EIE’s Japan Symposium: Addressing climate change

Google Earth
Feb 18 · 4 min read

By Tomomi Matsuoka, Program Manager, Earth Outreach

Nicole Lombardo speaking at the Environmental Insights Explorer Japan Symposium

Japan’s major cities have a vision for conserving local resources and improving sustainability — such as its Circular and Ecological Economy plan, which calls for creating local “green economies.” Carrying out these programs requires data to help environmental leaders envision the impact of their programs and plan for the future. At last month’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) Japan symposium, hosted by Google Earth Outreach and Google Japan team, we highlighted the insights EIE provides to Japanese cities.

It was exciting to hear about the value of EIE’s insights for cities’ climate change and sustainability projects. EIE analyzes Google Maps data to provide rich insights into our surroundings, and pairs this information with third-party data and standard greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions factors. In this way, cities can derive carbon estimates and reduction potential for their programs. Speakers from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, as well as the city governments of Kyoto and Yokohama and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, shared ideas on using EIE to build confidence in sustainability programs and goals.

Japan’s climate priorities and EIE city actions

The Japan symposium was kicked off by Google Japan country manager Peter Fitzgerald, who talked about EIE’s Japan coverage expansion. EIE just published data for Matsuyama, Odawara, Saitama, Shibuya, and Yokohama.

Hiroshi Kamagata, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of the Environment, joined us in sharing the vision and policies for achieving the GHG reduction as a country, including the Circular and Ecological Economy plan, where he showed appreciation for our technology as a way to support local cities.

Hiroshi Kamagata, Japan’s Vice-Minister of the Ministry of the Environment

Kamagata was very positive about the future of EIE in Japan. “I expect EIE will be used widely in education, research, administration, and commercial projects in the area of the environment and energy, enhancing the public’s understanding of climate change and building a carbon-free society,” he said.

To highlight some of the ways Google’s technologies are supporting national and subnational climate action planning, Nicole Lombardo, who leads partnerships for Google’s EIE team, gave a deep dive on the city data and methodologies used to help measure, plan, act, and track city-wide emissions.

Plans for GHG reduction

To offer more details about EIE’s impact on cities, Takeshi Shimotsuma, Supervising Director of Global Environment and Energy Policy for the City of Kyoto (the birthplace of both the Kyoto Protocol and the IPCC Kyoto Guideline supporting the Paris agreement’s implementation), talked about the city’s policy, plan, and achievements for GHG reduction. Shimotsuma also shared how the city is actually using EIE to inform action-planning around future solar initiatives — an important strategy for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In addition, Seita Emori, an environmental scientist with the National Institute for Environmental Studies, explained the current status of global warming, and how scientists think the warming trend will play out in the future. His videos, showing a simulation of temperature change, were a powerful reminder of the threats posed to the planet if we don’t take action against climate change.

Seita Emori shows a simulation of the earth’s temperature should we not take action against climate change [left] | Emori explains how sustainable development goals can prevent global warming [right].

Later in the symposium, Emori moderated a panel discussion with representatives from the Ministry of the Environment, Yokohama, Google, and the Tokyu Land Corporation, which just announced the establishment of Renewable Energy Association for Sustainable Power supply (REASP). The participants talked about each sector’s role in combating climate change, and how EIE can accelerate each initiative.

Networking and next steps

With the deep dive into EIE over, speakers turned to the next steps — including networking with other city officials and scientists. “I talked with other municipalities about the idea that we should accelerate the discussion on how to use EIE,” said a city officer from Odawara. “We’re thinking about ways to develop a community.”

During networking, people from different sectors exchanged ideas. Masami Jenkins from TEPCO Ventures, which started Suncle using Google Project Sunroof [left] | Takeshi Shimotsuma from Kyoto City and Hirofumi Aizawa from the Ministry of the Environment [right].

The buzz from other attendees was just as positive: “I felt the great possibility that we can combat global warming positively,” one person told us. “I’ll share the importance of EIE with my colleagues.”

On the EIE team, we have our own list of to-do’s for helping share the value of the tool with other Japanese cities, along with plans to expand EIE to more cities in the Asia-Pacific region and round the world. We’ll keep the EIE community updated on new developments.

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