RIETI Report August 2002

Rio plus 10 Summit in South Africa <RIETIspecial interview> OKAMATSU Sozaburo

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Rio plus 10 Summit in South Africa <RIETIspecial interview> OKAMATSU Sozaburo

OKAMATSU Sozaburo Chairman, RIETI

Greetings from RIETI

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio Plus 10) will be held from August 26 through September 4, 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The summit will discuss various issues concerning developing countries including how to improve people's life in the face of drastic increase in population. One of the focal point will be how to facilitate the growth of developing countries amid increasing environmental concerns.

The Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3), held in Kyoto in 1997, adopted the Kyoto Protocol that sets legally binding targets for industrialized countries' greenhouse gas reduction. One of the mechanisms allowed for under the protocol is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for coordinated actions between developed and developing countries. RIETI Chairman Sozaburo Okamatsu, who is concurrently vice chairman of the CDM Executive Board, a supervising organ for the implementation of CDM, said in an interview: "CDM is a win-win project that both developed and developing countries join forces to carry out."


International Conference
"Growth Driven by Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation: East Asian Experience in Economic Development and Cooperation" (at Ubuntu Village, South Africa)

RIETI, in cooperation with METI, will hold an international conference on the sideline of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 to September 4, 2002. It will examine development supported by trade and investment and subsequent economic growth, as was experienced by East Asia, which is just as important as economic aid targeted at poverty reduction, one of the main themes at the summit. At the conference, panelists will evaluate the experience of Asian dynamism and attempt to draw lessons for regions outside East Asia. Those who will be in Johannesburg for the summit are welcome to join this event, to be held in Ubuntu Village, the official exhibition site near the summit venue.

For the detail, click here
For the press release [PDF:123KB], click here
For the World Summit on Sustainable Development, see: http://www.johannesburgsummit.org/
For the background paper written by Kenichi Ohno, RIETI's Consulting Fellow, click here


RIETI Report (RR): What is your standpoint on sustainable development?

Okamatasu: To begin with, the definition of "sustainable development" has not been established. Speaking about energy, for instance, it is hard to define what renewable energy means exactly. Developing countries say that developed countries, which enjoy high living standards, have no right to force developing countries to accept obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And they insist that greenhouse gas emissions should be gauged by per capita (rather than per country). The question is how we deal with the two challenges: population increase and improvement of people's living standards in developing countries.
Population in developing countries has been growing and it is expected that in 2050 greenhouse emissions from developing countries alone will exceed what industrialized countries emit today. In the first commitment period from 2008 to 2012, developed countries must fulfill their respective reduction obligations. But then, in the subsequent second commitment period, developing countries should join. Should developing countries follow the same development path in terms of energy consumption as industrialized nations, it would have a devastating result. If developing countries are to achieve the same level of gross domestic product as developed countries, I do hope that they will do so by taking a different path. Meanwhile, developed countries, for their part, should proactively transfer energy-saving technologies to developing countries.

RR: On August 29, a roundtable talks will be held on the Clean Development Mechanism in Johannesburg, South Africa on the sideline of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Chairman Okamatsu, as you are serving as vice Chair of the CDM Executive Board, a supervising organ for the mechanism, could you talk about the importance of the CDM and its related activities?

Okamatsu: The CDM is a project that developed and developing countries jointly undertake. And it is a win-win game. Developing countries receive financial and technological assistance to curb their greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise increase, while developed countries receive emissions credit for the amount of reduced greenhouse gas emissions as a result of implementing a CDM project. Construction of an energy-saving power plant is an example of such CDM projects. Global warming could be exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions from anywhere in the world. The impact of such emissions would not be felt immediately but appears much later.

RR: Some people insist that the problem of global warming does not exist.

Okamatsu: It is known through the intensive research of scientists from all over the world that there is a substantial cause-and-effect relation between an increase in the carbon dioxide gas contents in the atmosphere and the rise in global temperature. Given this, I believe we should be on the safe side and take no-regret policy to implement the precautionary principle. If we find it impossible to downgrade our standard of living, the only way out is to develop new technologies. In Japan, a certain research institute is undertaking a forward-looking desert afforestation project. In the long run, we do hope to see the development of such innovative technologies. For the time being, however, we should transfer our existing technologies to developing countries including safer nuclear energy to address climate change.

RR: The number of players participating in the debate over environmental problems is increasing. But the more players participate, the more time it would take to have consensus. What is your view on this dilemma?

Okamatsu: The United Nations includes some 20 developed countries and 160 developing countries, and it is always difficult to reach an agreement. The ongoing debate on the CDM is a UN in microcosm.
Discussions tend to center on considerations about developing countries. The ultimate role of developed countries is to develop technologies. At the same time, it is also necessary to secure political stability in developing countries. Without a foundation of peace, there is no way of finding a solution to global warming. In this context, it is quite understandable why so many issues are put on the agenda for the WSSD.
The ongoing trend of an increasing number of players would be irreversible. Concerning the CDM, we are taking the utmost efforts to ensure transparency of the decision-making processes. Our discussions at the CDM Executive Council are open to the public, with TV cameras welcome.


RIETI set up a virtual workshop called the Social System Design Workshop to search for a clear vision for the future of Japan, which is in acute need of structural reform. The vision should be based on the basic philosophy that the improvement of labor and capital productivity and a social system redesign are vital. It also plans to conduct various analyses and make relevant policy and redesign proposals. For the interview with Senior Fellow Yoshinori Yokoyama, an advocate of the philosophy and key mover of the workshop. See: HERE

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