New Year’s Special Talk JAXA and JICA Join Hands in Global Challenges To Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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JAXA's No.67 (January 2017)

New Year's Special Talk
JAXA and JICA Join Hands in Global Challenges
To Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The movement is becoming active across the world to solve global issues such as climate change and global warming so as to realize sustainable development. In September, 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted “Transforming Our World:2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Japan, too, is making its own efforts for further economic growth and social affluence through initiatives such as Strategy for Revival of Japan, National Resilience and so on. The 2030 Agenda expects that all nations including developed countries like Japan will make their domestic and international efforts to cope with problems.

In response to this trend, Okumura, President of JAXA and Kitaoka, President of JICA discussed how JAXA and JICA could jointly contribute to solving global-scale problems.

Naoki Okumura
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Shinichi Kitaoka
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Okumura: JICA and JAXA signed the partnership and collaboration agreement in April, 2014 with the purpose to contribute to solving global-scale issues by taking the advantage of their respective strengths. In September, 2015, after the JICA/JAXA partnership started, the UN adopted “Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).” I would like to discuss with you how we can promote our partnership in this major global trend.

Kitaoka: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to take over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were established in 2001. By 2015, the final year of the initiative, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were achieved in China, India and several other countries through outstanding economic growth and/or poverty reduction. Meanwhile, some regions, Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, could not achieve their goals as expected. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are based on assessment and review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With finer details, broader ranges, and new approaches, the SDGs set out seventeen (17) goals.

Okumura: When I read through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), my intuition was that we could contribute to all the 17 goals through space. Through earth observation by satellites, we can compare broadly and objectively the observed data of countries and regions across borders. Furthermore, thanks to the advancement of observation technologies, improvement in spatial resolution of sensors, and faster transmission of observation data, it becomes possible for us to directly support the government’s quick decision-making and actions.

JAXA has acquired huge observation data by watching the earth from outer space so that we can contribute to solving problems on the ground. We came up with an idea that, through partnership with JICA which is addressing a number of problems on the ground, it must become possible for JAXA to utilize such data for problem resolution more than ever. Thus, we singed the partnership and collaboration agreement in 2014.

Under the Basic Space Law, JAXA is defined as "a core organization that provides technical support for the entire governmental development and utilization in space projects." Moreover, the Law mentions the necessity that space system, such as satellites, should be utilized to serve to settle the global-scale problems including climate change, environmental issues, and food problems. From the aspect of utilization of space systems for various issues occurring on the earth, I believe that the partnership with JICA would help quicker utilization of our capacity in the society.

Kitaoka: JICA, as an implementation agency of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), is supporting progress of developing countries through assisting them to solve various problems that they face. Our specific cooperation modalities include grants, loan aid, technical cooperation as well as volunteer programs such as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. We also have Japan Disaster Relief Team dispatch to disaster-stricken areas. Among international cooperation agencies, JICA is unique in that it provides such comprehensive modalities.
Japanese supporters' sincere and devoted manner at worksite overseas is highly appreciated worldwide. If we unite JAXA's technical capability with JICA's performance and clients’ confidence that have been built so far, we would have a big appeal power over people and governments of countries and regions which we will be going to support.

JAXA and JICA Join Hands in Global Challenges

Seventeen (17) Goals to Transform Our World

  1. 1. No Poverty
  2. 2. Zero Hunger
  3. 3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. 4. Quality Education
  5. 5. Gender Equality
  6. 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  8. 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  9. 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  10. 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  11. 10. Reduced Inequalities
  12. 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  13. 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  14. 13. Climate Action
  15. 14. Life Below Water
  16. 15. Life on Land
  17. 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  18. 17. Partnerships for the Goals

【SDGs】Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals. In September, 2015 at the “United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit” held at the UN headquarters, the “Transforming Our World:2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was adopted. In addition to the declaration, the Agenda sets out 17 goals and 169 targets as a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity.

Okumura: One of ODA cases related to space is an earth observation satellite of Vietnam. The project is to answer the Vietnamese Government’s request for disaster-prevention measures, etc. This is a large-scale project which includes from procurement of the satellite to construction of ground facilities.

Kitaoka: Yes. Feature of Japan’s ODA is our policy that we review together with local recipients on an equal footing as counter-parts on “what is the most helpful” for aid receiving country. With no haughty attitude, we discuss with aid-recipients from an equal standpoint, understanding and caring about them. I believe that is why we are trusted.

Okumura: JICA people blend in with various local communities around the world. They talk directly to the local people on an equal basis, so they understand accurately what the community there suffers from. I believe, if such JICA’s merit and JAXA’s technological capability combine into one, we can deliver useful information more timely and adequately to local communities.

Contribution to Solving Global-Scale Issues by Utilizing Data from Earth Observation Satellites

Okumura: One of the projects under the partnership with JICA is “JJ-FAST,” tropical forests monitoring system utilizing the Advanced Land Observing Satellite “ALOS-2 (Daichi-2).” This is based on the successful project in Brazil utilizing ALOS, predecessor of ALOS-2, whose forest monitoring system helped to reduce the Amazonian deforestation area by detecting illegal logging. With JJ-FAST, we are trying to release forest changing information of about 60 countries with the tropical forests by 2018.

【Detection of Illegal Logging by Forest Monitoring in Brazil】

Project on deforestation monitoring in Brazil, jointly implemented by JICA and JAXA from 2009 to 2012.

With the technical cooperation by JICA, JAXA provided the near real-time support of monitoring and detecting illegal logging using the observation data from JAXA’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite “ALOS (Daichi).” This resulted in reducing the illegal logging to less than half by detecting more than 2,000 illegal loggings and also significantly contributing to lessening deforestation area by 40%.

Kitaoka: JJ-FAST service began in Novembers, 2016 while COP 22 conference was held. We plan to expand gradually our service area started with Latin America to Africa and Asia. We expect that the monitoring of tropical forests would significantly contribute to inhibition of and measures against illegal logging or degradation of tropical forests that can accelerate climate change.

Further, I believe that potential contribution of services using satellite data is significant, for instance, to malaria prevention and monitoring of illegal fisheries.

Okumura: One of successful cases of earth observation from space is “Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite “GOSAT (Ibuki).” In cooperation with National Institute for Environmental Studies, Ministry of Environment, JAXA is measuring concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) using the data from Ibuki. The result showed that the observation data from Ibuki almost correspond with the inventory surveyed on the ground. This means that we can estimate the ground concentration of greenhouse gases from space with high accuracy. This suggests the possibility that we can use this as a policy decision tool applicable for CO2 emission monitoring, etc. not only in Japan but other countries.

We are now developing GOSAT-2, the follow-on satellite of Ibuki. With improved precision of observation, GOSAT-2 is scheduled to be launched in FY 2018. We intend to enhance function to intensively and selectively observe any specific area, which allows us to look into in more detail how much big cities emit greenhouse gases.

Kitaoka: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused mainly on the poverty issue. It still remains a critical issue, but one of the issues currently becoming prominent in rapidly-growing emergent countries is urban problems caused by the concentration of population in large cities. These countries suffer serious traffic congestion and air pollution due to lack of infrastructure and rapid motorization. We have high expectations for GOSAT-2 that can perform high-precision observation of greenhouse gas emissions from the densely populated areas or industrial areas.

Okumura: Thank you for your encouragement.

JICA and JAXA Join Hands in Global Challenges

Aiming to Solve Issues through Encouraging Human Resource Development and Promoting Private Sector Participation

Kitaoka: Utilization of outer space and space technology needs creation of an environment for multinational cooperation which is comprised not only of such aerospace pioneers as USA and Russia but also of various countries including emerging and developing countries. To this end, human resource development is critical.

Let me take an example. In JICA’s cartography support to developing countries, JICA focuses on teaching them technical know-how necessary for creating maps instead of giving them ready-made maps. It is important for developing countries to build capacity to produce maps by themselves in the future even if it takes time.

Okumura: Since we believe that it is critical to develop human resources with technical background, JAXA is emphasizing the fields related to space and aeronautics in our human resource development activity.

In April, 2016, we released “DIWATA-1,” a small satellite developed for the first time in the Philippines, from the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the International Space Station (ISS). The satellite was developed by Philippine students and researchers invited to Japan under the support of Japanese national universities. Philippine people could have an opportunity of hands-on development and operation of satellite. This initiative served as an opportunity of human resource development to lead the space technology and development of the Philippines in the future. JAXA is the only Asian agency involved in ISS program, so we spare no effort in contributing to human resource development in the neighboring nations.

Meanwhile, from the aspect of increasing human resources having interests in and understanding technology, we think that it is important to promote the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through space as subject matter. To this end, we are supporting relevant lectures and events.

Kitaoka: Utilization of space is not exclusive to superpowers or professional institutions. I hope that more people will have interests in this field. If we can remove entry barriers by using ultra-small satellites possible to produce at relatively lower development cost, expand human resource development, and accomplish innovation jointly with private companies, it will become possible to observe fields unexplored before and facilitate resolution of global-scale problems.

Okumura: In Japan, legalization is in progress to create an environment for private companies to actively enter the space field. In November, 2016, two laws, the Space Activities Act and the Satellite Remote-Sensing Act, had been passed for the purpose of facilitating the entry of private companies into space industry. Now I feel that Japan has entered its space utilization era both in name and reality. In fact, the new generation private companies have, in great numbers, entered the space business. Such new businesses include a service provider engaging in frequent supply of earth observation images using many ultra-small satellites. There is also an entrepreneur trying to commercialize lunar surface resource development.

As the DIWATA-1 has proven, space is no longer for limited people. In view of technologies and information which are now available, space has already become familiar to all humankind. I hope that space technology will continue to become easier to use and more popular in the future. Then, the space utilization will expand its chances to developing counties and more people will benefit from it. I hope that JICA will continue to provide its supports to us.

Kitaoka: In terms of utilization of the information from space, I guess that there is still a huge unexplored area that we can call the “frontier.” I expect that, gathering all the wisdom JICA has, we would step forward to solve issues to accomplish the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” together with JAXA. I am looking forward to working further with you.

Okumura: Thank you for sparing your precious time today.

[Apr. 3, 2017]