GCF opens its Korea headquarters

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GCF opens its Korea headquarters

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President Park Geun-hye, center, cuts a tape to celebrate the opening of the Green Climate Fund headquarters in Songdo, Incheon, yesterday. Hela Cheikhrouhou, GCF’s executive director, stands next to Park. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, is third from the right. [Joint Press Corps]

The Green Climate Fund, set up by the United Nations to direct clean-energy funding to developing nations, opened its headquarters in Songdo, Incheon, yesterday.

The GCF has become the largest among 32 international organizations that have offices in Korea, and it is the first time for it to be headquartered in the country.

“Climate change has an enormous influence on the environment and overall human life and is a common task for man that cannot be resolved by a single country or an international organization,” said President Park Geun-hye in a speech at the opening ceremony at G-Tower, where the GCF is located.

“The GCF was born out of the consensus in international society that special support is necessary for developing countries that are trying to confront such challenges,” she said.

Park cited the example of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines in November, as one of the extraordinary meteorological events that are becoming more frequent.

“Korea underwent an unprecedented heat wave last summer and severe coldness is expected for this winter,” she said. “Whereas people tended to consider climate change a problem that would emerge in the distant future, everyone is actually feeling it. It’s time to take concrete action, and the GCF is the first step.”

The sixth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in 2010 in Cancun, Mexico, agreed to establish the fund, often described as the World Bank of the environment field. Korea won a bid in October 2012 to become host country of the fund after competing against five other nations.

“The fact that Korea has succeeded in attracting the GCF signals that Korea’s effort to cope with climate changes is being highly recognized internationally,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, who attended the launch.

The World Bank’s Korea office also opened yesterday at the Posco E&C building, right next to the GCF headquarters.

The fund was set to begin with an initial endowment of $30 billion, which was supposed to have been collected by the end of last year. The long-term goal is to raise $100 billion by 2020. But developing countries’ participation has been sluggish so far, with none confirming how much it will contribute to the fund. The Korean government has promised to provide $1 million per year between 2013 and 2019 to run the headquarters.

Hela Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the GCF, said in a press conference that Germany, Australia, Sweden, Britain and Norway are currently ready to participate.

World Bank boss Kim urged more support from developed countries.

“Up to 50 percent of the population in Africa and southern India is poor,” he said. “They ask why they have to be punished [by climate change]. The GCF is supposed to provide financial support for such countries.”

The event was attended by some 400 guests. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, could not attend because her plane failed to land in Seoul due to heavy fog. She had a one-on-one meeting with President Park later in the afternoon.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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