Report from AGS Annual Meeting 2010

Global Change and Sustainability: Pathways to the Sustainable Society in 2050
17-19 March 2010, The University of Tokyo, Japan

The main themes of the AGS Annual Meeting 2010 were: Mitigation and adaptation strategy to climate change and demographic change; Sustainable city-regions; Energy pathways to the future: smart grid and smart infrastructure; Information exchange and communication between academia and society. The meeting included discussions of the post-COP 15 situation and CO2 reduction, venture capital, legal frameworks, energy pathways to the low carbon society, adaptation to climate change, food and water sustainability, and pathways to sustainable urban futures.

The president of the University of Tokyo, Junichi Hamada, gave a keynote on the right to sustainability from the point of view of his own field, constitutional law. He stated that sustainability is implemented through realization of individual rights.

George Hara, Group Chairman DEFTA Partners, Chairman of the Board of Alliance Forum Foundation, Ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council, Advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Finance

George Hara is the group chairman of DEFTA Partners, and the Chairman of the Board of the Alliance Forum Foundation. He inspired the participants through his own experiences investing in technologies for sustainability in developing countries.

Designing sustainable urban-rural systems is key to sustainability in our urban future. The ETH research investment in a simulation platform that facilitates management of stocks and flows of people, energy, water, materials, capital, space and time in such systems was explained by Gerhard Schmitt.

Researchers from the US, Europe, China and Japan discussed the implications of the failure of COP-15 to produce a post-Kyoto framework. The panel suggested limitations of UN-style agreements and pointed out the need for other schemes. Promotion of technology transfer could contribute to achieve global progress on carbon emissions.

Former University of Tokyo president Hiroshi Komiyama presented his vision of how Japan can achieve the low carbon society, demonstrating for example that air conditioners already use half as much energy as before 1990, but that four times less energy use is easily achievable by 2050.

Japan’s International Cooperation Agency works with Asian countries to improve climate change adaptation strategies, as explained by Hiroto Arakawa, senior special advisor. The JICA has benefitted greatly from collaboration with sustainability science experts at the University of Tokyo.

Water is key to climate change adaptation. The Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious prize for outstanding achievement in water-related activities, and the prize and its winners were described by Per-Arne Malmqvist from Chalmers University of Technology.

ETH president Ralph Eichler challenged the AGS to address the implications of the ageing society for sustainable development, and a panel discussion chaired by Hiroko Akiyama of the University of Tokyo Institute of Gerontology explored the issues. Sawako Shirahase, a sociologist at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, illustrated the consequences of Japan’s rapid demographic change for families.

The AGS AM 2010 included eight afternoon workshops focusing on sustainability themes:

Two workshops addressed the key role of universities to educate students to address sustainability challenges and to generate innovation for positive social change. The first illustrated forward-thinking models of transformative learning, and the second highlighted effective approaches to teaching, creating, and disseminating design and technological innovation for sustainable development at the AGS universities and in industry.

Energy pathways to the low carbon society was the theme of two workshops, including a discussion of the smart grid – technologies for more sophisticated management of supply-and-demand dynamics in the electricity grid – and the huge potential to improve energy efficiency and integrate renewable energy sources.

In the workshop of “Pathways to sustainable urban futures”, researchers from different regions of the world discussed the challenges and opportunities of urban growth. The session of environmental problems in South Asian cities focused on some case studies of environmental issues in the urban areas in the region.

The food and water workshop discussed emerging subjects on food production and distribution, water resources and environment, climate change impacts on water and food, and development-environment conflicts.

The workshop on sustainability under rapid demographic change expanded the discussion on how to relate the technological strengths of the AGS universities, and advances in research for sustainable urban futures, with gerontological and social research, to generate new insights and solutions for an ageing – but more sustainable – society.

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