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Prompt creation of roadmaps for decarbonization, Preventing the loss of biodiversity and Using data in public health
Proposals from the G-Science Academies

2021.05.31

The G-Science Academies, which are made up of academies from each of the G7 nations, have published proposals concerning measures against global warming, biodiversity conservation, and sharing and using public health data. They were chaired by the UK’s Royal Society because this year’s G7 summit will be held in Cornwall, England, on June 11 to 13. In addition to the G7 summit, these proposals will also be utilized in the meetings between relevant ministers. Yukari Takamura, Vice President of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), says that, "We want to properly convey our statement to the relevant ministers. The Science Council is considering holding a forum or a symposium in which we will discuss the three themes in a lot more detail."

One of the themes is "A net zero climate-resilient future;" its basic stance is "we must ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are effectively zero in 2050," says Yasuko Kameyama (Director of the Center for Social and Environmental Systems Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan), a member of the SCJ.

Many countries have established targets to greatly reduce emissions by 2050, but concrete technological roadmaps that explain how these goals will be realized have not been released. Thus, the proposals request that technological roadmaps for development and dissemination be created as quickly as possible so as to stop global warming at a level lower than 2°C—if possible below 1.5°C—when compared to levels before the industrial revolution. They also call for the governments of the G7 countries to take the lead in multilateral cooperation to increase public and private investment in necessary research and development activities, and to accelerate research and development, as well as for support for activities for middle and low income countries. In addition, they ask for each country to agree on a policy package that will give financial incentives for carbon neutral options.

Kameyama states that, "In the G7, the complete phase-out of coal-fired power is a given, and it is assumed that natural gas and biomass power generation will have CCS. It appears that economic incentives, i.e. carbon pricing, have been acknowledged in the United States under the Biden administration. We hope to hold discussions in academic areas, including with economists, about how we will change the structure of the economy as a whole to achieve decarbonization."

The loss of biodiversity is continuing at a more rapid pace than has ever been seen in human history, and countries around the world have pointed out that many species are on the verge of a mass extinction crisis. The loss and decline is not being stopped despite scientific evidence built up in various forms and ambitious world targets for biodiversity conservation. Shizuka Hashimoto (associate professor of the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo), a member of the SCJ, says that, "Japan, which depends on other countries for 60% of its calories, holds significant responsibility for the environmental effects across its entire supply chain for imports and exports of food supplies and other substances."

"To curb biodiversity loss," the Academies have made three proposals based on a recognition of the current situation. These are: to assess the value of biodiversity and develop new approaches that consider biodiversity in national economic accounting and corporate accounting; to make efficient use of solutions that have the natural world as their basis, establish a single-system approach, and to create cross-sectoral solutions that address biodiversity, climate change, and other linked crises in a coordinated manner; and to support the reinforcement of the achievement of countries’ biodiversity targets, and assist regional and global assessments and conservation planning, through the development of a global monitoring network.

Hashimoto notes that, "The Ministry of the Environment is considering its National Biodiversity Strategy based on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is also formulating a biodiversity strategy. A final version of this will be created within the next fiscal year, based on the post-2020 framework to be agreed in the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15). I am also involved as a committee member under the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and we have the scope to adequately incorporate these proposals."

The third theme is "Data for international health emergencies: governance, operations and skills." During the COVID-19 crisis, a large amount of data is being used every day, such as the number of people infected, the infection rate, and the basic reproduction number. We are accumulating this data in great numbers, and we can gain useful knowledge by making use of statistical methods, AI and other sources. On the other hand, there are significant barriers to the collection and use of data in real-time. A variety of data exists, such as data relating to medical care, nursing care, public health, and industry, and as there is also the issue of protecting privacy, it is not easy to realize the international distribution of data.

Thus, the Academies propose that we should design systems with clear governance for data sharing, develop technologies that make access possible while also considering privacy, and create systems for the use and application of data that make interoperability in different countries possible with regard to climate change and biodiversity conservation as well as public health emergencies like our current situation. In addition, they suggest we foster skills that will enable users to handle data in an appropriate manner. Furthermore, to realize these three areas, we should establish committees that will hold open debates and, in the meantime, create systems for sharing data that is relevant to COVID-19.

Council Member Yoshihiko Nishiyama (professor of the Kyoto Institute of Economic Research), notes that, "When it comes to data, Japan is not necessarily able to gather it strategically. For example, the government uses gathered data with the main aim of understanding the current situation, but the data is not used to come up with strategies if something is wrong. We need to gather people from the data departments in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (concerned with medical care), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (concerned with economics), the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (related to data), and the Ministry of Finance (public finance), and discuss how to collect data in a strategic manner, and how to use it in initiatives to end the pandemic."

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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