A government ordinance city, developed in 1963 through the consolidation of five smaller cities, Kitakyushu is the second largest city on the island of Kyushu. The north and east sides of the City are surrounded by the sea and 60% of the City area is green space and mountains.
As Kyushu’s northernmost city and the area closest to Honshu, Japan’s main island, Kitakyushu has developed as a vital transport and economic hub since the Meiji period. Since the establishment of the government-operated Yahata Steel Works in 1901, the City has also developed as a center of industry on the forefront of Japan’s economic growth.
In the 1960s, Kitakyushu was one of Japan’s four major industrial areas and suffered from significant air and water pollution as a result of rapid industrialization. In 1969, the first smog alert in Japan was issued against air pollution in Kitakyushu. However, citizen groups, local government, the private sector, and universities collaborated to solve the City’s significant environmental problems. Today, the green technology and sustainable practices gained through the process of depolluting Kitakyushu is now being utilized globally in sustainable urban development.
Kitakyushu is an active proponent of international environmental cooperation, sharing its experiences with other cities in order to contribute to global environmental conservation. The City has welcomed roughly 3,000 people from 139 countries to learn from its experiences, and it has dispatched over 200 experts to over 24 countries to share its experiences. It has also hosted 20 international environmental conferences. The City was selected as a “Green Growth” city by the OECD in 2011, and 2013 saw the publication of “Green Growth in Kitakyushu, Japan,” a report which highlights best practices and proposals for future green growth.
Kitakyushu’s vitality and residential density has been decreasing due to the rapid decline and aging of its population. Problems caused by vacant houses are expected to worsen, so the City has outlined plans orchestrated around principles of compact city development. Planned actions include developing a plan for proper siting (creating an area for promoting housing) and a regional public transportation network development plan starting in April 2015.
Through the EU-Japan Dialogue, Kitakyushu hopes to learn from the EU region’s best practices, especially on city planning, housing policies, and transportation systems.
As one of Japan’s Environmental Model Cities, Kitakyushu has developed the “Green Frontier Plan” which aims to reduce City greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels and to reduce 150% equivalent of the City’s emissions through international cooperation.
For low-carbon development, Kitakyushu is promoting the following goals based on the philosophy of a sustainable society and the keywords “industrial city,” “declining birthrate and aging population,” and “exchange in Asia”:
- Development of industrial clusters that support low-carbon development
- Development of an educational/activity system that learns and acts towards low-carbon development
- Creation of a fulfilling life through the development of a low-carbon society
- Promotion of low-carbon development throughout Asia
In the context of the EU-Japan Dialogue, Kitakyushu is especially interested in learning about low-carbon municipal and regional development, low-carbon transportation systems, and low-carbon economic systems to support the above initiatives.