(June 8, 2010) Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery (MAFF) drafted a bill to promote the use of wood in public buildings. The bill was approved by the Cabinet submitted to the Diet, and then became a law on May 26, 2010 (Law Concerning Promotion of Use of Wood Materials for Public Buildings, Law No. 36 of 2010 [hereinafter Law No. 36 of 2010]).
Although Japan has trees that are suitable for use as building materials, they have not been utilized very much. Many buildings are made of other, man-made materials, such as iron and concrete. MAFF has advertised the advantages of wooden buildings, but the advertisements have had little effect. For the survival and stable growth of forests and the sustainable use of woods, from the standpoint of environmental protection, the new Law obligates the national and local governments to utilize wood materials for public buildings that have three stories or less. (Akamatsu Norin Suisan Daijin kishakaiken gaiyo [Summary of Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Akamatsu Press Conference?], MAFF, Jan. 5, 2010, available at http://www.maff.go.jp/j/press-conf/min/100105.html.)
The Law also extends the due date for government loans given to qualified wood material manufacturers and eases development permits for qualified wood material manufacturers (Law No. 36 of 2010, arts. 10-12.)
Currently, Japan's self-sufficiency rate for the provision of wood materials is 24%. MAFF aims to achieve 50% self-sufficiency by 2020. (Statement of Takahiro Sasaki, Parliamentary Undersecretary of MAFF, MINUTES OF THE AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, AND FISHERY COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, No. 8, 6-7, Apr., 22, 2010.) The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation will amend building standards to accommodate the policy set forth under the new Law. (Law No. 36 of 2010, art. 3, para. 5.)