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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 March 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Worrying indications that the Japanese Government has watered down the proposed climate change Bill.   The suggestion appears to be that consideration should be given to emissions trading targets being based on carbon intensity rather than being purely numerical.  This is a compromise designed to satisfy those elements of the industrial community in Japan who are still opposed to the Government's ambitious targets.  But at least there is recognition of the principle of emissions trading.  The battle over exactly how this should be enacted continues.   We hope that the Japanese Government will remain as proactive as they have been since taking office last August on this issue.

David Warren
16 March 2010

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Posted 15 October 2009 by David Warren | Comments

Blog Action Day 2009  We welcome the new Japanese Government’s commitment to a 25% reduction target by 2020, as part of a comprehensive deal at the COP15 meeting in December in Copenhagen.  It continues to be controversial here in some parts of Japanese business. 

Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, visited Tokyo last week, and sent a powerful message to Japanese industry that there isn’t going to be a high-carbon future; and that the “first movers” in such an environment will have the business advantage.  My sense is that that message is beginning to get across.  But we are working hard to reinforce it in our own contacts.

David Warren
15 October 2009

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Posted 06 October 2009 by David Warren | Comments

I paid a very interesting visit to Akita, in the north of Japan, in September, to talk to students at the Akita International University there - a high-quality, but still quite small, institution.    The working language on campus is English, and all the degree students complete one year of study abroad (and about a quarter of their graduation requirements in this way).  There is a long list of one for one student exchanges with many of the world's best universities, including ten in the UK (with Leeds at the top of the list in terms of numbers at the moment).

The University have been kind enough to invite a number of foreign Ambassadors to talk about the role of Japan in a changing world, and I kicked off the season with a talk mainly on climate change.  You can read the full text here.   It followed the new Prime Minister's commitment to the new medium term emission reduction target of 25% by 2020, which we strongly welcome.   Prime Minister Hatoyama made this a key message in his appearances at the UN General Assembly last week.

We had a lively and friendly Q and A discussion.  One man asked me why I was saying all this in Akita, which has a beautiful rural environment (it does), when whenever he'd been to London, he'd seen precisely the opposite!   (I hope I responded diplomatically.)  On the other hand, another questioner asked whether there were ways in which UK industry could help get the message across to Japanese business that the target was achievable.   Yes, people worry about what the economic effects of the new policy will be.  But the reality is that Japan has the technology to make this work.  And making it work will help get the economy moving again.

I was also fascinated by the emphasis on agricultural self-sufficiency - not just with this audience, but when I saw the Governor and the Mayor the following day.   What Japanese see as a low level (around 40%) is a worry here, and particularly in a very rural area like Akita - much more so than in the UK where the emphasis is different.     I make the point that the price of Japanese rice is still much higher than on the world market.    In Europe, there is a much greater sense of how wrong it is to subsidise food prices when farmers in developing countries have difficulty making ends meet.  And in the UK the issue is now seen as one of food security - secured through diverse sources of supply and open trading relationships - rather than as being purely about domestic production.  

And it's great to meet the British students at the University, and some of the young British teachers working here on the JET scheme, and to be stimulated by their enthusiasm and energy, as they settle into what is for many an unfamiliar but very exciting environment.

David Warren
06 October 2009

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Posted 08 September 2009 by David Warren | Comments

A clear re-affirmation yesterday from Prime Minister-elect Hatoyama, at the Asahi newspaper's "World Environmental Conference",  that a Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government will press ahead with their manifesto commitment to a 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (from 1990 levels) in the negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto framework at COP 15 in Copenhagen in December.  

It will have to be part of an overall deal to which developed and developing countries will contribute.   But this is good news, and evidence of the greater ambition for which we have been pressing the Japanese government this year.  And a desire by the new Government that Japan should be showing leadership in this debate - indeed, the Prime Minister-elect referred specifically to a new "Hatoyama Initiative".

Ambassador speaking at the World Environmental ConferenceThe talk at the evening reception was all about this commitment.  The Danish Ambassador and I were invited to speak, as well as a long line of Japanese politicians and business representatives.  To be eighth out of about ten speakers is a cruel punishment for both the speaker and the audience, so I tried to keep it brief.  We haven't got long before Copenhagen.   We can't afford to lower our sights, if we're going to ensure that global emissions peak within the next 10 years and we keep the increase in global temperature to within 2 degrees.  And investment in the "Green New Deal" will help make economies grow, not (as some in Japanese industry fear) shrink.

David Warren
08 September 2009

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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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Posted 18 February 2009 by David Warren | Comments

I am delighted to become one of the FCO's bloggers.  I'll be posting reports and comments in English and Japanese about the work we are doing in Japan to build an even closer relationship with the world's second largest economic power.

This week, the focus has been on science and innovation.   The British Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, John Beddington has been visiting with a large team from the UK Research Councils.  He saw Japanese scientists and scientific facilities in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.  He also had a day's conference with his opposite numbers in the Japanese Government to take stock of the collaboration that is going on and identify new areas in which we can do more.

Of course, climate change and management of natural resources are high on the list.  John is a specialist in the latter area and on Thursday night, he made a powerful speech in the Embassy about the challenge facing the world.  We need 50% more food, 50% more energy resources and 30% more water by 2050 to meet the needs of a population that will grow to 9 billion - that's equivalent to adding another country the size of Japan to the world every two years.  

The Japanese audience - journalists, scientists, MPs - listen closely and ask some penetrating questions.  What about GM crops: are they publicly acceptable?   What about population control, ditto?  The Q and A session belies the traditional stereotype of Japanese public meetings being formal, slightly bland affairs.  The tone is friendly but the questions are probing.   The hour that John spent beforehand at a "science media cafe" in the Embassy with a dozen science editors and journalists will have helped.

Japan accounts for nearly 25% of the world's spending on R and D, with just 2% of the world's population.   And there is no evidence that the world economic slowdown, for all that the effects in Japan have been severe, is going to reduce that priority. How to help UK scientists and engineers be part of this activity is a major challenge for us.

Meanwhile, that same night, the news is breaking that the Agility consortium, which is led by Hitachi, have been named as preferred bidder for the new UK Inter-City train contract.   This will be an important new investment from Japan into the UK.  The Super Express will be longer and lighter than its counterparts, and greener as well - some will operate as bi-mode (diesel and electric).    But I'm struck by some of the negative comment in the UK the following day.   

There's a sense that Japanese involvement in this project is somehow unpatriotic, despite the jobs that will be created, or safeguarded, in the UK.   The reality is that Hitachi is one of over 1400 Japanese firms who have invested heavily in the UK over the last thirty years - some going back even further than that - and the close industrial and business links that have grown as a result between all parts of the United Kingdom and Japan have been a real success story.  We mustn't let the sort of protectionist sentiments that find a voice at a time of economic crisis threaten that.  And remember, the UK sells £8 billion worth of goods and services to Japan every year as well.  Trade and investment links are win-win.

David Warren
18 February 2009

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