In October 2021, IGES published a Japanese translation of "Vision 2050 : Time to Transform" in cooperation with several Japanese companies and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Over one year later, the global situation faces a major turning point, and companies are under pressure to adapt their actions to these changes. This is a special page featuring an discussion between Kazuhiko Takeuchi, IGES President, and Peter Bakker, President & CEO, WBCSD, on "The Pathways to Transformation" based on "Vision 2050: Time to Transform" which presents a new framework for business activities over the next 10 years.
Discussion between Kazuhiko Takeuchi and Peter Bakker
Takeuchi: It is a great pleasure to meet you face-to-face today for the first time in a while. In my view, Vision 2050 forms a very good basis for synergy among different global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity, resource efficiency, as well as pandemics. It is particularly relevant that this report is based on the concept of planetary boundaries*1 proposed by my good friend, Johan Rockström*2 , and his collaborators. If such a concept can be embodied in the private sector, that would be very welcome. What are your thoughts on this report, Mr. Bakker?
Bakker: First of all, I am very grateful to IGES, Fujitsu, Toyota and Sompo Japan for publishing the Japanese translation of Vision 2050. We are the World Business Council. That means we want to make our work as relevant as possible to different parts of the world, and with Japan being a key economy, it is really helpful to have our vision translated into Japanese. Our aim was to present what this transformation would look like and where transformations are needed using a total of nine pathways, including the energy system, food system, built environment system, as well as showing what type of business actions are needed to bring about transformation.
Takeuchi: Many people are saying that the decade up to 2030 will be decisive. I also think that the role of the private sector is crucial. We need to materialize our efforts in order to stay on a sustainable path. Not just say something but we need to act now.
Bakker: The latest study by Rockström and his colleagues investigates where the climate tipping points are. According to this study, four of the 16 tipping points will kick in at 1.5°C of warming.*3 If the world continues to emit what we emit today, we will hit 1.5°C by around 2032. There are only eight years left to avoid the occurrence of natural disasters if the critical point is 2030. Therefore, it is now really urgent to not just talk about it or take efficient measures, but we must actually get companies to lead the transformation. That is why the publication is called “Vision 2050: Time to Transform” because that time is “now”. Our report shows the action plans to be promoted by companies between now and 2030.
Takeuchi: In addition to the 1.5°C target, the "30 by 30" target for conserving 30% of land and 30% of the oceans by 2030 will hopefully be decided at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15, held in Montreal, Canada this year. Net zero and conserving 30% natural environment are major driving forces for sustainability, and we intend to actively contribute to this goal. It is important for an institution such as IGES to articulate its scientific understanding of nature. This includes the relevance of climate change and biodiversity, for example, how the conservation of tropical rainforests can contribute to climate change response and biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity is very diverse and complex, but we need to have a more scientific understanding and materialise our activities in various sectors, including the private sector.
Bakker: Compared to climate change, there is still a lot of room to address issues on nature. As you pointed out, nature is a very complex issue to get hold of. But what I see happening now is the global goal for nature is becoming clear, and hopefully, CBD COP15 will reach an agreement on that. We then need to translate the agreement into science-based targets for nature, so that businesses can say “Okay this is where I can have an impact”. I'm hoping that globally, and also through our collaboration, we can do some good work on that in the coming 12 months. At any rate, business needs clear goals to act. This is another great thing about Japan. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has 3,500 companies worldwide signed up to it and more than 1000 of those are Japanese. So, there is a very deep penetration of the TCFD here in Japan. Now globally, the Task Force for Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD) has been established to develop a framework for nature. I am hoping that the Japanese business community will embrace TNFD in the same way as the TCFD. And then, we will get transparency in business on what actions they are taking, and what impact they can create.
Takeuchi: Recently, a new concept of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) has been created. This is very important and covers not just nature conservation but also harmonious coexistence with the natural systems. During CBD COP10, more than 10 years ago, Japan contributed in setting up the ultimate goal of achieving a society in harmony with nature to conserve biodiversity. This is based on the Japanese view of being close to nature. In other words, humans are an integral part of nature. Now in Japan, we are thinking about the possibility of transforming our society into a materially decentralised structure while maintaining globalisation, and at the same time establishing a sustainable society with good relations among people all over the world. This concept was created when I was chairing the Central Environmental Council, and we call it a Regional Circulating and Ecological Sphere (Regional CES), which is connected with the localisation of the SDGs. The concept of Regional CES has gained high recognition from the United Nations and other organisations, and we are now trying to disseminate this concept to other Asian countries.
Bakker: If I understand well, I think OECM is something that is very easy in Japanese culture, because Japan as a society is much closer to nature than some other parts of the world. From that point of view, it's very good to see that next year the G7 will be hosted by Japan. WBCSD has currently been cooperating with METI on the preparation for the G7, particularly around avoided emissions. It is clear that the recent business environment globally is highly uncertain. When we published Vision 2050, we had no idea that war would break out in Europe and affect the energy system worldwide, causing inflation and hunger with many other effects appearing, which would even hit Africa. Having a long-term goal and long-term vision of the transition we should all strive for is the only way to get through a period of uncertainty, and this is why I think Vision 2050 is so useful. Regarding the way we deal with nature, Japan is different than in other parts of the world and the way Japan deals with social inequality aspect is also different. But, we all live on one planet, and we have one atmosphere, one ocean. That's where collaboration is continuously incredibly important. So, I agree that there is a lot of decentralisation that is probably going to happen. But we must not lose the interconnectedness and common goals that we optimise.
Takeuchi: That is right, and we must not stop the exchange of people and information. We also need to consider the impact of COVID-19, not just the negative impacts on the global community, but also use it as a good chance to think about our lifestyles. IGES has introduced teleworking and communicating online while trying to minimise the burden caused by mass transportation and consumption.
Bakker: Today, I see a number of trends where certain power blocks in the world seem to find it difficult to communicate with each other, and even cooperation on climate change seems to be stalled. There is not a specific American atmosphere, Japanese atmosphere or Chinese atmosphere. There's only one atmosphere, and we're all connected. In some aspects, online communication can be a positive thing. But if you want to solve climate change, you have to need to meet each other. It is a little too difficult to find a solution to complex problems just on a screen.
Takeuchi: Agree. How to appropriately combine physical and virtual communication will be more important for the future.
Bakker: As I mentioned earlier, I have visited Japan a number of times recently and been very impressed with the progress being made in discussions here, particularly around climate change. A few years ago, in conversations with Japanese business leaders, they were somewhat limited in their willingness to talk about climate change, but that has completely changed. The government has set its Net Zero Target, and METI is now driving business towards transformation. If we can expand concepts like avoided emissions, not only to Japan but also to the rest of the world, we will have a bright future. And that is part of the reason why we developed Vision 2050. In this report, we laid out what type of technologies are available to us, and on what scale they need to expand. If I meet Japanese business leaders, they have so many solutions.
Takeuchi: Thank you very much for your understanding on the current situation of Japan. Japanese people are now a little bit skeptical about the future of national power. But I personally think that Japan will play a very important role in the global community through various technologies. Furthermore, I have always said that countermeasures against climate change will not just solve the negative aspects of global challenges but will also bring us new opportunities to create a new, wealthy society for humanity.
Bakker: I look also at where we are today as a very deep and impactful opportunity for transformation. We had the industrial revolution and the digital revolution, and now we have a big sustainability-led transformation. There are some complications involved with many changes happening on a global scale and we need to find the best way forward. But the transformation that is embedded in Vision 2050 is irreversible and needs to happen, and that will actually be an enormous opportunity to innovate the economy.
Takeuchi: I think that is exactly right. Finally, I would like to discuss with you about our future collaboration. I am wondering if it would be worthwhile to have an exchange of staff members to enhance mutual understanding.
Bakker: That is a very good idea. This week some of our Japanese members have kindly agreed to support our work by seconding Japanese employees to our offices around the world. And if we can expand this and work together with IGES on a similar basis, that would have a very positive effect. In general, it is important that business and research stay closely connected. Johan Rockström is always a great example. He is one of the most renowned scientists, but he is also a very good communicator of science to audiences, such as businesses. And that skill is really important because just having science will not solve anything. If we can build a good bridge like he does, that is critically important.
Takeuchi: Indeed. IGES recently published the Japanese translation of "Earth for All" newly produced by the Club of Rome. This report was spearheaded under an international initiative called “Earth for All”,*4 to promote change toward a sustainable future. The book is based on a new system dynamics model and provides concrete pathways to pursue a sustainable social and economic paradigm within planetary boundaries. This is just one example, but I believe that this kind of collaboration and bridging of scientific knowledge is very important.
Bakker: When WBCSD talks about the challenges in the world, we name a third challenge, which is called mounting inequality. Unlike climate change, inequality and social issues in Japan are very different from those in Africa, Europe or North America. We have launched a Business Commission to Tackle Inequality (BCTI) to bring key stakeholders from across the world together and examine what business could actually do to deal with social tensions. A report by this cross-sector, multi-stakeholder coalition of organisations is planned to come out early 2023. That could be an interesting area of collaboration as well. One idea would be to create a Japanese version of that report, or maybe not the entire report, but rather translate the sections relevant to Japan. Then we can start a conversation with Japanese businesses around the social aspects, human rights in supply chains, diversity and inclusion, and more. Another challenge is how to ensure that people who are trained and educated to deal with new technologies can still have jobs when they come into society. That could also be an area of collaboration, if that is of interest to IGES.
Takeuchi: Yes, IGES is a strategic institute for the global environment. However, when we decided to consider the SDGs as an important research subject, it became necessary to expand our research area not only to environmental issues but also to issues such as inequality and equitable transition, as you mentioned. Maybe we should collaborate in that extended areas. Thank you very much for your time today. I hope to visit the WBCSD headquarters in Geneva someday.
Bakker: Thank you very much. We would be very honored to welcome you.
*This interview was conducted before the actual CBD COP15 took place
*¹ The concept that the pressures humans are currently exerting on the Earth system have reached saturation, and that irreversible changes are possible if the Earth's inherent resilience limits, including climate, aquatic environment, and ecosystems, are exceeded.
*² Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany. Global scientist on the sustainability of the planet. He leads research on planetary boundaries. Active advisor to governments, international policy processes, and business networks, and the author of more than 100 scholarly articles as well as books for the general public.
*³ Armstrong McKay et al., 2022, Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points, Science, 9 Sep 2022, Vol 377, Issue 6611 (accessed 22 Nov. 2022 https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.abn7950).
*⁴ An international initiative launched in 2020 by the Club of Rome, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Stockholm Resilience Center, and BI Norwegian Business School. Based on the newly developed system dynamics model "Earth4All," an international research team of experts from various fields such as economics, philosophy, politics, natural science, is presenting proposals for the transformation of the entire social economic system that integrates poverty, inequality, gender, food, and major energy transitions.
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