A project of the Abe Fellowship Program, the CGP-SSRC Policy Forum draws on the expertise and competencies of both the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) and the Social Science Research Council. The CGP-SSRC Policy Forums bring together academics, practitioners, policy actors, and journalists to work toward the goal of long-term, policy-oriented solutions to issues of global public consequence and to develop networks that will lessen the gaps between research, policy, and practice. Each forum focuses on a single broad theme over a two-year period, which allows for sustained interaction among forum participants as well as a variety of outputs targeted to important moments in the real-world policy debate. The CGP-SSRC Policy Forum, designed to bring essential knowledge to relevant publics at critical junctures, follows on a core belief of the SSRC that social science can produce necessary knowledge—necessary for citizens to understand their societies and necessary for policymakers to decide crucial questions. Themes are relevant to the current Abe Fellowship Program priority areas of 1) traditional and nontraditional approaches to security and diplomacy, 2) global and regional economic issues, and 3) social and cultural issues. Implicit in any CGP-SSRC Policy Forum is an examination of how the US-Japan relationship and bilateral cooperation can contribute to the goals of the forum.

The inaugural Policy Forum was held from 2009 to 2012 with the goal of elucidating environmental challenges and offering policy recommendations and best practices related to energy saving and the reduction of air pollution and CO2 emissions within a city-level framework. Rather than seeking to impact national-level policies, the forum worked for change at the local level by engaging local-level policy actors and officials from second- and third-tier cities in Asia in an exploration of lessons learned and major challenges.

In a series of meetings held over three years in Tokyo, Japan, a core group of academics and practitioners engaged in a sustained dialogue with each other and experts and leaders from cities in Asia to consider best practices and offer policy recommendations related to energy saving and the reduction of CO2 emissions within a city-level framework. One of the primary goals of the forum was to develop a package of resources available to the public long after its conclusion. Five case studies were developed by forum participants, one case for each of five sectors typically under control of city-level governments:

  •  Green Buildings: US/Japanese Building Energy Efficiency Measures and Their Applicability to Southeast Asia, by Rob Knapp Jr. (Physics and Sustainable Design, Evergreen State University), Hiroto Takaguchi (Architecture, Waseda University), and Satoshi Washiya (Waseda University).
  • Waste Management: Comparative 3R Initiatives in Asia, by Kohei Watanabe (Sociology, Teikyo University).
  • Transportation: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), by Alan Miller (Climate Business Groups, International Finance Corporation).
  • Industrial Energy Use Management: Adoption of Eco Action 21 in Japan and Its Applicability to Other Asian Countries, by Yoshika Yamamoto (Management and Information Science, Setsunan University).
  • Land Use Planning: Urban Green Infrastructure, by Akito Murayama (Environmental Studies, Nagoya University).

These cases formed a package of concrete best practices that can be implemented separately or together. When implemented together the package forms the basis for a model, “greener” Asian city.

The Policy Forum on the Environment and Climate Change involved 46 active participants, including six Abe Fellows, two committee members, and 38 invited participants ranging from experts on issues of climate change to city-level representatives from Yangon, Myanmar; Vientiane, Lao PDR; Kathmandu, Nepal; Beijing, PRC; Kuching North, Malaysia; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Danang, Vietnam; and Makati, Philippines.

Ongoing relationships have continued with both Danang, Vietnam, and Yangon, Myanmar. Mr. Huyn Phouc, the director of the Department of Science and Technology People’s Committee of Danang City, has continued to work with Yoshika Yamamoto to implement an Eco Action 21 pilot program adapted to Vietnam within three firms with funding from the Toyota Foundation. They are considering BRT development as a way of dealing with future traffic in the city and plan to return to the idea in 2015. Akito Murayama’s case study has led Mr. Phouc to spearhead a project to convert an area of unused land to a green island, implementing as well many of the ideas from the green buildings case. Connections made at the Policy Forum to both Yoshika Yamamoto / Eco Action 21 and to the representatives from Citynet based in Yokohama have proved invaluable. In addition, the SSRC continues to work with representatives from Yangon, Myanmar, toward the implementation of a capacity-building program in the social sciences related to water resource management in Myanmar.