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David Warren

Ambassador to Japan, Tokyo
Posted 07 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

We had a marvellous visit a few days ago from Alistair and Katherine Wight, from Edinburgh.   Alistair was one of eight British sailors who came to Tokyo in August 1945, as part of HMS Return, and who reopened the British Embassy, which had been closed since the British staff had been repatriated to the United Kingdom in mid-1942, some months after the outbreak of war with Japan. 

Mr WightHe is now 86, as is Katherine, and had not been back to Tokyo since his brief visit in 1945.   I was fascinated by his recollections of Tokyo in the aftermath of war - the department stores still open in the Ginza, with staff giving items away in panic, the trams still running past the Embassy's front door in spite of the terrible bomb damage across much of the city, the natural reluctance of local Japanese to fraternise with foreign troops, and of course deep suspicion on the Allied side after the brutalities of the Imperial Army in the Asian conflict - but also the kindness that Alistair and his colleagues received from some of the Japanese residents of Tokyo whom they met.
 
Alistair and Katherine's trip was partly to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.   It was funded by the UK Lottery's Heroes Return programme .   Alistair showed us a photograph of himself at 21, in the garden of one of the Embassy houses, sitting on the veranda steps that are still there today.  We went and recreated the photograph 65 years later.   Alistair and Katherine presented us with the cap ribbon from HMS Return.   It was moving and inspiring to listen to his memories.



David Warren
07 June 2010

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Posted 16 June 2009 by David Warren | Comments

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Aso announced Japan's mid-term (2020) target for emissions reductions - 8% from a 1990 baseline.  The target looks slightly better when compared with 2005 figures - 15%.  The international reaction has been critical - a lot of people were hoping that the Japanese would set out a more ambitious plan in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting this December, where the successor framework to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol must be agreed.    The UK's targets are considerably tougher - 34% on 1990 figures, and around 22% on 2005.

The announcement follows months of work by the Mid-Term Target Committee.  They considered six options, ranging from allowing emissions to rise from 1990 levels to a 25% decrease on 1990.  The outcome, of course, is a compromise - Japan knows that it must contribute to the international negotiations that will develop the new framework, but the Government does not want to pass on extra costs to households in an economically difficult time.  However the costs of not tackling climate change will be even greater, as shown by Lord Stern's 2006 report on the economics of climate change. The target is domestic - the Japanese haven't said anything yet about how they might use the international carbon market, and emissions trading (on which Japanese industry are not keen).

We'd still like to see more ambition, and a focus on long-term benefit rather than short-term costs.  A low carbon economy can lead to real opportunities for business.   Japanese technology is cutting edge and her energy-saving record impressive.    We have an important opportunity to get this message across later this week, when Adair Turner, the Chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority and of the Climate Change Committee, will be visiting Japan to talk to the Japanese Government and others about both financial regulation and next steps in environmental policy.



David Warren
16 June 2009

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Posted 20 May 2009 by David Warren | Comments

The big issue at the moment - probably at any moment - is climate change.  We are all waiting for the Japanese Prime Minister to announce Japan's mid-term target for emissions reductions.  This will be a crucial element in the preparations for the Copenhagen conference at the end of the year to agree a follow up framework to Kyoto.  An intense debate is taking place here. 

An advisory committee has produced six scenarios, from minus 25% to plus 4% on 1990 levels.  The latter is favoured by the Keidanren, the Japanese industrial federation.  I don't believe that it will be seen internationally as a credible response by Japan to the urgent need for developed countries to take the difficult decision and make major cuts.  The other major industrial federation, the Keizai Doyukai, have gone for minus 7%.  Even this strikes me as insufficiently ambitious on its own.  The discussion in the Japanese press tends to focus on fairness and whether Japan can afford the costs of the action that some are pressing it to take now.  But the costs will get worse if we delay, and the issue isn't fairness - it's how all of us in developed countries show global responsibility and bring the developing world into the negotiation. 

Many of my meetings with Japanese industry and government are focused on this issue, and how the debate can be brought to address the benefits, rather than just the costs, of action now.



David Warren
20 May 2009

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