Climate Change and Sustainable Societies

Second webinar in the 'Otemachi Academia' Collaborative Course organized by Chuo University and Yomiuri Newspaper

Stefan Hotes/Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Landscape Ecology
Chie Kojima/Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: International Law

The second webinar in the 'Otemachi Academia' collaborative course, organized jointly by Chuo University and Yomiuri Newspaper, was held on February 2. The course aims to disseminate knowledge accumulated at Chuo University in order to contribute to the debate on current issues. The topic for this webinar was "Creating a Future Beyond Climate Change: Comprehensive Sustainability through Science-Policy Interfaces". Professor Stefan Hotes (Faculty of Science and Engineering) and Professor Chie Kojima (Faculty of Law) gave presentations and discussed opportunities for solving sustainability challenges by developing interfaces between science, policy and management.

In pursuit of knowledge to live sustainably in the Anthropocene

First, Stefan Hotes of the Department of Integrated Science and Engineering for Sustainable Societies, Faculty of Science and Engineering, gave a presentation titled "In Pursuit of Knowledge and Wisdom for Living in the Anthropocene."

"Anthropocene" is a new term that has come into use among scientists, journalists and policymakers in recent years. It states that Planet Earth has entered a new geological era in which humans influence physical, chemical and biological processes at a global scale. Prominent examples are alterations of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, which impact our planet's energy balance and cause changes in the global environment. Technological development and population growth since the start of the first Industrial Revolution are regarded as key drivers that have brought about the Anthropocene.

Human-induced changes in the global environment that require immediate action include trends such as global warming and the decline of biodiversity. Many scientists are conducting surveys and research into these issues, but it is crucial to share research results also with policymakers. This is necessary from local to international levels in order to create sustainable societies.

Two science-policy interfaces that are active at the international level are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). IPCC was established as an intergovernmental body in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); it currently has 195 participating countries and regions. In 2012, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was created in order to better address the issues involved in different types of knowledge that are relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

To meet the enormous challenges we have to overcome if we hope to achieve sustainable lifestyles, more effective communication at the various interfaces between science, policy and management is needed. For the interfaces to become functional, the roles that knowledge holders and knowledge users should play in this communication process have to be clarified. In addition to scientific knowledge from various disciplines, practical experience - often referred to as traditional, indigenous or local knowledge - has to be included. Professor Hotes believes that universities can become key institutions for continued innovation to develop these interfaces.

The interface between international law of the sea and science

Next, Professor Chie Kojima of the Faculty of Law gave a presentation titled "The Interface Between International Law of the Sea and Science: Toward Sustainable Use of the Oceans."

Professor Kojima specializes in international law of the sea. The law of the sea is one of the oldest fields of international law, but until now, it has mainly developed around regulations for navigation and the exploration and exploitation of natural resources (minerals and organisms) based on the maritime zones. Today, as issues that transcend borders such as climate change and the destruction of ecosystems have emerged, we are faced with a new challenge that will test how well the existing rules of the law of the sea can respond to these changes.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted at the United Nations in 1982 and entered into force in 1994, is also known as the "constitution for the oceans" and is an important treaty that forms the foundation of the current legal order of the oceans. Part XII of UNCLOS contains general obligations of States to protect and preserve the marine environment, but its focus is mainly on obligations related to pollution of the marine environment, and does not provide specific provisions to address environmental issues such as the decline of marine ecosystems caused by climate change.

However, the preamble promotes the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment, and the text explicitly states the need for conservation management measures for marine living resources in the exclusive economic zone and in the high seas, in ways that take into account "the best scientific evidence available" to the States concerned.

While many multilateral treaties, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, have internal scientific subsidiary bodies, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea does not. Instead, it imposes on its Contracting Parties the obligation to provide and exchange scientific data and to cooperate with relevant international organizations. There is now a need to reflect on the location bias of the scientific knowledge related to the oceans that we have accumulated so far, apply that knowledge for social benefit, and share marine science in a much broader sense, including indigenous and local knowledge, at national and international levels extensively.

Today, as we face an urgent need to deal with the various impacts of climate change on the oceans, UNCLOS is expected to grow as a "living instrument" through the formation of new rules under an implementing agreement and more flexible interpretations and applications of existing rules while incorporating new knowledge.

Creating environmental rules and involving community residents

To conclude, a discussion was held between the two professors. Professor Hotes explained that recent research methods have changed due to advances in science and technology, and that great volumes of data are now available. He also touched on the importance of extracting reliable data from them.

When conflicts of interest, as well as economic and social issues are involved, there are situations where some information is convenient for policymakers, while others are not. Professor Hotes says scientists should actually be at some distance from the process of policymaking. This is because scientists should be devoted to providing the correct information based on the scientific knowledge available at the time.

Professor Kojima says, for example, that resources within an exclusive economic zone can be determined within the scope of a country's sovereignty, but that natural phenomena cannot be divided by boundaries determined by humans, so cooperation between nations is necessary. In recent years, a cooperative system has been established to investigate marine resources and manage them by species of fish and by sea area using a scientific approach, but difficult problems can still arise when there are political conflicts rooted in the interests of each country.

The role of international law is to determine the mechanisms for cooperation between nations and to oblige states to take measures to conserve biological resources. How these obligations are actually fulfilled depends on the domestic laws and policies of each country. Professor Kojima says that national and local governments should establish a process for creating rules for the sustainable use of the oceans, collect and share scientific knowledge, and involve local community members to have them participate in this process as stakeholders. Climate change is an issue that affects all activities of all people, and it is crucial that each actor takes the initiative in the process of implementing the relevant laws.


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Stefan Hotes/Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University Area of Specialization: Landscape Ecology

Stefan Hotes was born in Göttingen, Germany. He first came to Japan as a high school exchange student. He studied biology and geography at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. For his master's and doctoral thesis, he conducted research on the dynamics of wetland vegetation in Hokkaido. He received his PhD in science from the University of Regensburg, Germany in 2004. After working on research projects at the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Tokyo, at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany and at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, he joined the Department of Integrated Science and Engineering for Sustainable Societies, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University, in 2019.

His current research focuses on social-ecological systems, and he contributes to science-policy interfaces from an ecological perspective based on the results of research on wetland ecosystems and cultural landscapes.

Chie Kojima/Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University Area of Specialization: International Law

Chie Kojima was born in Hiroshima. After graduating from the Department of International Business Transaction Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University, she majored public international law at the Graduate School of Law at the same university. In 2002, she completed the Doctoral Program of the Department of International Business Transaction Law, Graduate School of Law, Chuo University, and obtained a doctorate in law. At Yale Law School, she received her LL.M. in 2004 and her J.S.D. in 2010. In 2005, she moved to Europe and worked as a trainee at the International Court of Justice in Hague. Afterward, she served as a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelbelg, and an assistant professor at the World Maritime University in Malmö before returning to Japan in 2013. After working as a professor at the Faculty of Law, Musashino University, she assumed her current position in 2019.

Her research focuses on international law of the sea, and her research areas mainly cover the protection and preservation of the marine environment, human rights at sea, and maritime security.