Thursday, March 08, 2012

Innovation by Opportunity: Costa Rica-Japan Bilateral Green Growth Agenda

[Presentation today at Chi-In-Kai breakfast at Imperial Hotel - Tokyo, Japan]

Good morning. It is a great honor to be here addressing such a distinguished audience. I met Mr. Seiichi Mizuno in September last year and we had an interesting conversation. He later invited me to speak here so it is my pleasure to meet him again and thank him for the invitation.

The topic I will present today is a short list of topics that would allow both Costa Rica and Japan to interact in the quest of economic growth and human development while at the same time preserving, restoring and regenerating natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

Modern information and connectivity have allowed us to realize that the major problems we face today are of a global dimension. They are not caused in any single country and they do not affect individual nations. They are caused by the way in which 7 billion human beings behave on an increasingly constrained planet.

Addressing these issues will require global coordination, not only by all countries represented in the United Nations, but also by all public, private, academic and not-for-profit organizations worldwide. Every single citizen of the world is a global citizen and we must contribute to solving global issues.

My main concern is that we have not been raised to think and behave as global citizens and this is something we must learn quickly. I see my field of work as one in which traditional diplomacy has focused mainly on national interests. Today, the time we spend discussing national issues is time we take away from discussing global issues.

Innovation by Opportunity is a methodology that introduces design thinking as a way to transform our conflicts creatively. It consists of two processes: first, to identify national strengths in a comparative analysis with other countries, and also to identify opportunities for synergic innovation. And second, to identify the constraints we face globally and adapt our search for solutions within those limits. Practicing this method repeatedly will drive and advance our global problem-solving dynamics.

I wish to remind a famous quote by Albert Einstein, who once said: “We cannot solve our problems thinking in the same way we did when we fell into them.” So we need to think different.

I find it remarkable that before the world started talking about globalization, Japanese brands, technology and culture had already become global. Sony and Mazinger Z, Toyota and Komatsu, sushi and Nintendo conquered the world decades ago. This was the result of Japanese design and technology considering local constraints of high demographic concentration and very limited natural resources in Japan.

These principles need to be embraced today globally. We need to think as a human civilization the same way Japanese innovators thought 50 years ago. The difference is that our relatively high demographic concentration is now global and our natural resource constraints are also global. Scientists at the Global Footprint Network have calculated that, in order to sustain current global consumption levels of natural resources, we would need 1.5 planets, which means we are living beyond the planet’s natural ability to regenerate itself, or that we are consuming from future generations.

I see Japanese organizations today greatly concerned about how to embrace globalization for their products and services. My suggestion to Japanese innovators today would be to readapt the mindset of their constraints from local to global and design for the planet, not only for the Japanese society. Then we will see a renovated Japanese globalization.

As global citizens, we need to identify a code of conduct that can be applied in every culture around the world. For example, the Japanese nation learned 600 years ago that if you cut down your trees you would run out of water. This is a lesson that applies to all forests around the world and that needs to be learned by many nations that are still actively deforesting.

Another example is Costa Rica eliminating its military army since 1948. By 2010, the world spent more than US$1.6 trillion in military armament. That is sufficient money to cover all costs of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and all costs of Climate Change adaptation together more than ten times.

Last December, the Costa Rican President visited Japan to propose a bilateral green growth agenda relating to four main topics: renewable energies, economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity, biotechnology and climate change policy.

In renewable energies, Costa Rica already generates 95% of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, wind and biomass generation. Japan is setting the goal to increase by 5 times its renewable generation by 2020. This means growing from 6 gigawatts of installed capacity to 30 gigawatts in less than 10 years. This is equivalent to 8 times Costa Rica’s renewable energy installed capacity. Costa Rica’s proposal is that Japanese new technologies be experimented in Costa Rica, where there are abundant natural resources like sunlight, wind, volcanoes, and ocean water temperatures that allow ocean researching every day of the year without the risk of typhoons or the cold temperatures during the winter months.

In Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Costa Rica is a world pioneer in sustainable tourism. Millions of tourists visit the country to engage in activities that preserve the natural environment, promote growth and development of rural communities and offering bio-literacy to understand ecological principles. For example, whale-watching has become a very popular activity among tourists who visit Costa Rica to watch whales in their natural habitats breathing and breeding their offspring in the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica. It has been recently calculated that the whale-watching industry generates approximately US$31 million per year to Costa Rica, while preserving whales and their ecosystems.

Regarding biotechnology, Japan is a global power in biotechnological research and innovation of food and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and chemicals. The Nagoya Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity signed in Nagoya in October 2010 aims at sharing the benefits arising from genetic resources. Costa Rica has been identified as the richest hotspot in biodiversity density and it has been researching and classifying its biodiversity for more than 25 years. The natural resource we have for biotechnological research and innovation is enormous and we are seeking for strategic partners to develop and commercialize these natural resources.

Precisely, creating shared value is what Costa Rica intends. We see synergy as the interaction that generates mutual gains and we see it as a triple-win scenario in which Costa Rica, Japan and the world gain from it. So if we managed to bring Japanese researchers and technology to our forests and laboratories we could produce together innovation that serves humanity and at the same time preserves these forests that actually belong to the planet.

This kind of human development combined with economic growth while at the same time preserving, restoring and regenerating ecosystems and biodiversity is a way in which a bilateral green growth agenda between Costa Rica and Japan could represent a creative solution to some of our global conflicts.

Arigato gozaimasu!

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