<From "Kiko Network News" Vol.33,November 2003>

Shunichi Hiraoka
Research Group of Local Policy on Climate Change
Kiko Network

The Prefectural Centers for Climate Change Actions (hereinafter referred to as the Prefectural Centers) are organizations whose primary purposes are to raise public awareness, provide information on climate change, and support activities in private sectors as well as activities of advisors. The centers are authorized in accordance with the Law Concerning the Promotion of the Measures to Cope with Global. A prefectural governor can designate one center in the prefecture. Currently, out of 47 prefectures, eighteen prefectural centers are designated.

After the Law went into effect in 1998, Hokkaido Kankyo Zaidan (Hokkaido Environment Foundation) was designated as the first Prefectural Center in April 1999. Since then, eleven prefectures have designated Prefectural Centers by May 2002, when the Law was amended. Before the amendment, the law allowed only incorporated foundations and corporations to operate centers. Thus, all of the eleven centers above mentioned were operated by those foundations or corporations. Moreover, the majority of those foundations were pre-existing government-sponsored organizations. In this situation, the Prefectural Center in Miyagi, the Miyagi Environmental Life Outreach Network (MELON), which is also a member of Kiko Network's steering committee, was the only center operated by an NGO-originated foundation.

In the meantime, the designation of centers had slowed down because of some reasons: there was no necessity and benefit to designate the Prefectural Centers; there was no appropriate foundation to be designated as a Prefectural Center in each prefecture; and it was difficult to secure funds to establish a new foundation. Only eleven prefectures had designated Prefectural Centers in the past four years.

Under the situation, the Law was revised in May 2002, adding NPOs as possible designees for Prefectural Centers. In addition, the Japanese government has begun to subsidize projects promoted by regional councils with the special account for petroleum, which becomes to be jointly managed by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. As a result, the number of Prefectural Centers has increased. In 2003, Tochigi, Osaka, Oita, Aichi and Kyoto prefectures designated Prefectural Centers. Among them, Oita prefecture, which designated its Prefecture Center on September 3rd, was the first to designate a NPO. The designated NPO, “Green Craft Center Nanagurasu,” has worked on several activities such as nature-experience and environmental studies. Kyoto prefecture designated a NPO, “Kyoto People's Conference on Prevention of Global Warming”, as its Prefectural Center on October 10th.The designated NPO was established for the purpose of operating the Prefectural Center with the partnerships of local governments, environmental NPOs, regional and economic organizations, and so on. This is the first case that a new NPO was established in order to operate the Prefectural Center.

Since it is expected that the funds for local communities and for Prefectural Centers will increase due to the increasing special account for petroleum subsidy, it is expected that other prefectures will designate Prefectural Centers.

Prefectural Centers have focused on promoting public awareness and holding symposia so far, and it is difficult to say that their efforts have reached people in need. In addition, community-based effective measures were few. It is important for Prefectural Centers to work with local governments, regional councils, and community-based organizations, by using information, experience and the experts of the Center for Climate Change Actions and environmental NGOs. Also, they have important roles in developing networking of information and human resources, and disseminating cutting-edge examples. It is expected that Prefectural Centers will take a share in preventing climate change, where “local action is fundamental”.