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Seoul adopts agreement to fight climate change

Mayor Park says that citizen participation has been key to success

Nov 14,2017
BONN, Germany - Seoul adopted a new agreement on Sunday at the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in order to fight climate change with Fiji and hundreds of local governments.

“We, the Local and Regional Leaders meeting at COP23 [the 23rd Conference of Parties],” the agreement states, “acknowledge that, with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, a new era in global climate action has started, building on the engagement of Parties with all levels of governments worldwide and domestically.”

It continues, “As of today, 1,019 local and regional governments from 86 countries, representing 804 million people, have reported their emissions reduction targets on the carbon Climate Registry, which, once achieved, would result in a reduction of 5.6 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2020, and 26.8 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, compared to levels going as far back as 1990.”

At the summit, Seoul shared some of its sustainable energy development practices with local governments around the world. “In Seoul, we have been pursuing the ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ initiative since 2012,” said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, addressing some 400 participants at the convention center in Bonn’s Rheinaue Park. “Together, we are reducing energy usage, improving energy efficiency and producing new and renewable energy, and by doing so, replacing one nuclear power plant.”

He added, “We recognized that citizen participation was the key to the success of the initiative, so we encouraged citizens to participate in the initiative from the very beginning. Over the past five years, around 3.37 million citizens participated in the initiative.

“The results were amazing. We were successful in reducing 3.66 million TOE (tons of oil equivalent) of energy, which is comparable to the capacity of two nuclear power plants or four fossil fuel power stations. Fortunately, our new central government is going down the right path. It decided to shut down the operations of one of the oldest nuclear power plants in Korea, cancel plans to build new nuclear power plants and increase the production of new and renewable energy. The new government’s energy policies are very much in line with the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s policies.”

World leaders at the conference urged local governments to take action to combat climate change.

“In order to reach the overall goal to limit global warming under 2 degrees Celsius [35.6 degrees Fahrenheit], we need both the central and local governments,” said Barbara Hendricks, minister of environment, nature conservation, building and nuclear safety in Germany. “We need to make sure that international targets and strategies are set up in the way they include local level from the start.”

“African cities are going to transform and ensure that they begin to lead the way and the message is very clear - that Africa is not begging anymore,” said Tshwane, South Africa Mayor Solly Msimanga. “This is why in 2015 Tshwane decided to put together mayors of Africa in one room and we are here talk about how we are going to move forward together for a sustainable future and that we are looking for partners.”

At the 21st COP in 2015, 197 parties agreed to pursue sustainable development, “aiming at limiting warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels,” according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(Unfccc). As of this month, 169 countries party to the agreement, including China, India and the United States, had submitted their ratification - though the U.S. Donald Trump administration in August this year submitted notice to withdraw from the agreement.

Leaders of local governments seemed unfazed by this development.

“The United States cancelled [its commitment to] the Paris Agreement, but the U.S. federal states and cities and companies are backing the Paris Agreement and this is something we really have to admire,” said Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the European Committee of the Regions. “If national governments don’t want to commit or withdraw from commitments, then the cities and regions have to resume responsibility. At this point we would like to thank our American friends for the courageous step and tell them that we will support you.”

Seoul intends to continue to export some of its green and sustainable growth policies to some nations in Southeast Asia with assistance from the German government, Park said at the conference.

“The Ambitious City Promises are pledges made by cities in developing countries that wish to transition to a low carbon society and also learn from the best practices of Seoul,” Park said.

Seoul has pledged to reduce its emissions rate to 25 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. Through its Ambitious City Promises initiative, which is sponsored by Germany’s International Climate Initiative, Seoul city government is sharing its best practices in sustainable growth with other cities, including Hanoi, Pasig and Jakarta.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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