Social Aspects of CCS in Japan – Fieldwork Weeks 1 and 2

The first two weeks in Japan have shot by and tomorrow I head to Tomakomai, which makes this a good time for reflection/update on how the first two weeks of ‘CCS in Japan’ fieldwork, funded via the UKCCSRC International Collaboration Fund, have gone.

This time two weeks ago I was about to enter Russian airspace. Ten hours later I was in a seminar room at National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). Giving the seminar. In Japanese. It somehow came to pass that I went straight from Narita Airport, having not slept, to Tsukuba City. There I met Masahiro Suzumura and Ayumi Tsukasaki, who I knew through their involvement in the QICS project and who had arranged for me to give a seminar to their group and colleagues at AIST.

Learning about geology at CRIEPI with Victor Bayfield (Hideshi Kaieda)
Learning about geology at CRIEPI

I made it through the 40 min talk and even managed to participate in the discussion afterwards, but the adrenalin wore off on the train into Tokyo and I struggled to make it to the hotel. My next memory is of 48 hours later, where I delivered a similar seminar at the Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry (or CRIEPI when it’s at home) – again arranged by a QICS contact in Hideshi Kaieda (or Victor Bayfield as he told me his name translates into English).

The purpose of visiting Tokyo was to connect with Japanese experts in CO2 storage to find out more about the risks and additional monitoring requirements for CCS in a country of high seismicity like Japan. I was also keen to get a broader picture of energy and climate in Japan, and as part of this spent a very interesting and informative morning at the Gunma Centre for Climate Change Action in Maebashi, and hour and a half train ride north-west of Tokyo. This is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to engage citizens on behaviours towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, closing the gap between large-scale rhetoric on energy and climate on one hand and what citizens can do in their everyday lives on the other.

Citizen engagement on climate change in Gunma
Citizen engagement on climate change in Gunma

With this being Japan the weekend was filled with activities too, as I met up with Midori Kawabe at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology to finish writing our next paper (and celebrate the acceptance of our most recent one with beer, wine, sake, shocchu, whisky…) and also sit in on the meeting to discuss the next steps of the seabed resources EIA programme I learned about back in March. Then it was onto the Shinkansen and across to Kyoto to start at my host institution – the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE).


Now, RITE is a fantastic place but there is just one problem. It takes me about five minutes to write its name in Japanese (which I need to do as my contact address when sending mail) – 地球環境産業技術研究機構. Chikyuukankyousangyougijutsukenkyuukikou. That aside, though, the CO2 Storage Group – especially my host Dr Jun Kita – have been so welcoming that it was about four days before I managed to go an evening without drinking alcohol. Since I arrived we’ve been flat-out planning the Tomakomai fieldwork, for which I’m going to have some support and accompaniment in the form of RITE researchers. This has been a steep learning curve all round as I am the only social scientist in the room, and apart from two marine monitoring people the rest of the group come from geological backgrounds. Nonetheless, I think we are getting there now – and while I am in Hokkaido it looks like there is going to be time to try out some (what we hope are) innovative methods that haven’t been deployed so much for CCS before. I’m also going to get round the island a bit and visit some other places with similar or analogous backgrounds to Tomakomai, again to get a feel for the context of CO2 storage in Hokkaido.

You know you've a lot to do when even the Japanese staff aren't in when you are...
You know you’ve a lot to do when even the Japanese staff aren’t in when you are…

And in the middle of all that, there’s our GB Sasakawa Foundation-supported workshop on consensus-based environmental governance – at which I’ll be presenting some of my thoughts on governance of CCS based on the Scottish experience and initial impressions from Japan. One day I will get to bed before midnight…


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