
Rutte apologized on behalf of the Dutch government for the actions of the State in the past. “Someone who is alive now is not to blame for slavery. But the Dutch State bears responsibility for the suffering,” said the prime minister.
For a long time it was not self-evident that there would be an apology. Two years ago, Rutte was still afraid that apologies for the slavery past would lead to a division in Dutch society. He was therefore not in favor of apologizing on behalf of the State at the time. A year later, the prime minister said he was struggling with the issue.
“For a long time I thought that it is not possible to take responsibility in a meaningful way for something that happened so long ago, and that none of us have been involved with,” Rutte said in his speech on Monday. “But I was wrong.”
The prime minister reflected on the fact that centuries of oppression and exploitation continue to affect the here and now. “In racist stereotypes, in discriminatory patterns of exclusion and in social inequality.”
The member states of the European Union reached an agreement on Monday 19 December on a maximum trading price for natural gas in order to reduce the high energy prices. The Czech presidency of the EU announced this on Monday. The Netherlands saw little in it, but had to lose out in Europe.
After more than a year of negotiations, the energy ministers of the European Union have agreed on a gas price cap of 180 euros per megawatt hour, according to documents held by the Reuters news agency. This price applies to the leading TTF trading exchange and takes effect when the price is above the maximum for three days in a row.
The idea is that energy companies can offer lower rates to consumers and businesses if they have to pay less to buy gas. The measure is to take effect on 15 February 2023.
The Netherlands and Germany initially did not want a price ceiling, because it would have the opposite effect. For example, they feared that energy companies would sell their gas outside Europe, because they could then ask for higher prices. Many other EU countries think that it does ensure that the energy bill for households and companies does not rise too much. Germany eventually agreed, while the Netherlands abstained from voting. Hungary was the only country to vote against.
The new price cap is considerably lower than an earlier proposal of 275 euros per megawatt hour. When those plans became known, there was immediate criticism. The price was too high and there were all kinds of preconditions. Even with last summer’s high prices, this earlier proposal would have had no effect.
Energy prices have risen sharply since the autumn of 2021. This was mainly because Russia cut off the supply of natural gas to Europe. When the country attacked Ukraine in February, the tap was closed even further and the price rose even further. Since then, more and more consumers have seen their energy bills rise by often hundreds of euros per month.
The European price cap is separate from the Dutch price cap, which takes effect on 1 January. It also works differently. The European plan is about the trade price, while the Dutch price ceiling is about the amount that households pay to their energy supplier.
Now that the price cap is in place, the way is also clear for other measures against the energy crisis. The joint purchase of gas and the faster issuing of permits for renewable energy, which the EU countries had actually already agreed on, have recently been put on hold due to the slow negotiations.
In the Netherlands, the Word of the Year 2022 by dictionary maker Van Dale is ‘Klimaatklever‘ (‘climate sticker’). 25.4% of voters thought that was the leading word of the year. According to Van Dale, a climate sticker is “an activist who glues themself to an object of symbolic value to draw the public’s attention to the climate crisis.” In Belgium, this was the word of the year as well.
The word is a reference to the climate actions that have taken place in recent months. Protesters smeared food on paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Da Vinci and glued themselves to works by Picasso and Botticelli. This also happened in the Netherlands, with the Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
About 15,000 people cast their vote on the Van Dale website. At number 2, with 22% of the votes, ‘zevenvinker‘ ended, a word that is central to the latest book by journalist Joris Luyendijk. According to Van Dale, it refers to someone who can tick off seven ticks on an imaginary list and is therefore automatically socially privileged. The seven ticks are male, white, straight, a pre-university education diploma, a university diploma, at least one indigenous parent, and wealthy or highly educated parents.
‘Energietoerisme‘ (‘Energy tourism’) received 12% of the votes and finished third. This refers to traveling (in winter) to a warm country to escape the high energy prices in one’s own country.
In 2020 and 2021, the Word of the Year had to deal with the corona pandemic, with for example the ‘one and a half meter society’ word in 2020.
Otravo, the company behind ticket sellers WTC.nl and Vliegtickets.nl, has been declared bankrupt. The company applied for a deferment of payment a few days ago. Vliegtickets.nl then reported on its own site that all activities would be shut down.
Otravo announced on Friday that customers who have already received a ticket need not worry and do not need to take any action. Travelers who have not yet received a ticket are advised to contact the airline.
Otravo BV was created in 2014 after the merger of Vliegtickets.nl and WTC.nl. It was possible to book flights and hotels on these two platforms. The different parts of Otravo do not operate the flights themselves, but act as intermediaries.
The company in Halfweg, a village near Amsterdam, ran into problems due to the corona crisis. To bring in some money, the company sold Vakantiediscounter.nl last year. But this sale could not prevent new difficulties.
Electronics and technology company Samsung is appealing a fine from the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), the regulator announced. The company was given 40 million euros in fines last year amid accusations that the company influenced the prices shops were charging for Samsung TVs, which meant that customers paid more.
According to the competition watchdog, Samsung determined the online prices of Samsung televisions from seven retailers in the period from January 2013 to December 2018.
Aligning the pricing behavior of retailers in this way is a prohibited anti-competitive practice. “Samsung’s behavior was aimed at restricting competition.”
In its appeal, Samsung argued, among other things, that it is incorrect that the company has continuously monitored sales prices. ACM rejected the objection. Samsung is going to court to appeal against the fine imposed, a spokesperson for the company has informed NU.nl.
During its investigation, ACM came across Samsung’s unauthorized commercial practices among retailers who offered televisions of the brand in their webshop. If the selling prices were lower than Samsung wanted, the manufacturer sent the sellers messages with the message that the price had to be raised.
According to ACM, Samsung employees presented those messages as advice, but they were not non-binding messages. In addition, it also intervened when retailers complained about competitors selling TVs of the brand for lower prices.
ACM became aware of the prohibited commercial practices through complaints from retailers. The regulator previously decided not to fine the retailers who participated in the price influence. As a “spider in the web”, Samsung strongly controlled the coordination of sales prices.
“But it does show that retailers have to be careful, that they can also refuse something.” ACM has no indications that Samsung is still making price agreements.
Update on Dujat & Members
Last week on Monday 12 December, the Dujat December Dinner could finally take place again at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. We were pleased to welcome a record number of about 450 guests, which made it our biggest dinner so far. We would like to thank everyone who attended for joining this event and hope to see you again next year!
The Dujat December Dinner in 2023 will take place on 11 December at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Save the date!
Last week on Thursday 15 December, we could congratulate three talented students for winning the NL Japan National Essay Contest, which had the theme: “Energy transition in the Netherlands and Japan: how to benefit from each other through cooperation”.ear!
We would like to extend our gratitude to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) and to Embassy of Japan in the Netherlands‘ Ambassador H.E. Mr. Hidehisa Horinouchi, Mr. Jan van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague and Chairman of the jury, our members of the jury and the organization team at VU Amsterdam for making our first essay contest possible.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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