Environmental Risk and Legislative Systems Viewed from a Political Science Perspective

Public Relations Office        April 20, 2018

Using Original Perspectives for Research into More Effective Public Policy

Yuki Hayakawa, Assistant Professor

Yuki Hayakawa, Assistant Professor

Yuki Hayakawa, Assistant Professor, School of Law and Politics
Graduated from the Faculty of Law at Chuo University, and completed her Master’s degree at the Chuo University Graduate School of Law. Completed her doctoral program at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and holds a Ph.D. Previously held the post of Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Waseda University, and assumed her current role in 2017.


European Parliament

European Parliament

Scientific and technological advances have enriched people’s lives; on the other hand, they have also given rise to a variety of problems, such as environmental destruction and damage to people’s health. It has now been many years since developed nations began to undertake regulatory reforms and strengthen regulations related to environmental risks. Assistant Professor Yuki Hayakawa of the School of Law and Politics has conducted research into the impact of political systems on regulations, comparing the risk-based environmental regulations of Japan and the EU. While in previous research, profits and policy ideas have been understood to play important roles, Hayakawa used an unprecedented political science approach to verify this, and she has published her findings in her new book, Comparative Political Science of Risk-Based Environmental Regulations – Chemical Substance Policies in Japan and the EU (Minerva Shobo, March 2018).


Risk-based environmental regulations are regulations on substances that, while the scientific grounds and extent of their impact are unclear, have the potential to exert an adverse impact on the environment and human health. Since the mid-1980s, moves to regulate “risks,” rather than “hazards” (in which the scientific grounds and extent of impact are clear), have accelerated on a global scale. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in South Africa in 2002 and various other forums, countries have continue to share their risk management frameworks and international regulatory targets.
Hayakawa posed the question, ‘Even while international regulatory targets and risk management frameworks are being shared, why is it that, since the 1990s, the regulations established in Europe have been much stricter than those established in Japan?’ With a particular focus on policies for the regulation of chemical substances, she embarked on her research, centering on the analysis of case studies and data and interviews with relevant parties.
Two of the regulations she compared were Japan’s Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources and the EU's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, both of which regulate the use of specified hazardous substances. Taking the hazardous substance, lead, as an example, in Japan, lead can be used and circulated on the market as long as it is indicated on the product, whereas in the EU, the use of lead in manufactured products is not permitted.

 

She also compared other regulations, including Japan’s Act on the Evaluation of Chemical Substances and Regulation of Their Manufacture, etc. vs. the EU’s REACH regulations, and Japan’s Act on Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances vs. the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. In all cases, the EU regulations were stricter. Not only are the regulations stricter in the EU, but the entity tasked with proving safety has shifted from the government to business (transfer of burden of proof). As a result, there has been a significant increase in the cost and labor burden being placed on companies.
What has brought about these kinds of differences? Hayakawa’s analysis is that this outcome is largely due to the differences in political systems, that is, what rights and responsibilities the regulating actor (policy-makers such as the state and bureaucracies) has toward the actors being regulated (primarily companies) and toward policy implementation.
In Japan’s case, the relevant government agencies coordinate with businesses in advance and consider achievability when developing regulations. For this reason, they give consideration to forming regulations that even small and medium enterprises with fewer funds and personnel can handle.
In the EU, on the other hand, standards and target setting take precedence. It is only then that theindividual nations and businesses, based on the decisions made at the EU level, start exploring ways of achieving what has been decided. ‘Japan has adopted bottom-up and prior coordination approaches to setting policy. The EU’s approach is top-down and one of coordination after the fact, which tends to result in stricter regulations. Having strict regulations is beneficial to people’s lifestyles and to the natural environment. However, with such strict regulations, many countries even in the EU are having trouble keeping up with the compliance and checking of those regulations. Putting aside the possibility of major regulatory reform, I do believe that there is also merit in the bottom-up approach, which leads to smoother implementation after the regulations are established.’ There are many different risks in our daily lives, such as the environment, health, and nuclear power generation, and new policy challenges are expected to emerge, such as the introduction of cuttingedge science and technology such as nanomaterials and AI. Analyzing the processes by which regulations have been established in Japan and overseas in the past is important in terms of designing systems for the regulation of new risks. Hayakawa’s findings have the potential to make a major contribution in this area.
Hayakawa is enthusiastic about the future of her work. ‘Going for- ward, I would like to expand the frame of reference of my analysis to compare issues in which there is not a very high degree of community concern, such as chemical substance policies, with issues in which community interest is high, such as food safety and consumer protection in Japan. Risk-based regulation is being researched from multiple angles, including legal, economic, psychological, engineering, and biological angles, so exchanges of opinions with researchers in other fields will be very beneficial. My aim is to always be thinking about originality, about what kind of approaches I can take in the political science domain from a widerange of perspectives.’