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Officials tackle climate concerns

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Speakers and presenters at the Seoul Climate-Energy Conference. The event, hosted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Green Technology Center and the Coalition for Our Common Future, was held yesterday at the Plaza Hotel in Seoul. Provided by the Seoul Climate-Energy Conference

Senior South Korean officials and experts from around the world discussed efforts to cope with climate change yesterday in a conference ahead of a United Nations summit on the environment that addressed specific agendas and challenges.

The Seoul Climate-Energy Conference 2014 was organized by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the Green Technology Center and the Coalition for Our Common Future, and attended by the South Korean government, the Green Climate Fund and the Global Green Growth Institute.

More than 400 people, including senior South Korean government officials, world renowned scholars, politicians and business leaders addressed the tasks that must be dealt with at the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York.

More than 150 experts and state leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, are expected to be present at the summit, which aims to pave the way for a new climate treaty.

Due to be ratified in Paris next year, it will replace the Kyoto Protocol and conceivably bind all countries by the commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and reform their energy systems.

At yesterday’s conference, the participants evaluated global efforts, including those by Korea, to tackle climate change. They also discussed new strategies concerning sustainable development and low-carbon economy.

After four rounds of panel discussions, the conference adopted 10 recommendations to the UN Climate Summit: They recommended that a high-level governance structure should be institutionalized and aligned throughout the international community.

They also advocated that carbon markets in 40 countries be linked and that benefits be created for early movers - those that take the initiative to reduce carbon emissions and lessen the impact on the environment.

The recommendations called for a big push in public money followed by boosting private investment.

Participants also stressed the importance of political leadership in tackling climate change.

Kim Sang-hyup, a professor at KAIST and the architect of the Korean government’s green growth program during the previous Lee Myung-bak administration, added that jobs must be created, poverty eradicated and sustainable development systems built through economic development and efforts to restore the environment in order to successfully cope with climate change.

“We hope the 10 recommendations to the UN Climate Summit, adopted by the conference, will serve as a cornerstone for a successful 2015 climate treaty,” Kim said.

In his opening remarks, Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul also urged global leaders to exercise their political power to agree on a new climate regime by next year.

“If the international community fails once again to reach an agreement by the deadline, our collective efforts to limit the increase of average global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius compared with the level pre-Industrial Revolution will surely fall through,” Cho said. “The summit represents the last chance to galvanize leaders’ political will ahead of the negotiations deadline.”

He further reiterated the South Korean government’s commitment to combating climate change, despite concerns that the country would face a greater financial burden and lose its edge in the global economy by investing in the environment amid the current slowdown.

Likewise, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of global efforts in tackling climate change in a video message during the meeting.

“You are at this meeting because you know the benefits of sustainable energy: cleaner air, water and food security, job creation and sustainable economic growth,” he said. “The Seoul Climate-Energy Conference presents a timely opportunity for us to evaluate what needs to be done to build this kind of future. To dramatically transform the world’s energy systems, we need to provide the right policy signals and incentives to scale up green technologies and ensure adequate climate financing.”

He added that yesterday’s conference would be a valuable contribution to the success of the UN Climate Summit and for negotiations for the 2015 international agreement, a climate protocol applicable to all participating parties that will be adopted next year in Paris and implemented in 2020.

Other participants at the conference, including Yvo de Boer, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute, and Professor Robert Stavins, director of Harvard Project on Climate Agreement, emphasized political leadership in resolving sensitive issues associated with emission reduction efforts.

Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance Joo Hyung-hwan also urged advanced countries to make more specific promises to raise financial resources for the Green Climate Fund at the upcoming UN Climate Summit and the fund’s meeting in November.

“To operate the Green Climate Fund more effectively and timely, raising funds successfully at the early stage is important,” Joo said.

He said advanced economies in 2010 promised an annual $100 billion contribution by 2020, though no tangible progress had been seen.

Joo noted that the Korean government made a $400 million contribution to global efforts to cope with climate change and had carried out $200 million worth of green growth projects in developing countries.

Urging the private sector to participate in raising resources for the Green Climate Fund, the finance minister added that the government should provide various incentives to entice relevant parties due to the risk that comes with investment in the green industry.

At the conference, Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong also introduced a plan to transform Jeju into a carbon-free island by 2030.

Asserting his strong commitment to wind-power generation and electric vehicles, Won said 10 percent of the island’s cars will be electric by next year. He also said electric buses will be introduced on Jeju.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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