Zero CO2 Emissions in Tokyo!? The Public-Private Partnership that Made Carbon Offsets a Reality

As a major global metropolis, Tokyo bears great responsibility in helping the world reach net zero global CO2 emissions by 2050. As part of this effort, the city achieved net zero CO2 emissions during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 opening and closing ceremonies. While just four days in total, it was a major step toward a decarbonized society.

Zero CO2 Emissions from the Tokyo 2020 Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies

As the world accelerates its progress toward a decarbonized society, Tokyo, one of the world's largest cities, formulated its Zero Emission Tokyo Strategy in December 2019. In January 2021, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) announced it had set the milestones of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 50% (compared to 2000 levels) and increasing the proportion of electricity generated by renewable sources to around 50% by 2030.

In order to achieve the Zero Emission Tokyo goals, the city is accelerating its efforts across all areas related to urban activity, including measures to expand energy conservation and the use of renewable energy, as well as to prevent food loss and reduce plastic waste. TMG itself is also putting into practice energy conservation measures and converting to renewable energy at its own facilities, implementing initiatives based on its plastic reduction policy, and expanding its adoption of EVs and other zero-emission vehicles.

As part of these efforts, TMG carried out the Tokyo Zero Carbon 4 Days in 2020 initiative to offset all of the city's CO2 emissions during the four days of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Tokyo 2020 Games. In addition, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games aimed to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with hosting the Games to zero through the Carbon Offset Programme for the Tokyo 2020 Games. As the host of the Tokyo 2020 Games, TMG provided its cooperation.

Carbon offsetting is a method of compensating for the amount of CO2 emitted by a company's business activities that cannot be reduced solely through its own efforts by applying those CO2 reduction techniques used effectively by other businesses. The amounts of CO2 reduced by businesses' countermeasures are called credits, which can be traded with third parties after being certified by the metropolitan government.

For some time, TMG has implemented a cap-and-trade system that requires large-scale businesses (those that have used 1,500 kL or more crude oil equivalent of fuel, heat, and electricity annually for the previous fiscal year) to reduce their CO2 emissions. Businesses subject to this cap-and-trade system donated credits to the Tokyo 2020 Games, which were then used to achieve the carbon offset being aimed for.

Achieved 500,000 Tons Over Target Offset

153 businesses provided 4,188,815 tons worth of credits in response to the call for donations for the Tokyo Zero Carbon 4 Days in 2020 initiative and the Carbon Offset Programme for the Tokyo 2020 Games. This far exceeded the target set at roughly 3.65 million tons.

As a result, 720,000 tons were allocated for Tokyo Zero Carbon 4 Days in 2020, and 3,468,815 tons in cooperation with the Carbon Offset Programme for the Tokyo 2020 Games. Governor Koike Yuriko handed over the portion of credits earmarked for the Carbon Offset Programme for the Tokyo 2020 Games to Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President Hashimoto Seiko at a ceremony in June 2021.

"This is the first time in history that CO2 emissions from the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be offset in cooperation with the host city. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the businesses that provided credits," said Governor Koike. President Hashimoto commented to the effect that "thanks to everyone's cooperation, we anticipate being able to offset more emissions than expected."

The fact that the public and private sectors worked together to achieve the CO2 reduction target holds great international significance as well, and is expected to serve as an opportunity for more effective global warming countermeasures. However, this success in offsetting the Tokyo 2020 Games is just one step along the way toward carbon neutrality, and TMG intends to push strongly for a "Zero Emission Tokyo" to achieve its next goal.

An infographic on achieving net zero CO2 emissions in Tokyo created by TMG in order to share the legacy of the Games in an easy-to-understand way.
Written by Sueyoshi Yoko / Translated by Amitt