Conservation conference in full gear

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Conservation conference in full gear

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From right: Jeju Gov. Woo Keun-min, Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook, Julia Marton-Lefevre, director general of the IUCN, and Lee Hong-koo, chairman of the IUCN Korean Organization Committee, pose yesterday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. [NEWSIS]


JEJU - Climate change is “here and now” in the Asia-Pacific region, said a leading Korean environmental policy expert at the 2012 Jeju International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress yesterday.

“People in Asia are four times more likely to be affected by natural disaster than those in Africa and 25 times more than those living in Europe or North America,” said Park Young-woo, director of the United Nations Environment Program’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

“While the term ‘climate change’ is sometimes applied too loosely to every scenario, you cannot deny from the evidence of a rise in sea levels, increased rainfall and natural disasters that there is a correlation between the climate and environmental changes,” Park said.

Seo Heung-won, head of the Climate Change Cooperation Division of the Ministry of Environment, said at an IUCN panel on climate change that without revision of the national master plan, “at the current rate in Seoul, spring may begin earlier in February and summer will end later in October, and its climate may become closer to that of Busan.” Seo added there is a possibility that winter on Jeju and Ulleung islands may disappear.

The notion that parts of the country will change to a subtropical climate does not seem far-fetched. This summer, Korea faced extreme weather, including a prolonged heat wave, tropical nights and a drought along with torrential rainfall. Climate change contributes to such extreme weather events, which in turn leads to flooding, landslides, and damage to farms and infrastructure.

According to the Korea Environment Institute, the average temperature of the six major cities in Korea has risen by 1.7 degrees Celsius between 1912 to 2008, which is double the global average temperature rise over a century, which was 0.74 degrees.

Jamison Ervin, global project manager at the United Nations Development Program, said Korea has done “an admirable job in strengthening local capacity.”

The first official day of panels and workshops began yesterday with the overarching theme of “Resilience of Nature.”

Over the course of the week, the IUCN Members’ Assembly will discuss motions to find nature-based solutions in areas including climate change, food security, equitable governance of nature’s use and conservation.

The IUCN congress, the largest conservation conference in the world held every four years with thousands of environmental experts from 180 countries, commenced on Thursday and runs until Sept. 15.

Amid a day of discussions on conservation and preservation of nature held at the International Convention Center, both participants and Jeju Island residents and students were able to enjoy educational and cultural experience booths around the center.

Standing by an outdoor booth where students were quizzed on marine ecology and awarded prizes, Koh Geun-hee, 40, who accompanied some 170 students from Andeok Middle School, said, “Our students are so honored that such a large-scale event is being held in Seogwipo, and we have been preparing for months to educate our students on climate change, the preservation of the environment, and how to keep Jeju Island a clean and beautiful place.”

The sea level rose at the Yongmeori (Dragon’s Head) Coast in western Jeju Island 22 centimeters (8.7 inches) over the past 43 years compared to a global average of eight centimeters, according to the Environment Ministry.

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

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