Meet our ASEF Family and Friends
Mr. Yasuo TAKAHASHI (IGES’s Executive Director)
Mr. Yasuo TAKAHASHI is the Executive Director of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), one of the ENVforum partners since its inception in 2003.
Mr. TAKAHASHI joined the Environment Agency of Japan (present Ministry of the Environment) in 1983. He served key positions in the Ministry including Director of Climate Policy Division, Director General of Headquarters for Environmental Restoration of Fukushima, Director General of Environmental Management Bureau, and Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs. After retired from the Ministry in 2019, he served as Senior Advisor for the Ministry, and joined IGES in January 2020 as Special Policy Advisor. He has served as Executive Director of IGES since November 2020.
Please, tell us a bit about your life and career.
I was born in Tokyo in 1956. After I studied civil engineering and earned my M.A. at the University of Tokyo, I worked for the Ministry of the Environment for 36 years until 2019. During my career at the ministry, I covered various topics including water, air, waste, and global issues. I also worked with local governments, and overseas at the Japanese delegation to the OECD in Paris.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, I worked to decontaminate the environment in Fukushima Prefecture, which was affected by the nuclear plant meltdown. My final appointment at the Ministry was as Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, and upon completing my term of office, I took up my current position at IGES in 2020.
What are some of the things you have done that you are most proud of?
One of the most exciting moments of my career was UNFCCC-COP6bis and COP7 in 2001, when the rules of the Kyoto Protocol were negotiated. I worked under the Environment Minister, Madame Kawaguchi, as the director of the office of international climate issues. At that time, as the US government had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, and Japan held the casting vote to save it. I was really moved at COP6bis when the Bonn Agreement was adopted after a difficult negotiation.
Any regrets, things you wish you had done differently?
I sometimes wonder whether I could have led a more interesting life if I had chosen to pursue a totally different career, such being part of an orchestra. However, these are simply fleeting thoughts.
IGES has been a close partner of ASEF for a long time. Over the years, we have collaborated on many issues such as climate change, sustainable consumption and production, the SDGs, and environmental governance. We deeply appreciate the role that ASEF has played in linking European and Asian perspectives on these and other environmental concerns.
Recently you have published very interesting policy papers on the Triple R Framework for a Sustainable COVID-19 Response. Could you please briefly highlight the relevance of it?
Let me briefly introduce our Triple R Framework. This is a concept that aims to directly respond to the COVID-19 crisis, take environmental and socioeconomic measures to recover from the crisis, and simultaneously redesign current socioeconomic systems towards a just transition to a truly sustainable and resilient world. Here, what is critical is to simultaneously make progress on initiatives with both short-term response to long-term redesign in mind.
How ASEF can better contribute in your opinion to issues related to sustainable development and climate change?
I believe that we are now at a critical point to transform our direction towards a sustainable and resilient society. In this regard, let me remind you that China, Japan, and Korea – three major economies in the Asian region – have declared to become carbon neutral (by either 2050 or 2060). With this shared common vision with EU countries for future sustainability, our cooperation is becoming increasingly important. I am sure that ASEF will play a greater role in sharing knowledge and experience multilaterally in the post-COVID era.
Do you have hobbies or leisurely pursuits you’d like to share with us?
I like to play the piano in my leisure time. I took piano lessons in my childhood, and I resumed playing more recently. My level is still intermediate, but I like to play pieces by such composers as Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. I have a soundproof room in my apartment, so I can play my baby grand piano even at night. My progress is rather slow as I am not so young, but I believe playing the piano is good to prevent ageing. I also like to ride my bicycle, go walking, star-gaze, and drink wine.
If you had the chance, whom would you most like to meet?
I would like to meet great composers such as Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. I would love to let them listen to recent recordings of their own work performed with modern instruments, and I would like to see their reactions. I imagine they would be surprised, as the sound is very much different from that of their own time. They might feel that their music sounds more beautiful, or they might think that today’s performances are not the music that they intended to make. Of course, I would also have to ask a good otologist to treat Beethoven for his deafness.
Please recommend a book you read recently, and what was in it you found interesting.
I recently read a book entitled “Capital in the Anthropocene (Hitoshinsei no Shihonron)”. It is a Japanese book written by Dr. SATO Kohei, a philosopher specializing in economic and social philosophy. Having studied in Germany, this young and talented author gives a rather radical opinion in favor of growing out of capitalism in order to overcome the environmental crisis and establish a sustainable and fair society. After reading this stimulating book, I can’t help but rethink the meaning of economic growth in connection with the climate crisis.
This is the February 2021 edition of our ‘Meet our ASEF Family and Friends’ Initiative where we want to introduce our ASEF Governors, staff, as well as resource experts, participants and friends who have or had some connections to ASEF – to our growing audiences. We hope to show the human side of our networks as we at ASEF strive to remain a core facilitator of people-to-people connectivity within the ASEM region.
The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) was established in 1998 under an initiative of the Japanese government and is an independent think tank and strategic policy research institute that contributes to sustainable development solutions in the Asia-Pacific region, and other parts of the globe. The IGES headquarters are in Hayama, Japan, and it maintains a regional centre in Bangkok and an office in Beijing. IGES partners with many international organisations, governments, research institutions, the private sector, environmental and social NGOs, and other groups on a wide range of issues, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, forest and biodiversity conservation, water resource management, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable business, and land and resource use competition. For more information, please visit: www.iges.or.jp
The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is an intergovernmental, not-for-profit organisation which brings together the people of Asia and Europe to address common challenges. Founded in 1997, it is the only permanent institution of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) political dialogue Process and is publicly funded by voluntary contributions from 53 ASEM Partners.
ASEF promotes understanding, strengthens relationships and facilitates cooperation among the people, institutions and organisations of Asia and Europe. ASEF encourages collaboration across the thematic areas of culture, economy, education, governance, media, sustainable development, and public health. Over the past 23 years, ASEF has brought together more than 40,000 people from Asia and Europe, through seminars, workshops, conferences, publications, web portals, grants, and public talks. For more information, please visit www.ASEF.org