‘Green Olympics’ open on Jeju Island

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‘Green Olympics’ open on Jeju Island


Representatives from around the world yesterday listen to opening remarks by Ashok Khosla, president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the IUCN World Conservation Conference in Jeju. [YONHAP]

JEJU - Despite getting hit by a typhoon and a tropical storm a week ago, Jeju Island was sunny and clear for the opening of the world’s largest conference on conservation, which kicked off a 10-day run yesterday.

The opening ceremony of the 2012 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress was attended by environmental experts from around the globe, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and government leaders, including President Lee Myung-bak.

IUCN President Ashok Khosla opened the congress, held at the International Convention Center in southern Jeju, stating, “The IUCN is a remarkable institution; it not only has brains, but legs and arms and above all a heart.” He lauded governments, NGOs and the world’s leading environmental experts coming together to address issues regarding conservation and its impact on society, economies and politics.

Khosla said Jeju Island, with a total population of 1.2 million, is “home to world-renowned natural beauty and culture our union seeks to protect and nurture,” making it an ideal location for the congress. Khosla further said that “economic, social and political impediments must be addressed” in the world’s efforts to promote green growth. Through the congress, he said, there needs to be discussion on how to “use resources efficiently and empower citizens actively and inclusively - this requires a high level of governance.”

President Lee, who has been an active proponent of green growth, pledged to preserve natural habitats and national parks, continue to support sustainable green growth, and continue to preserve Baekdudaegan, the mountain range that runs across the Korean Peninsula. He also promised to use the ecologically-rich Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, to promote the cause of biodiversity.

“I have a plan to make the DMZ the quintessential place for peace and ecology,” the president said.

He also cited Korea’s need for reforestation after forests were denuded for firewood. But over the past 60 years, Korean efforts can be “exemplars” to other countries suffering from deforestation, he said.

The opening ceremony included traditional and modern music and dance, and other speakers included Lee Hong-koo, chairman of the IUCN Korean Organization Committee; Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook; and the CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Cristian Samper. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also spoke via a video message. A reception was held afterward at the Yeomiji Botanical Garden.

The organizing committee put emphasis on holding a greener, more eco-friendly congress. Such efforts include offering bikes and using free fuel-efficient shuttle buses to ferry participants to and from the convention center.

“This year, IUCN saved 1,000 kilograms [2,200 pounds] of paper in an attempt to hold a paperless conference,” said Julia Marton-Lefevre, director general of the IUCN.

Dubbed the “environmental Olympics,” the IUCN congress, in its 23rd run, is held every four years. This year, it has some 10,600 participants from 180 countries. The Switzerland-based IUCN, the largest and oldest conservation organization, was established in 1948 and is supported by more than 1,200 governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

The IUCN also manages hundreds of field projects around the world.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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