Interviews TOP

no.015 [Nov. 2010]
Jusen ASUKA (Director, IGES Climate Change Group)
no.014 [Aug. 2010]
Magnus BENGTSSON (Director, IGES Sustainable Consumption and Production Group)
no.013 [Feb. 2010]
Masanori KOBAYASHI (Coordinator, IGES Programme Management Office)
no.012 [Sep. 2009]
Charmine KODA (Journalist & IGES Board Director)
no.011 [Feb. 2009]
Peter KING (Senior Policy Advisor, IGES Bangkok Office)
no.010 [Nov. 2008]
Rajendra PACHAURI (Director-General, TERI) & Dr. Rabinder MALIK (Coordinator, TERI-Japan)
no.009 [Aug. 2008]
Hideaki KOYANAGI (Director, IGES Beijing Office)
no.008 [Feb.2008]
Taka HIRAISHI (Member of the Board of Directors & Senior Consultant, IGES)
no.007 [Jul.2007]
(Chair of the Board of Directors, IGES)
no.006 [Mar.2007]
(Policy Researcher, IGES)
no.005 [Jul.2006]
ANCHA Srinivasan
(Principal Research Fellow, IGES)
no.004 [Mar.2006]
(Policy Researcher, IGES)
no.003 [Nov.2005]
(Policy Researcher, IGES)
no.002 [Jun.2005]
(Policy Researcher, IGES)
(Former Chair of the Board of Directors, IGES)

E-alert Interviews (February 2008)
Working to Reconcile Environment and Development

Mr. Takahiko Hiraishi
Member of the Board of Directors & Senior Consultant, IGES

A graduate of the Faculty of Engineering and Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo, Takahiko Hiraishi worked at the Environment Agency on a range of pollution control issues, including harmful chemical substances and water pollution. After postings to the Japanese Embassy in Kenya and the OECD, he served as director of the Environmental Assessment and Information Office at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). In 1999 he became involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and as Co-chair of the IPCC Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, he is the sole Japanese member of the IPCC Bureau.

*The Technical Support Unit (TSU) for IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme (NGGIP) was set up at IGES in 1999. The TSU supports the practical management of the NGGIP by developing and publishing guidelines for the preparation of inventories of national greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

Attending the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony
----The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US Vice President Al Gore, and you attended the award ceremony as a representative of the IPCC experts.


This prize was awarded in recognition of 20 years of work by the several thousand experts who have worked with the IPCC over the years, and so it was a tremendous honour to attend the ceremony as one the representatives of them.

----You were the only Japanese to attend the ceremony as a representative of the IPCC experts, I believe.


IPCC representatives at Oslo City Hall
The practice for Nobel Peace Prize award ceremonies is to invite 50 associates of the honoree. This award was made jointly to the IPCC and Gore, so invitations went to 25 associates of each. Dr. Pachauri, IPCC Chair, drew lots from among the lead authors of the IPCC's recent reports to select the IPCC representatives except for the working group and inventory task force co-chairs and IPCC vice chairs.

As it turned out, I was the only Japanese from the IPCC attending the ceremony, but many Japanese experts have in fact contributed to IPCC activities.

---- Please tell us what the ceremony was like.

The ceremony was held in Oslo City Hall, graced by a giant mural and thousands of flowers. Among those attending were the King of Norway and other members of the royal household, and it was a wonderful ceremony that made a clear impression of its century of tradition. After the official award ceremony, a photo was taken of each IPCC representative, holding the award certificate and medal. The medal is actually surprisingly lightweight.

The acceptance speeches by Dr. Pachauri and Mr. Gore were both very forthright and powerful. The dinner following the ceremony was very pleasant. I found time to joke with Dr. Pachauri and chat with Mr. Gore. The day following the award ceremony also featured various events including a Nobel Peace Prize concert, and I was especially impressed by the children's performance of the Oslo Schools.

Mr. Hiraishi with award certificate and medal

With Mr. Al Gore

The Accidental Environmentalist
----Could you tell us about how you came to be involved with environmental issues and something about the work you've done in the past?

My life has been a series of chance developments, and it was also by chance that I became involved with environmental issues. At university I took my degree in chemistry, and I was interested in occupational health issues so when I finished my postgraduate studies, I joined the Labour Ministry. Pollution was a big issue in Japan at the time, and in 1970 when the Cabinet Pollution Control Office was formed I was by chance seconded there from the Labour Ministry. Later I was transferred to the Environment Agency (now the Ministry of the Environment), where I became involved in a full range of pollution control efforts. Again by chance I was dispatched to our embassy in Kenya and then to the OECD for several years each, and after coming back to the Environment Agency, I held such posts as officer for coordinating measures on harmful chemical substances and managing the division for water quality regulations.

As the issue of global warming became a focus of attention, in 1989 the Environment Agency and UNEP jointly held the Tokyo Conference on protecting the global environment. As a coordinator of this conference that I was seconded to UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya, and somehow a one-year cointract turned into nine years! At UNEP I worked in a truly wide range of fields, from environmental education and environment law to liaison and coordination with environmental organisations and even chairing the staff association. Before leaving in 1998 I served as director of the Environmental Assessment and Information Division.

"Do You Need Me Here?"
---- And in the interim you'd left the Environment Agency and joined the UNEP staff, is that right?

When I received the message from the Environment Agency that "It's about time for you to come back", I went to confer with the UNEP Executive Director of the day. And when I told her the government was calling me back, I asked, "Do you need me here?", and the reply from the Executive Director was, "That's a very simple and easy question. We need you here!" It was quite a simple conversation, but that's how I came to leave the Environment Agency.

In 1998 when I resigned from UNEP and returned to Japan, it so happened that there was talk of bringing the IPCC's inventory work to Japan (at IGES) and I was asked about co-chairing that effort. Had I not been returning to Japan at that time, it would have been somebody else in the co-chair position. Nothing less than one chance development after another. I think I've been very fortunate in that the people I've been associated with have given me these opportunities to be continuously in work that I find challenging and rewarding, and I have yet to regret any part of my career.

Thoughts on Environment and Development

---- Including the work at the Japanese Embassy and UNEP, you were in Kenya for a total of 12 years.

That's right. Thinking about developing countries and about issues of environment and development, I find my experiences in Kenya of great significance. I myself have childhood memories of deprivation from the time my father's firm collapsed, so I have a visceral acquaintance with what it's like to be poor. But the real poverty in this world is in the developing countries, and especially in Kenya. One is surrounded by people who are struggling just to stay alive. I learned a great deal from actually living in a developing country, rather than just learning about it from books or television.

Although it is environmental issues that I've been involved with, I am also well aware of the importance of development to escape from poverty. Rather than turning my full attention to protection of the natural environment, I keep returning to an emphasis on people. Simply recognising what an awful state the developing countries find themselves in, it seems to me inhumane to leave them there. And so I think it all the more important to make the effort on behalf of development that is not harmful to the environment.

One of the issues that we are currently facing is the environmental deterioration resulting from the rapid economic growth in China, but I think it's not development itself that's bad; it's the profligate way they go about it that is the issue. It only makes pollution an even more serious problem, and if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, it will impose a burden on the world as a whole. In other words, it's of tremendous importance to go about development in an environmentally-friendly fashion. I think you will find that Japan has much technology to offer in this respect.

---- What environmental issues do you look to be taking on next?

This is something that is common to all environmental issues, but what seems to me to be a great challenge is the pursuit of development while improving conditions for people who find themselves in circumstances of desperate poverty. It will be a tremendous challenge, but what I would like to work on is environmentally sound development.

The Importance of Co-benefits
When I think about environment and development, it is the trend towards "sectoralism" (field-specific tribalism or sectionalism) that upsets me. You know, people working on climate change only ever talk about climate change. And the adaptation to climate change, being a new issue in the field, too often leads to that sort of "sectoralists" talk of the need for new funding. There is, however, a great deal in the developmental planning that so many countries have experience of that is tightly bound up with adaptation - flood control and drought relief being just two examples. We should be having a discussion on how to improve on efforts that have to date proven inadequate.

A recent focus of attention is the co-benefit approach to environment and development. This consists of solutions to environmental problems also having a positive effect in other areas. Working to reduce greenhouse gases also leads to reduced air pollution, for example. Activities on behalf of the environment protection should also be able to contribute to greater long-term efficiencies in development. I expect that pursuing these discussions further will enable us to overcome those "sectoral" divisions and survey the problem as a whole.

---- Lastly, please tell us of your hopes for IGES.

I think we will need to continue to work hard on the support we offer in terms of policy formulation in the Ministry of the Environment, which is primarily the work of the Programme Management Office at IGES. This support is intimately engaged with the formulation of policy proposals, and I think it is something that only IGES is capable of doing. As an international research institution, of course, our original task is to conduct research of a high standard on environmental strategies, and I hold high expectations for IGES in this regard. Though it will be rather difficult to succeed on both fronts, my hope is that IGES will continue to set the bar high and give its best effort.

---- Thank you for your time.

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