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Energy and Environment Delegation to Japan with Sasakawa USA

peace to the world

from time immemorial

cherry blossoms

-    19th century Japanese poet Issa


As Washingtonians brace themselves for what the Japanese call Sakura, or cherry blossom season, New America's Resource Security program will be traveling to Japan with a group of energy security and climate change experts. The trip is a joint project with Sasakawa USA, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting US-Japan relations.

Energy security has long been an abiding concern for Japan, which is today about 90% dependent on imported energy, almost all of it fossil fuels. At the same time, Japan pledged a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (relative to 2013) at the Paris Climate Summit. Both energy security and climate change became far more problematic challenges for Japan in 2011, when the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. As a result, most of Japan's 45 nuclear power plants remain offline today.

In fact, the New America delegation will travel to Fukushima on the eve of the 6th anniversary of the disaster to meet with local officials, visit a cultural museum, and talk to experts at the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute.

Throughout our stay, the group will meet with a range of Japanese officials and experts from the Prime Minister's office; the New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization; the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the legislature; the Tokyo Electric Power Company; the Institute for Global Environment Strategies; the Ministry of Defense; the Japan External Trade Organization; the Ministry of Environment, the Institute of Energy Economics; and the Toyota Corporation.

The trip, under the SEED program (Sasakawa USA Emerging Expert Delegation), is designed to be an education and engagement opportunity for American policymakers. I'll be leading the delegation, which I am particularly delighted to do: I've worked on US-Japan policies at times in my career, but have never actually been to Japan. This is typical of most of our group, which is perhaps better described as early bloomers than emerging experts. New America Program Associate Emily Gallagher will be part of the group, along with New America Fellow Dr. Nadya Bliss, a prominent computer scientist and Director of the Global Security Initiative at ASU; our newest Resource Security Fellow, Michael Wu, a former Air Force energy official and Army reservist with long experience in energy security, and New America Fellow Bina Venkataraman, who also directs Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Jon Powers, the former Federal Chief Sustainability Officer (and also an Army veteran) will join us, along with Kate Gordon, the Senior Advisor at the Paulson Institute, and Tarak Shah, most recently the Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Energy for Science and Energy.

Coming right on the heels of troubling campaign rhetoric followed by the Japanese Prime Minister's very successful first visit to President Trump, this trip should be very interesting, indeed.