A Few Memories Concerning Planetary Boundaries
President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). Project Professor at the Institute for Future Initiatives of the University of Tokyo
I think I first learned about the concept of "planetary boundaries" in December 2009 at an international conference on climate change hosted by the University of Copenhagen. The conference was attended by participants from the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), including Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University, one of the main proponents of this concept, and Professor Kathleen Richardson of the University of Copenhagen, one of the co-authors of the famous paper on planetary boundaries published in Nature in 2009. Incidentally, the three of us now serve together on the jury (with Will as chairman) for the Volvo Environmental Prize.
I became acquainted with the lead author of the Nature article, Professor Johan Rockström (then Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre), when I was serving as the Chair of the Screening Committee of Experts for the 2015 International Cosmos Prize. As the main advocate for the planetary boundary concept, we recommended him for the prize. There were some who thought he was too young, but because he was certain to win a big prize soon, and we wanted to honor him before he did, he was chosen for the award. The award ceremony was scheduled to be held in Osaka, followed by a commemorative lecture in Tokyo, but sure enough, as soon as we made the decision, the President of Germany decided to award him the "German Environmental Award." Accordingly, he departed Stockholm to attend the award ceremony in Osaka, then made a quick trip back to Germany to attend the award ceremony in Berlin, and then returned to Tokyo to deliver a commemorative lecture at Yasuda Auditorium at the University of Tokyo.
As Chairman of the Central Environment Council (where I am currently Acting Chairman), I was in charge of compiling the report on the Fifth Basic Environmental Plan. Not only was this the first statutory plan in Japan to feature the planetary boundary concept, but it was also the first to establish the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its main objective. The plan calls for the integrated improvement of the environment, the economy, and society, but rather than pursuing each of these separately, it seeks to embody the basic principle of the "planetary boundaries," which calls for the creation of social wealth and sustainable economic growth within the constraints of the environment. As a concrete measure to achieve this goal, the "Regional Circulating and Ecological Sphere" was proposed as a localized enactment of the SDG objectives. This concept demonstrates how to create a self-reliant, decentralized region through decarbonization, resource recycling, and symbiosis with nature. It has also been attracting attention as an ideal form for a sustainable, local society that is well-positioned for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1951. Doctor of Agriculture. President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). He is also a Project Professor at the Institute for Future Initiatives of the University of Tokyo, and a Visiting Professor at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability of the United Nations University. Specializes in landscape ecology, environmental studies, and sustainability science.