Naoko Ishii is a professor, executive vice president and Director of the Center for Global Commons at the University of Tokyo since August 2020. The Center for Global Commons has the mission of putting academia at the forefront of achieving sustainable development
From 2012 to 2020, Dr Naoko Ishii was CEO and chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF is a grant providing organisation with a focus on environmental initiatives. She played a key role in producing the organisation’s first long-term and mid-term strategies. During her time in office, she managed to secure more than $4 billion in funding for the GEF.
Naoko Ishii was Deputy Vice Minister of Finance from 2010 to 2012, - after a long career in finance – both domestic and international: she spent a large part of her career at the World Bank (Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives between 2006 and 2010, program coordinator for Vietnam between 1997 2001) and the International Monetary Fund.
Naoko Ishi holds a BA in economics and a PhD in international development, both from the University of Tokyo. She is the author of a number of papers and award-winning books – she received the Suntory Prize in 1990 and Okita Memorial Prize for International Development Research in 2004. She is the recipient of the 2006 Enjoji Jiro Memorial Prize.
Center for Global Commons
Report on the pilot version of the Global Commons Stewardship Index
Naoko Ishii’s Ted Talk: An economic case for protecting the planet (September 2017)
The University of Tokyo is reminding the world to save our planet (March 2021)
Positive Analysis for Long-Term Economic Development, Nikkei Publishing Inc. (2003)
Click here for Edited Highlights
Michael Liebreich: Before we get started, please remember to like or subscribe to this video or podcast. It really helps others to find Cleaning Up. Cleaning Up is brought to you by Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, my name is Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Naoko Ishii. For eight years until 2020, she was CEO and chair of the Global Environment Facility of the UN. She is now a professor and the inaugural Director of the Center for the Global Commons at the University of Tokyo. Please welcome to Cleaning Up Naoko Ishii. So, Naoko, welcome to Cleaning Up. Tell me, during this terrible pandemic, where have you been? And how has it been? How have you have you spent your time?
Naoko Ishii: Actually, I did make my physical move from Washington DC, where I served for the GEF, Global Environment Facility for eight years, back to Tokyo, Japan. So it's really the physical and of course the professional move. But I learned a lot during that phase, because how the lockdown works in Washington DC, and how it works in Japan is actually totally, totally different. Culture is different and the government behavior is different, actually, the citizens acceptance is different. So it's really an interesting experience. And now, since last August, I have been in Tokyo and working for university. And this is also another very different place. I've never been an academic and the space and that the first time in my 40 years of working experienced now I am an academic. And that is different.
ML: So that's been a pretty big year or 18 months for you to. Let’s come back to your role in academia, your role as a professor in University of Tokyo. But let's go back to the Global Environment Facility, because just to fill you in, our audience are generally quite knowledgeable about net zero, and the transition and clean energy and climate and maybe even about the workings of the UN. But I'll bet you that there's a lot of them that don't know about the Global Environment Facility. So perhaps we should start there. And you explain what it is, because you led it for eight full years.
NI: Yeah, thank you actually, the Global Environment Facility or GEF was established in 1991. Since the eve of Rio. The first Earth Summit in Rio, and it was in 1992, and that is a time when that climate change convention, biodiversity convention, and a little later that desertification convention were reached. The GEF was created to help developing countries to meet the obligation are coming out of those three conventions. So and it is already almost 30 years in operation. And my role as a CEO is basically to raise funds from donor countries. And that's about one billion per year. And come up with a program, distribute it around the program to that then 150 developing countries and to monitor it and report it to the Board. And to basically make sure that those three conventions plus also other conventions are kind of met. However, for the last 30 years, not only my eight years, it become abundantly clear that those mechanism actually didn't work. You can see what happened in the climate change. Every year, we get the hotter, hotter air. And in terms of biodiversity, we are losing the biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. And of course the desertification is ongoing. So we are basically not able to stop this environmental, global environmental crisis in any way. So that is my eight years. And yeah, but that's where we met actually. Yeah.
ML: That's a pretty stark picture that you paint there because I would suggest that you had a very successful eight years. But what you're saying is, ‘no, completely failed’. We failed to, you know, we failed to stop the rot on all of these issues. And therefore that your time, you're sort of saying that you feel like you failed in your eight years. I think you're being a little harsh on yourself, no? I mean, your eight years were 2012 through to 2020. So you saw you, I mean, on the climate front, you saw Copenhagen, and then you saw Paris, and then you saw right the way through till, not quite to Glasgow, COP26, but, you know, past Paris, you saw the impact that that was having with all these net zero pledges. So, you know, are you being fair by saying that it's just a complete failure?
NI: I’m not saying I am failing or GEF is failing, I'm saying this entire system is failing, mechanics is failing. And that may be fairer, more objective point. And thank you, Michael, for kindly recognizing my eight years. And actually, I did my very best to try to transform this small institution, GEF to be up to the expectation. So actually the GEF, in its operation, the 30 years, is really doing a lot of things, but when I assumed that job in 2012, maybe we already have 1000 or 2000 projects, and maybe 10 billion that had been distributed in US dollars, and then a lot of good experience here and there. But the first question I get asked when I landed at the GEF was all of those thousands of projects, really do they catalyze a systemic change which we need? And the answer is, unfortunately, not exactly, because every project has its own good thing. But we are not clearly able to bring those small projects, which are kind of fragmented all over the world and all over the sector, to one systemic change, either to the decarbonisation of the energy system, or to transform the food system, or to change the design of the cities.
So that there was a lot of good, reasonably successful projects all over the world, but not really able to bring them together as a catalyst for that change. And that was what I was trying to do for eight years, to really work with the people like you, that is like stakeholders, significant influencers and stakeholders to find a way that how this small pot of money or the GEF to catalyze a much bigger systemic change, the impact we need to do and what I think I tried, is to come up with more like a coalition among the stakeholders.
It's not only the government or environmental ministries, but much broader ministries in the government side, but also the local government, because a lot of the decisions are actually taken at the local level, particularly at the city space and also the private sector. The private sector, at the end of the day, they make a lot of decisions, the investment decisions, the production and consumption decisions. Then citizens: so how we can create that kind of multi stakeholder platform, that's something I have been doing for eight years. And on that front, if I may say, I think I did my best, I transformed the GEF a little bit. But then if we just are going to be very objective by numbers, we were not really able to stop that climate change, biodiversity loss. And that is the challenge, not just the GEF but it's entire intergovernmental: UN and also MDBs, the Bretton Woods system how we can really transform those intergovernmental system to arrest those and global environmental challenge.
ML: Right, so it’s a tremendous vision - to go from, essentially individual grants to being a catalyst, sitting at the center of the financial system. Let's just go take one step back, though, and look at the mechanics of the GEF. How does it actually work? Because you have these kind two four-year periods where you have to go and raise money, and then you apply money, but it's in a very specific way, working with the host countries of the various projects. And I'm very aware of these four-year cycles. Because, you know, you used to sort of appear and be, you know, talking in the same conferences and talking to the same people, and you were clearly in fundraising mode, and then after that you would disappear for a few years, I suspect doing your proper job, which was putting the money to work and actually doing the work of the Global Environment Facility. So, talk to us about that sort of four-year cycle and how do you work with the host countries?
NI: Yeah, no, actually, you have such a very precise observation and smart observation. Yes, it's a four-year cycle and during this fundraising mode what we do is to come up with a strategy and post that with the government and check that if it is kind of acceptable or not acceptable, then we go for fundraising. So this takes about actually two years from beginning to end, then as you said, after two years, and then once we get the money, and then everything is agreed, we go for the operations. But of course, even during the fundraising time that operation is ongoing, because project will not stop. But my appearance is what I go from capital cities for fundraising and the source of funds into operations in the villages in developing countries, there is quite a change of my own, kind of physical appearance.
ML: And the amount, just to get an idea of the quantum, you said it's about a billion dollars per year, that is that's being dispensed. And so this is, then this is being collected as, being a put together from the various donor nations. And then you get a then you close the fundraising with 4 or 5 billion, and then you have a few years to put that to work. And of course, nothing just stops, you know, that funding goes… continues throughout the cycle, but then you have to go out and look for another to replenish the funds, correct?
NI: That is absolutely correct. And actually, this side, the fundraising, it's not just fundraising, this is really a very serious consultation, about what we at GEF think we should do or they should do. And then from their side, what they expect us to do and also what they think themselves have to do.
It is really a process of exchange the opinions and deep consultation sometimes a very a heated discussion. And to come up with a kind of agreed project, or the program. What I really did for the last eight years is to shift from individual projects to a much more systematic, holistic program. So, for instance, that so we call it from individual project to as much a holistic program mode.
That last four year cycle, what I really did is that the three major programs: food system, how to transform the food system, then the second one is how to transform the cities, not the central government, but then how to transform the city space. That's the second one. The third one is how we can kind of come up with a better vision about the big biomes, like an Amazon, or Congo Basin, and all of them really need a multi-stakeholder approach we just spoke. So that is a significant change from much more individual recommended, the smaller scale that project which are usually agreed in Ministry of Environment. To us, a coalition to fix the private sector is actually central.
ML: Okay. But that's quite challenging, because all of your grants, all of the actual funds that flow have to be requested by a recipient country. So, you can be as deterministic as programmatic as you want, but you have to also persuade the recipient countries, is that not right? All of your money is sort of divided into buckets that are available for countries, but they then have to draw it down by requesting for certain projects, is that right?
NI: That is quite right. It requires a lot of heated debate and discussion that then either we introduce a bit of the incentive pot of money so that I mentioned those three big programs, and we even create this incentive pot of money if the country apply for that, either each of three projects, they give them extra money to go for. To me it was more useful money, because before that, money allocated to each of countries, more like taken for granted, it’s their right. They don't have to fight for that, so it’s a quite a sea change. But I try to convince them that this is not really my money, this is the taxpayers money who expect that a much higher impact from $1. So it's not really your money. It's global environmental citizens money, who rightly expect a much higher impact, so that is the logic…
ML: For a lot of recipient countries now this is the only funding that their environment ministry might get. So they've got to do everything from ranges in national parks to remediation and cleanup of chemical spills to absolutely everything and you're the only… the Global Environment Facility was one of the only places they could go for funding, is that correct?
NI: That is quite correct. That’s what I have been hearing quite often from environmental ministers: ‘you are the only source of money and you are now taking this from me’ kind of a statement. And then we try to be really professional about it and sometimes we need to really understand that if they lose that pot of money, and if something is really bad and serious happened to their protected areas, of course, we do listen to them.
But then if there is a kind of room for better impacts and higher impacts and higher impact as a catalyst, we try to really convince them. And also, as you already pointed out, that this money is going more from environmental ministers pot of money to us other ministers, like the labor minister, or the energy minister, the transport ministers and the recycling, those ministers do have a lot of resources, why you need more money to them.
So always I try to go back to my logic, that we really need to seek the higher the impact with this grant money. And because if you look at the global environmental crisis, this is something we have to stop now.
ML: It's really fascinating, because you're so much on the frontline of, in a sense, the difficult discussions. So first of all, a billion a year sounds like a lot, but you I don't know how many recipient countries you had, but probably over 100, I'm guessing….
ML: So it's actually a tiny amount of money, given the scale of the change that's required in the economy and in society in those countries. So you've got a tiny amount of money. And the priorities of the donors are all about systemic, large scale, planetary boundaries. And the priorities of the recipient countries might be not about the environment at all. Or if they are, they're probably about very local issues. And that's the space that you've been having to negotiate.
NI: That is quite right, really right. And, on the developing countries, recipient country side, it's more like my own small but important projects, or local projects, but why you need the systemic change can do this.
And also the donor side, this is also not that unified or united. Some progressive countries really push the systemic change transformation than a more holistic approach. Versus, I love much more concrete projects because it's easy to get money from congress or the parliament. Let’s not do so much complex, complicated project, they chose to focus on more traditional business as usual, because it's also okay… So the donor side are not really unified at all, there is a diverse view about it.
ML: One of the real challenges that we've got, as we think about net zero and obviously you were worrying about biodiversity and lots of other issues as well, not just climate and so on. But if we look at net zero, one of the real challenges, is how do you expect countries like I'm thinking of Mozambique or Indonesia, or maybe Ecuador, you know, countries that have got very substantial natural resources that they want to exploit. How can we ensure that we don't sort of end up with Europe, maybe North America, Canada, Japan, South Korea, doing the right thing, being all net zero, but actually these other very substantial and rapidly growing countries, just exploiting their own resources, as they have every right to do, but doing it in such a way that is breaching the planetary budgets and the planetary boundaries?
NI: You raise two distinctively different and important points, right? The one is more like a carbon versus natural capital, dimension. One is like some developing countries in South East Asia sitting on coal and then why don't I exploit this coal possibility to develop so that's my area. The second one that you also incorporated into your question is natural capital versus more like a carbon kind of thing. So that because most of the discussions so far at the political space is concentrated on decarbonization, where the energy sector to a transformation rather than how to do this and natural capital in the agriculture space or the other space, so I think that the you very nicely bring those together. So I wonder how I could at least…
In in terms of this much politically tricky issue: I’m sitting on the cheap coal, will have the opportunity, actually the right to exploit it because I'm developing country and the EU, US those countries already exploited the carbon budget, this is my time to do it. And then I do understand that logic, the problem is there is only one carbon budget… we need to find a way to how to allocate that carbon budget between North, who kind of used a lot, but the South, now are coming, and now they're developing.
So this is really that the now where I think that that the COP Glasgow COP and whole world really have to address it. So that the net zero as a whole and by the reasonable time, mid-century, but there must be a good discussion that the how that carbon budget be allocated among the developed and the developing, and everybody… I see actually the quite a political risk of is the division of the North and South, will really, really undermine what we are trying to do as a globe, as a planet.
So I think this political affair is extremely important that we shouldn't really close eyes on that. And particularly for us, Japanese, we have a lot of business, and business partners in South East Asia, who are sitting on coal, how we can really not only clean up our own land, but also how we can bring them together, work with us, not necessarily in precisely the same year, but then in the same direction and that kind of international cooperation mechanism, we can help actually then provide is one thing we need to do.
To your second point about natural capital. I think this is another very big discussion, because some of those countries also including Africa, are trying to utilize this natural capital as the foundation for development. But at the same time, these are also the ones who do understand the value of their natural capital, and how to effectively, sustainably use those natural capital. So it's really more on the our developed country side to find a way to price, collectively, not price, maybe value collectively of those natural capital, and how our production consumption system put, recognized and respected the value of the natural capital.
When I think about what we eat every day, we actually use a lot of eating, a lot of biodiversity coming from South East Asia, because then the our food in Japan, 60% of the food is actually imported, so that the food, processed food, this importation, we have actually that, we are also that adding a lot to the carbon footprint and environmental loss and through our diet. And it's very important for us to understand where these are not carbon footprint, but also biodiversity, loss the water and that the land are kind of devastated throughout that value chain. And it is really our duty to first understand it, find a way to recognize it, and transform the food system so that we can actually help them actually protect and effectively utilize the natural capital.
ML: And that's a great segue into perhaps talking about your current role, because you're the inaugural director of the Center for the Global Commons at Tokyo University. So, are you now lecturing? Are you researching? What are you doing? Because you've gone on this journey from as you say, individual projects to understanding that essentially, you can do lots of good but you can't really solve the problem. So we failed, where you started our conversation, being very harsh on yourself. And now you're working on the whole system as the global commons but how are you addressing it? How are you personally working on it?
NI: Actually I'm really lucky enough to have the president of Tokyo University, who more like shared that dream of that the university should play a role of catalyzing social change. And he is, by the way, not an environmentalist or the economist he is actually a physicist. So then it's almost funny that the I'm more like a practitioner, an economist and the President of the University who is physicist, but more or less think along the same way that we, University should play a role of catalyzing the social change and to catalyze the social change University shouldn't be seated in the campus. We have to really go outside the campus to really bring the business people prove that government people in terms of policy, and then the citizens in terms of either consumer or the investor and together to create a platform.
And of course, our contribution, the University contribution should be more like research or the intellectual leader. But then we are also trusted as a natural, maybe authentic or neutral, neutral player to bring those different stakeholders together. So that the dream is big. We try to come up with a bit of that, that rigorous academic framework. We work with Johan Rockström, as you know, in the Potsdam Institute, in terms of scenario modeling, how to achieve the net zero, actually not net zero, a sustainability within the planetary boundaries by 2050. The entire economic system so that the food system, the city system, or industrial system, so it's a big system modeling, but we also work with WRI, Andrew Steer - now he's changing job actually. How to transform the systemic change on the ground, how to create a platform with multi-stakeholders. So that and then that other players like an SDS also came in, as an index of how to measure the progress towards a systemic change.
So there are quite a number of players at the international space. And then I really try to bring them together to come up with a more consistent and holistic instrument from University point of view. But another important role would be you can utilize that too, towards mobilizing system change, so that we come up with an estimate business sector. And then that to do actual examples, we already announcing that it's a chemical company. And the chemical is really hard to abate sector. And they are quite interested in the role of a chemical industry, to us that 2050 is not that easy to see their role, because it's so hard to abate. But then because that is a material, the basic material, if they are able to achieve a lot, they can have a lot of influence down the system or down the value chain. So that is actually one project or program we have just established. So it's just one example, that then how we can utilize those academic and research to mobilize the social change.
ML: So it's very interesting, because I have described what we're seeing emerging through the Paris Agreement, through all the net zero, sustainable finance, we're seeing central banks, the Network for Greening of the Financial Sector. We're seeing the emergence of what I've called the kind of Bretton Woods for the planet. That's a whole set of institutions. And of course, you know, you started your career at the IMF and then the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. So you're very familiar with the old Bretton Woods, do you agree that that's kind of… is that is that how you sort of see it that you now you've got, within the university environment, the opportunity to kind of help develop the new Bretton Woods?
NI: Yeah, I hope they are quick enough to catch up with reality. It's actually really good to see that now our central banks are also changing their view or attitude, it used to be Oh, the central bank is neutral, climate change is nothing about them, too bad that they are responsible for system change, because then financial system stability, because of the risks. Now I think that that they are also going a little bit ahead of that, try to seek the opportunity side, leading systemic change. So, welcome it but of course, there is a lot of struggle. And, in fact, so I agree with your observation, and I support it, I embrace it.
But the reason I established this Center for Global Commons is that I see some kind of limitation of this inter-governmental system, because it's more like government and government, national government, not even necessarily even local government, that make some kind of agreement and that's right to do a kind of business among themselves. But as you agreed, I guess that then what we really need to see is that total system transformation, we really believe that everybody from business to consumers and investors, how that this new Bretton Woods can really do their job to bring everybody together and actually make some differences.
ML: But, I would… let me let me challenge you or come at you on one front, which is you've called it Center for the Global Commons, right. And this is very much this draws on the terminology, initially from Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”, right? And the response always to the tragedy of the commons is, well, you need supra-commons, you need a level of regulation above the commons that allocates resources and keeps everybody in line and polices that.
And I have an issue with that, apart from the fact that Garrett Hardin was a eugenicist and a thoroughly nasty piece of work, which everybody forgets when they talk about the global commons. Everybody thinks that it was sort of some wonderful Kumbaya moment, it wasn't. What he was actually concerned with, was the Global South pushing for more resources and that had to be stopped somehow.
But there is another model, because I, I prefer the tradition coming out of, you know, Elinor Ostrom and Robert Axelrod, where evolution of cooperation, where there's, you know, not top-down governance of the commons. But we think about the ways in which everybody's interests can align, I don't want to say naturally or automatically, because I think you have to work very hard at it. But through property rights, through clarifying incentives, making sure that people understand what they can and can't control that you end up with better outcomes, the commons get managed well. And I would argue that when you look at things like the Paris Agreement, it's much more Elinor Ostrom than it is Garrett Hardin.
NI: That’s right, Michael, you have already described the mission of the Center for Global Commons! Actually I have chosen that name knowing that if we really don't do anything, that then commons is subject to the tragedy, and because that's a human nature, but as you already mentioned, Elinor Ostrom really has shown us that within the community, within the local community, who really does under who do understand who are the other members of the community. And they also do understand that the, either that tradeoff, and they do share this and the same interest, if we are all cooperating together, than the outcome would be better off. So and then that either explicitly or implicitly, if they come up with a rule or a social norm, or the code, and even they have a penalty that if somebody breached it, so that this is a local community, a commons rule works, and that that is my cooperative rule.
But the challenge is that when our economy has been globalized. And we really don't see this connection with my own deeds, and the consequences either today, tomorrow, or later, actually, these are the consequences somewhere else, so that we lost that kind of connection of my own deed, and then then the consequences of the community. So my point, I named the center as a Center for Global Commons, the objective, or our dream, is that how we can really learn, well actually that the model, whether we can bring something that local community, come up with at the global level, and as you just said, we need a lot of work, but first we need to understand that there is a consequences of my own deed, and then that somewhere in the global environment, or somewhere else, but it will come back to us later.
So that the how we do understand this connection or the logic, that's how we can create a sense of belonging. And then as a local community, there is a sense of belonging. So that's why it's much easier for them to restrict rule either with penalty or without penalty, but we really don't have this penalty kind of thing. Luckily, we don't have a global government. We have some treaties, but then we don't have global government. So the how we could come up with this understanding than , and also the sense of belonging, and some kind of either explicit or is implicit the Code of Conduct kind of thing.
And that, to me, that's why I'm so passionate about multi-stakeholder coalitions, this is one way to manage the global commons and not this entirely, but sometime it's about stopping the deforestation of the tropical forests. Sometime it's more economic promoting renewable energy in that space. So either along the value chain or within the sector, if you are able to find that kind of, you know, this is a community who share the idea of commons and we may be able to come up with some kind of the global governing mechanism of the global commons.
ML: That’s a great explanation. We keep coming back to the global commons, the commons idea, but you mentioned something very important, which is penalties. And that's why I'm very attracted to the thinking of Robert Axelrod, the evolution of cooperation. And I'm not sure if it really bears, if anybody out there listening has not read it. It's a fantastic book and a story about, you know, how do you get out of prisoners dilemmas and if they have played repetitively, I love the simplicity of the formula: nice, retaliatory, forgiving and clear.
And if you can get people to understand that they were in a… if they are… if there is a prisoner's dilemma or a global commons challenge, but if it's repeated, we're going to be playing this over decades and decades, if we can construct environments at all levels, where the game people are playing, can only be won by being nice, retaliatory, forgiving and clear, then we kind of, you know, you and I can retire because the job will be done.
NI: That’s true! But go ahead.
ML: Before we conclude, I want to ask you about one thing, which is, you have been at the top of finance with the World Bank and the environment, these multilateral agencies, and now you're leading, what's going to be I think, a very influential and major new center in academia, at Tokyo University. You're a woman, and when you started your career, was it always clear to you that you were going to be able to succeed at that level? Because I've been to Japan many times, and it's probably of all the business environments I've been in, the most male-dominated. I mean, I've been in the corridors of Japanese companies, where the women literally are bowing to the executives as they pass, and they're all men. And yet, you've had this stellar career, did you always know you were going to succeed?
NI: No, not at all. Actually. That's interesting. To me, it's more like a day-to-day survival game. And so when I was very young, at the Ministry of Finance, which is really, really male-dominating society, to me, it's more like a survival instinct. So we never, I never really talk about the gender issue and I completely ignore that entire kind of bias or the challenge, and then that by doing that too long, I somehow also forgot this agenda… really didn't bother me until very recently good or bad. It's more like, the way I survived during those 1980s or 90s. And that then a particular a societal time.
But then when I moved on to the international space, what I actually see the more challenge is, is not really the gender, it's my nationality. Because in Japan, it's really more like a hierarchical society. And the top especially doesn't have to communicate with the bottom, with a clear vision on that, that might dictate that the mission of this and that the company or anything like that, when I moved on to the let's say, the World Bank or the GEF later, that there is a huge expectation at a senior level, or particularly the CEO level, to how to communicate this mission and vision and the value to the to the entire institution. And that was very, very new to me.
In Japan, it's everything is understood, you don't have to say every day: mission, value and strategy. That that is the difference. Then maybe one very difficult example for me is that then when the Black Lives Matter happened last spring, there was a high expectation at the GEF that we should say something about Black Lives Matter. It never really came to my mind, honestly, as, being Japanese, because partly because that, while I do understand how important that issue is, how deep that issue is, somehow I felt hesitant to speak about it. But the expectation is that, that the elite top leadership of that institution have to acknowledge the value of those universal values. And that's a difference, mostly coming from nationality. So let me be very clear, it's not that I do not understand it, I think I do understand very well about the value, it's more like an expectation of the value statements, should a CEO have to deliver it, or is it natural that he or she should do it, or it's something that there's not really much that kind of expectation, because it's not directly related to the core mandate of that institution.
So that's something that I learned with a huge pain, even during my last year of the CEO, and that that is not about the genders, it's more like a cultural issue, more than an expectation as a leader of the institution, and from that point of view I’m still learning a lot.
ML: I certainly think you've been a tremendous ambassador for your country, and have navigated that space very well, in terms of your ability to communicate at all levels, I didn't see exactly, you know, last year during that particular Black Lives Matter moment how you dealt with it, but I'm sure that you, I'm sure that you dealt with it well. And, you know, I very much hope that your new role will see you continuing to play on the international stage, and not just in Tokyo, because although I get to Tokyo, and I will get to Tokyo after the pandemic, it will be infrequently, and I'd like to think that we could interact on a more regular basis, I hope. Are you coming to COP26?
NI: If Covid-19 allows us to do it - of course. It’s in your home country, right?
ML: Well, very good. So it's in Scotland, but I consider myself as British and therefore, it is certainly a home event. And I've got some very big plans, which I'd like to share with you when the time comes and invite you to be involved in some things that we're doing, as the pandemic passes, that the vaccinations work and continue to work. And it'll be an absolute pleasure to see you next and to work on these issues alongside you.
NI: Yeah, no, thank you so much, Michael. I really need your help on that. Because one of the reasons I decided to come back to Tokyo and to create the Center of the Global Commons, is that the how I can bring Japan back to international sustainable community, because during the last eight years at the GEF I have literally actually very rarely heard that voices from Japan that somehow Japan is completely bypassed or missed. So that then…
ML: I think there's work to be done. For sure. I think that I see, I see Japan, as you know, having been a leader, particularly on climate until Fukushima, and then that kind of national need to procure energy to keep the lights on kind of knocked Japan out of the first circle of nations working on environment and sustainability.
NI: Yeah. So we lost 10 years, a decade somehow. And so I'm really keen to bring Japan back on to this international summit. So that then I can also play a little bit the role to lead that. And so I really need your help to do it.
ML: I'm sure you'll, I'm sure you'll manage it. And if there's anything that I could do to help, I'll certainly do that. Thank you so much for joining us here today on Cleaning Up.
NI: Thank you so much, Michael. It's really a pleasure to meet you again. And let's continue. Thank you. Bye bye.
ML: So that was Naoko Ishii, professor and inaugural director of the Center for the Global Commons at the University of Tokyo, former CEO and chair of the UN's Global Environment Facility. My guest next week is Sharan Burrow. She's the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Please join me this time next week for a conversation with Sharan Burrow on Cleaning Up.