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no.015 [Nov. 2010]
Jusen ASUKA (Director, IGES Climate Change Group)
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Magnus BENGTSSON (Director, IGES Sustainable Consumption and Production Group)
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Masanori KOBAYASHI (Coordinator, IGES Programme Management Office)
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Charmine KODA (Journalist & IGES Board Director)
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Peter KING (Senior Policy Advisor, IGES Bangkok Office)
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Rajendra PACHAURI (Director-General, TERI) & Dr. Rabinder MALIK (Coordinator, TERI-Japan)
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Taka HIRAISHI (Member of the Board of Directors & Senior Consultant, IGES)
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Hironori HAMANAKA
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Yatsuka KATAOKA
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ANCHA Srinivasan
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Puja SAWHNEY
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Rie WATANABE
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Kamal GUEYE
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Akio MORISHIMA
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E-alert Interviews (September 2009)
Working Towards the Major Goal of a Low-Carbon Society

Charmine Koda
Journalist & IGES Board Director

Charmine Koda has worked as a newscaster on television and radio, including appearances on NHK television's "Kaigai Weekly" and Fuji Television News "Super Time". In addition to serving as IGES board director, she currently works as a journalist and commentator concentrating on global environmental issues. From April 2006 to June 2008 she served as director of the United Nations Information Centre.


In June 2009 IGES held the first International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP2009) at Shonan Village in Kanagawa prefecture, with a focal theme of "low-carbon development in Asia and the Pacific". Five hundred participants from Japan and overseas discussed paths to low-carbon models of development appropriate to the needs of developing countries and policies to implement them. This E-alert Interview is with Ms Charmine Koda, who as one of the directors on the IGES Board advises on the institute's research work and who also played a central role as moderator at ISAP2009.(About ISAP2009)

Looking back on ISAP

---- You served as moderator of several sessions at ISAP2009. What were your impressions of this year's ISAP?

Koda:
ISAP2009 (at Shonan Village, June 2009)

ISAP2009 was a wonderful learning experience for me. We heard the world's leading researchers discuss their views on the challenges currently facing the Asia-Pacific region in terms of their research, what needs to be done to meet those challenges, and what the opportunities are for the future. Over the ten years since its establishment IGES has steadily accumulated excellent fruits of its research, and has become dynamic in terms of human exchanges, so the launch of ISAP is a very positive development and I believe people's expectations of IGES are very high.



What's needed as we move forward in addressing global environmental problems is not just information and technology, but also tools to carry them out and the means to address the costs of implementation, as well as the social will, or "motivation to act". Take the co-benefits research of IGES as an example. Whereas we understand that things good for the environment have positive effects in other areas as well, we now are able to demonstrate concretely that we can implement for example, anti-warming, anti-pollution and poverty alleviation at the same time, and in an economically viable way as well, with the aim to facilitate the efforts of many countries and local governments to introduce those policies. ISAP is a forum where the world's leading experts can gather to have in depth discussions of the latest issues, and I see it as a good opportunity to communicate information proactively to countries in Asia and the Pacific and to the industries, and to heighten their interest in those issues.

Another thing is that if the discussions at ISAP can be made available to high school and university students around the world, I think it would have a wonderful impact on them. Reaching the younger generation via live internet broadcasts or video can have environmental educational qualities, and I think contributes to society as well.




Low-carbon society: An exciting challenge for the whole world
---- As we work towards halving greenhouse gases by 2050, it's not just reductions but the shift to low-carbon societies that is drawing attention in countries around the world, and ISAP2009 too saw lively discussion of this as its main theme. What do you think are the important factors in building low-carbon societies in Asia?

Koda:
The concept of a low-carbon society or low-carbon development is relatively easy to understand, having the clear goal of carbon dioxide reductions. It is a challenge which requires the participation of all sectors of society in both developed and developing countries. It is a work that in a sense entails a major shift in civilisation, which is not a simple task but which has many exciting aspects. Even for technologically advanced countries like Japan there is still much that needs to be done. I think that once we apply our concentrated efforts to the task, many possibilities will arise that were not there before. The challenge of low-carbon development is a task addressed to us all, so it will have deep connections to each person's values and to his or her priorities. It will be vital to raise the importance that people place on global environmental problems and on addressing climate change as well as raising people's priorities regarding these issues. If people think these issues are important and place very high priority on them, changes will occur. People's prioritisation of global environmental issues has risen worldwide since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) and the 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3), and now it needs to be raised for low-carbon development or low-carbon societies.

Building low-carbon societies in Asia

Koda:
Since Asia is an extremely diverse region in terms of economies, political systems and cultures, I think what will be important for low-carbon development in Asia is the ability to address this diversity. In the transport sector, for example, as motorisation has increasingly spread in Asia, the development of low-carbon transport systems suited to the needs of individual countries is important, rather than trying to introduce the exact same technology that is used in Japan. Furthermore, as low-carbon development cannot be solved with technology alone it is important for us to address the task of biodiversity preservation and restoration and work towards building social incentives as well as policies to support them. I hope that in all those areas, IGES' research will become widely used.


Environmental issues as my life's work
---- As a journalist you've covered many different social issues. How was it that you became interested in global environmental issues?

Koda:

In the latter half of the 1980s when I was working as co-anchor of the television news, a brief foreign news report came in with the words "global warming", describing a conference of scientists warning about this issue. It was the first I'd heard of that term and I remember the shock I had. I wanted to find out more about it and asked a friend living abroad to send me a book that had just been published there. That book was how I came to be engaged with environmental issues. It was only then that I realised how serious the problems were, happening on a global scale between human beings and the environment -- the depletion of the ozone layer, deforestation, marine pollution, waste production, etc.

It was at a time that I was searching for a lifework theme to pursue as a journalist. I went to study at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government when Harvard had just started offering courses on international environmental policy issues. We had engaging lectures with professors from many different fields, including international law, ethics and economics.

After I returned, I resumed my work as a journalist reporting and interviewing environmental leaders making positive change in both Japan and in various parts of the world. Those pioneers whom I interviewed then are continuing to do wonderful work as leaders in their field today.

 



Cyclone in Tuvalu
---- What events have made a particular impression on you in your work on global environmental issues?

Koda:
That would be my experience in Tuvalu, where I visited for my doctoral research project at the University of Tokyo. Tuvalu is one of the small island nation facing the threat of submersion should sea levels rise due to further climate change. I was staying at Funafuti the capitol where the width of the island is only a few hundred metres, and the elevation of land is less than 2 metres. This was when an off-season cyclone hit very close by. Under those conditions, there was no place one could evacuate to, and information was limited due to lack of facilities such as radar. The people of Tuvalu have lived there for more than 2000 years and many told me that their wish is to continue to live there. It made me realise how important it is for us to think how our daily actions connect to the conditions of Tuvalu.

---- To finish up, what expectations do you, as a board director, have for IGES?

Koda:

I hope very much that IGES would strengthen its position as an organisation that is both global and regional and continue to invite researchers from various countries and Asia, including for example as fellows, and continue the promotion of capacity building through joint research. I think the active exchanges between researchers will contribute to adding further depth to the research of IGES.

As was evident at ISAP, IGES has a strong network among leading experts of the world working on the front lines as well as being the reservoir of the latest knowledge on global environmental issues. It is my wish that large numbers of people will become aware of IGES' research and utilise it.

The work of IGES can involve such large scale work as helping to shift the way people and businesses think and do things. It can be difficult work, but one which is also very fulfilling in its making a large contribution to the world. I wish my best to the researchers of IGES, making best efforts to make IGES the top institution through their research.


---- Thank you.


Interviewers: Megumi Kido and Eiko Kitamura (Research Supporting Section)


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