Alumni Spotlight: Naoyuki Yamagishi Heads to COP21


On Nov. 30, Paris will play host to the 21st annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). There, representatives from nearly 200 nations will attempt to hammer out a comprehensive and legally-binding international agreement that will limit the production of greenhouse gases. And one of the negotiators at the conference will be an alumnus of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.

Naoyuki Yamagishi, Pardee’03, will travel to the conference as a member of the Japan NGO delegation on the behalf of WWF-Japan (he leads their Climate and Energy Group). He and his colleagues are working tirelessly in the weeks leading up to the conference to build an ‘ambition mechanism’ into the treaty.

“Our goal is to build in a five-year cycle by which member nations will evaluate their progress in meeting emission reduction targets, and make those targets even higher,” Yamagishi said. “We want to build a standard for self-improvement into the agreement itself.”

It’s the culmination of a philosophy for driving climate action that began in Yamagishi’s youth.

“When I was young, climate leaders from around the world came to Japan to draft the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It was inspiring to me,” Yamagishi said. “I knew I wanted to study the intersection of policy and environment, but I couldn’t find a program in Japan that had everything I wanted.”

That’s what brought him to the Pardee School¬†to earn his MA in International Relations and Environmental Policy.

“I studied the theory of how international regimes impact and interpret environmental problems,” Yamagishi said. “I look at how nations cooperate and what will incentivize action.”

After completing his MA, Yamagishi returned to Japan and began working at the WWF.

“What I do is pretty contrary to the general image of the WWF, there’s very little awareness-raising directly to the public,” Yamagishi said. “I go to a lot of business and governmental folks and try to come up with ways for them to help each other help the environment.”

Additionally, his job has let him fulfill another passion – he has attended every United Nations Climate Conference since 2003.

“A lot of the conferences are kind of boring,” Yamagishi admits. “There are a lot of meetings. But if we can get a successful result that makes a difference for the environment, it will all be worth it.”

Yamagishi lives outside of Tokyo and will be one of approximately 20 Japanese NGO delegates going to Paris. Like much of the world, he has paid close attention to the evolving situation in the City of Lights.

“We’ve been hearing everything, but the latest word is that the conference is still on,” Yamagishi said. “So my colleagues and I will be there.”