Seoul to send a green declaration to the world: climate ambassador
The Seoul declaration to be adopted at the upcoming P4G Summit is expected to “highlight the importance of a 'green recovery' and recognize the commitment to carbon neutrality,” said Yoo Yeon-chul, Korea’s ambassador for climate change.
“The Republic of Korea is ready to take on a bridging role between developed countries and developing countries to accelerate the achievement of carbon neutrality by 2050 and sustainable development goals,” said Yoo, executive director of the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit Preparatory Office, in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily Monday at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).
“We will also contribute to the concentration of collective will of the international community to tackle the climate crisis.”
Yoo spoke on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of Green Future Week, kicking off a week of sessions on climate issues ahead of the P4G Seoul Summit, which takes place in-person and virtually at the DDP on Sunday and Monday.
The Seoul declaration to be announced at the end of the summit will stress public-private partnerships, he said, and strengthen the engagement of diverse stakeholders.
It will also be an opportunity to welcome Colombia as the host of the third P4G summit in 2023 to be held in Bogota, capital of the South American country.
“We are pleased to hear that Colombia decided it will host the next P4G summit, and we view that the troika system is very important in the sense that we can enhance the reliability and sustainable operation of the P4G.” The troika system, he said, refers to the first P4G host country, Denmark, the current host, Korea, and the next host, Colombia.
While the Korea government faced some hurdles holding the environmental summit because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yoo pointed out that the “beauty of the virtual format” is that more leaders of governments and businesses can participate in the summit without the limitations of physical barriers to create a “more innovative program.”
Yoo, who spent over 30 years as a career diplomat, previously served as Korea's ambassador to Kuwait and as ambassador and deputy permanent representative at the Korean Permanent Mission in Geneva. He has been involved with environmental issues throughout his career.
“We have to listen to the voices of the future generation,” said Yoo. “The current generation will be the last generation to save the planet, because there will be no Plan B.”
He added, “I expect the summit to become a milestone for the Korean government to reiterate its commitment as the leading country in response to climate change.”
The following are edited excerpts from the interview.
Q. The P4G Seoul Summit was delayed one year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Can you share what sort of hybrid format will be used?
A. P4G stands for “Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030,” and aims at accelerating innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors, focusing on five core areas ¬¬— food and agriculture, water, energy, cities and the circular economy — to effectively respond to climate change.
Preparing for the virtual format was difficult indeed. This is because we have a lot of hurdles getting attention from the public, as well as technical requirements. On the other hand, the beauty of the virtual format is that more and more leaders can participate in the summit without any physical barriers. It will be conducted in a virtual, imaginary space, not a physical space, so we can create a very innovative program. At this moment, we are trying to turn the many challenges to the summit into "a blessing in disguise."
Q. Can you introduce the theme of the summit, “Inclusive Green Recovery towards Carbon Neutrality?”
The “inclusive” means "no one left behind." We are facing the unprecedented crisis of Covid-19, economic recession and climate change. In the process of overcoming this crisis, we have to take special care of the vulnerable people as well as the vulnerable countries. Second, on “green recovery,” in order to overcome the above-mentioned crisis, we have to give up our old habits, and we have to build up new habits. Green growth is a new path of encompassing new ways and means of addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development goals. Thirdly, on “carbon neutrality”: In a nutshell, a short-term economic stimulus package should be aligned with the long term strategy of climate change, which will result in accomplishing carbon neutrality goals by 2050.
Q. What sort of message does the Korean government want to send through the P4G summit?
The message that the Korean government would like to send to the world is quite clear: It is that the Korean government will continue its strenuous efforts to achieve “Inclusive Green Recovery towards Carbon Neutrality,” which as I mentioned is the main theme of the P4G Seoul Summit. And we will also contribute to the concentration of collective will of the international community to tackle the climate crisis. Furthermore, the Republic of Korea is ready to take on a bridging role between developed countries and developing countries to accelerate the achievement of carbon neutrality by 2050 and sustainable development goals. Last but not least, I expect the summit to become a milestone for the Korean government to reiterate its commitment as the leading country in response to climate change.
Q. What can we expect from the Seoul declaration?
With regard to the Seoul declaration as an outcome of the P4G summit, it will highlight the importance of a green recovery and recognize the commitment to carbon neutrality. Also, it will focus on public-private partnerships and strengthen the engagement of diverse stakeholders. And we will welcome the host of the third P4G summit in 2023 to be held in Bogota, Colombia. We are pleased to hear that Colombia decided it will host the next P4G summit, and we view that the troika system is very important in the sense that we can enhance the reliability and sustainable operation of the P4G, and in the context of that, we place high value on establishing the troika system, which refers to the previous host, Denmark, the current host, Korea, and the next host, which will be Colombia.
Q. This summit involves not only the governments but the private and civic sectors. What are some key sessions and speakers we should be keeping an eye on?
We have 15 sessions. This includes five thematic sessions [for the summit], which will cover water, food and agriculture, energy, the circular economy, cities. We also have 10 special sessions ahead of the summit, on such topics as oceans, forests and civil society. All sessions are equally important and significant, but if you allow me to, I’d like to emphasize the following sessions.
First, would be the civil society breakout session, because P4G consists of government, business and civil society and we believe that civil society provides innovative ideas and monitoring. On the last day of Green Future Week, the Future Generation Session will be held. We have to listen to the voices of the future generation, which will be heard all around the world. Our current generation’s remarks will be echoed. The current generation will be the last generation to save the planet, because there will be no Plan B.
Q. What is the role of the business sector in efforts to reduce carbon emissions and enable sustainable growth?
We view that it is the business sector that takes climate action through investment, while governments provide guidelines through policy. We believe that now is the time for companies to make the right decision on investments, considering sustainability, to reflect ESG (environment, social and governance) elements. In the context of the P4G partnership, the government will provide public funding in the early stage of that project. If the project runs really well, it will be scaled up, and finally, we will invite the business sector to make an investment, thereby establishing a sustainable business model. That is the ultimate goal of the P4G partnership.
Q. As Korea’s climate change ambassador, what are your expectations from the P4G summit and its role in global efforts to combat climate change?
I expect the P4G Seoul Summit to provide the global community with the momentum for scaling up climate ambitions and strengthening climate action. It is also my wish that through the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, domestically, public awareness of the climate crisis will be raised, and our companies’ international competitiveness will be enhanced through international cooperation. Furthermore, I hope that we will be reminded that the voices of future generation will be heard all over the world, and messages from the summit leaders will be echoed with the P4G Summit’s slogan “Green we go, Change we make.”
Also, the P4G Seoul Summit will be a stepping stone for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in the United Kingdom this November. We had a series of climate-related summits this year. For example, the Climate Adaptation Summit held in Netherlands in January, the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the United States in April, the P4G and the COP26. We hope that the P4G summit will be a stepping stone for COP26, as well as a milestone for the 2030 sustainable development goals.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]