2021 New Year's Greeting
January 1, 2021
Happy New Year.
Last year the novel coronavirus caused Japan’s economy to slump, forcing unavoidable structural change upon our society. We are still in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and Japan’s comparatively tardy digital transformation (DX) has speeded up, while moves toward business portfolio transformation (PX) have also started to gain pace within industrial circles. What is required of us now is not simply to sit tight and endure the pandemic, but to demonstrate the fortitude to use this as an opportunity for transforming ourselves.
The economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus crisis temporarily reduced CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, however, the volume of the reduction was extremely limited, and given that it remains close to the target pledged under the Paris Agreement, it has become clear that generation of new innovations to counter global warming, including carbon recycling, will be essential. We need to create a carbon recycling society that uses CO2 as a resource. In a policy speech, Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, announced that Japan would be carbon neutral by 2050. This year will probably witness a more striking movement in this direction on the part of both the public and private sectors, making 2021 the "first year of the carbon neutral era."
However, global warming is not the only worldwide challenge requiring a solution. Another pressing challenge is the development of a worldwide system for reusing all substances, including nitrogen and carbon, in line with scientific evidence. The system would rely primarily on recycling plastic waste, water, and food, as well as secondary batteries, the recycling of which is regarded as a certainty in the near future. I believe that earning the public’s understanding and acceptance by showing numerically the social value generated by the sustainability this system creates will be an important step toward establishing a new form of stakeholder-oriented capitalism that differs from a simple emphasis on efficiency and profits.
In resolving these challenges, broad engineering knowledge will be indispensable. The Engineering Academy of Japan (EAJ) comprises a group of experts who possess a wide range of knowledge in all areas of engineering; I am convinced that we can contribute substantially to providing solutions by pooling the wisdom of our diverse membership.
At the same time, if we look ahead to the technological singularity, which it is said could potentially arrive by 2045, we also probably need to further accelerate the integration of arts and sciences. Moreover, during the current coronavirus crisis, our attention has frequently been drawn to the relationship between science and politics. In Japan, unfortunately, collaboration between science and politics could not be described as functioning well. The scientific literacy of politicians and the Japanese public needs to be improved, while improvement of scientists’ political literacy is also essential. Last year, EAJ launched the Co-creation Committee of Public Policies; activities to encourage dialogue between scientists and politicians have now started, and we have high hopes with regard to these activities.
It is precisely because this is an era of upheaval in many areas including DX, the environment, and the pandemic, that EAJ needs to communicate its policy proposals and accelerate their implementation within society. One could say that engineering the future for human security and well-being is now needed more than ever.
In closing, I would like to wish all EAJ members continued health and success during the year to come.