[Viewpoint] Green growth for hope

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[Viewpoint] Green growth for hope

“I am so happy that I can read books at night,” a 12-year-old Cambodian boy, Bopa, said. His father is an army veteran who lost one leg fighting the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian civil war. Many men in Bopa’s village are injured veterans who lost body parts during the war, and most families are supported by women and children. Thanks to the solar power generator provided by the Korean government, Bopa can use electricity and read books at night, dreaming of a brighter future.

Solar power stations that can produce a total of 90 kilowatts of electricity have been built in two villages of retired veterans: Ta Ken Koh Sla, where Bopa lives, and Phnom Kullen. It was part of the East Asian Climate Partnership (EACP) directed by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica).

The villages celebrated the completion of the power plant and people were relieved that they would no longer have to worry about an unstable power supply. More than 2,500 children of the retired veterans, Bopa included, will be free to dream of a better future.

Lately, the international community has been discussing environmentally friendly assistance for developing countries in response to climate change. In late June, Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, will be held in Rio de Janeiro, marking the 20th anniversary of the Environmental Summit of 1992.

Here, world leaders will designate green economics as the paradigm for driving out poverty in developing countries. The plan to launch the Green Climate Fund, a sort of global bank for environmental and climate changes, next year will help developing countries switch to green systems. The fund itself will open a 800 trillion won ($678 billion) market in green assistance over the next 10 years.

The Korean government has made timely responses, and Koica’s East Asian Climate Partnership projects, which began in 2008, became the most notable environmentally friendly official development assistance (ODA). The EACP projects, which are dubbed the “green ODA,” create jobs and increase incomes by providing various renewable energies such as solar, biomass, recycling and water power. At present, 20 EACP projects are in progress in 10 countries, including Sri Lanka and Mongolia. As Korean companies carry out the EACP projects, they gain valuable experience in green assistance.

The Korean government is to constantly expand the green ODA projects. On May 12, the Presidential Committee on Green Growth decided to expand the green ODA’s portion in the total ODA to more than 20 percent by 2020. Koica is to reinforce environmentally friendly assistance in the existing projects. For example, when building schools and hospitals in the developing countries, it will be required to install solar panels on the roofs for power generation or rainwater tanks to resolve water shortages. These actions correspond to the global trend. The Environmental Development Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has been recommending environmentally friendly strategies for assistance projects since the mid-2000s, and other developed countries are also expanding the size of green ODA.

Recently, renewable energy-related companies in Korea have struggled to raise operation funds due to the domestic and global economic slump, competition and reduction of subsidies. They demand government assistance and policy planning on renewable energy industry.

The companies should not be limited to the domestic market. Instead, they should actively seek a way out of the slump by advancing into the 800 trillion won global green assistance market. Koica’s green ODA will be a springboard to advance into the international assistance market. In order to bring the Green Climate Fund’s headquarters to Songdo, Incheon, the Korean government is competing against Germany and Switzerland. It is part of efforts to secure global leadership in the green industry and to help Korean companies advance in the global market.

Korea’s green ODA will boost economic growth and bring hope to the children growing up in underdeveloped countries. To help them dream about a free, bright and clean future, we should support Korea’s green ODA.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff

*The writer is the president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica).

by Park Dae-won
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