The Rise of an Environmental Superpower? Evaluating Japanese Environmental Aid to Southeast Asia

Author/s (editor/s):

Peter Dauvergne

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1998/3 (PDF, 2.11MB)

Peter Dauvergne, 'The Rise of an Environmental Superpower? Evaluating Japanese Environmental Aid to Southeast Asia', IR Working Paper 1998/3, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, March 1998.

Environmental aid is the cornerstone of Japan's initiative in the 1990s to become a regional and international environmental power. Formidable internal and external factors, however, impede effective environmental aid. Powerful Japanese economic ministries, such as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance, overwhelm environmentally oriented state bodies, such as the Environment agency. This contributes to environmental aid that stresses technological solutions, environmental exports, and corporate interests. Bureaucratic disputes and power struggles undermine policies and contribute to inefficient management. Vague environmental guidelines and weak enforcement mechanisms compound problems. Japan also relies primarily on data and information from recipients to assess environmental impacts. In addition, environmental reviews often have unclear procedures and are poorly coordinated. Even the definition of environmental aid is vague, which as allowed Japan to increase the amount of environmental aid by simply reclassifying traditional projects, such as sewage and water systems. This has also contributed to concessional loans accounting for the bulk of environmental aid. Within Southeast Asia, corrupt officials, a stress on economic growth, and inefficient and ineffective managers further aggravate the problems with Japanese environmental aid. As a result, despite large amounts of environmental aid, this aid has only contributed to marginal improvements to the environments of Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the ability of Japanese environmental aid to foster goodwill or improve Japan's environmental image in Southeast Asia is constrained by negative perceptions of Japan within Southeast Asia, Japan's environmental, economic, and aid legacy, and inconsistent effects of actual environmental aid projects. These problems and constraints suggest that Japan's environmental aid is unlikely to provide an effective foundation for environmental leadership.

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