Korea can fight climate change
Despite the recent terror attacks, the leaders of 140 countries gathered in Paris to attend the COP 21 UN climate change conference for two weeks from November 30.
The goal of the conference is to agree on measures to be applied from 2020 when the Kyoto protocol expires. President Park Geun-hye gave a keynote speech. The international community is paying attention to Korea’s position and remarks, as the headquarters of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is in Songdo.
The GCF is an organization established to provide funding to developing countries’ projects to counter climate change.
After spending two years raising over $10.2 billion in initial funds, the GCF approved its first projects after careful review on Nov. 6. The eight selected initiatives have been given a total $168 million.
It is significant that the GCF has overcome the limits of a newly established agency and begun to carry out specific initiatives. The organization will assist developing countries with $100 million in public and private funds every year from 2020. The money will help them adapt to climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
What does the international community expect from Korea at the Paris Climate Change Conference? It may ask Korea to make a greater contribution as the host country of the GCF. As the seventh-largest greenhouse gas producer and a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea will also be expected to play a more active role in reducing emissions.
What contributions can Korea make to the global response towards climate change? If necessary, Korea can contribute more to the GCF. But it is even more important that we promote Korean technologies that can be used to counter climate change around the globe.
Many countries have been developing and expanding renewable energy sources such as solar energy and wind power. But Korea has been uniquely nurturing technologies that integrate renewable energy and energy storage technology, as well as developing smart grid technology. Korea needs to actively promote these new developments at the Paris conference.
Korea’s new technologies to counter climate change can be used in the projects funded by the GCF that are taking place in developing countries.
One such project is the wetlands protection program in Peru. The project focuses on implementing Korea’s sustainable energy model, which combines solar power and energy storage devices, in remote parts of the Amazon that have no other sources of electricity. These new power sources can then be used to run the fruit-processing plants that have hitherto run on diesel generators.
Separate from the GCF, other projects are also using Korean technology to do things like rethink the relationship between waste treatment and power generation.
In September, board members of the Asia Development Bank visited Korea and toured a landfill near Seoul. They were deeply impressed by the leachate treatment facility, which uses waste to generate power, because every country and city in the world struggles with how to most effectively dispose of its waste.
The business model of simultaneously processing waste and generating power is a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change. It represents the kind of practical assistance Korea can offer to developing countries experiencing environmental problems as a result of industrialization and urbanization.
Korea should pass on the model to some of the projects funded by GCF. If necessary, funding from other international financial institutions should be utilized alongside investments from Korea to make sure it can be used effectively.
By offering native technologies and various funds, Korea can help developing countries’ projects related to climate change. In doing so, Korea can easily become a country that is playing a major role in fighting climate change. The investments do not need to be massive to accomplish something substantive.
Creative ideas such as collaboration between industries are needed, and small- and medium-sized businesses should be encouraged to participate. They should be offered more chances to get involved in the projects being undertaken by developing nations.
Following the Paris summit, a reinforced greenhouse gas reduction plan - which will include the United States and China - is expected.
Korea cannot be an exception, but there are other things that it can bring to the table. Korea has unique experience in the various problems that developing countries face at different stages of economic growth. Coupled with its hosting of the GCF, the nation is capable of offering customized solutions to counter climate change.
The necessary funds can come from GCF, multilateral development banks, bilateral public funds or private funds. At the Climate Change Conference, Korea should propose specific plans and realistic solutions to the problems developing countries are facing related to climate change.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 1, Page 33
*The author is a professor at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies.
by Chung Tae-yong