Korea’s climate action through GGGI and GCF

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Korea’s climate action through GGGI and GCF

Boonam Shin
The author, former ambassador of Korea to convert the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) into an international organization in 2012, is a council member of the GGGI.

We commemorate the 10th anniversary this year of the escalation of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) into an international organization and the hosting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to Korea. The main task of the GGGI and GCF is to support developing countries in their climate action in tandem with their requirements .

As many of us know, climate action has two aspects: adjusting to the changed climate and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. But the problem with the mitigation is that decision-makers are very reluctant to allocate available resources, including finance, as the benefit of the action will come later. For many leaders, climate change is important but not so urgent. That’s one of the reasons why climate action is difficult to take.

Moreover, developing countries continue to suffer from a lack of financial resources, relevant technologies, and manpower in dealing with mitigation and adaptation for their own countries though they account for nearly two-thirds of the total emissions. Therefore, mitigating emissions from developing countries in particular is important in resolving the challenge.

To help address climate change, the international community adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015. Based on the principles for dealing with climate change — such as individual countries’ respective capability and differing responsibility — developed countries were required to lead an uphill battle with climate change. While the Kyoto Protocol set the reduction target of developed countries for the first time, all countries finally agreed to take climate action through the Paris Agreement.

The agreements are something akin to the Bible or Quran in the climate action front. But you need the missionaries in the field to successfully accomplish the mission, which is why Korea converted the GGGI into an international body a decade ago. Now GGGI supports developing countries to devise their green growth strategies, programs and projects, not to mention the mobilization of various financial tools to implement them. Currently with 43 member states, the GGGI engaged in more than 340 projects in 45 countries over the past 10 years.

In preparation for last year’s global conference on climate change — the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) — the GGGI supported 30 member and partner countries to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for their combined goal of reducing 379 million tons of CO2. The GGGI also expanded its portfolio of Article 6 related to technical assistance in order to position itself as one of the global leaders in the field. Over the last 10 years, GGGI helped reduce an estimated 170 million tons of CO2, create 1.2 million new green jobs, and protect 14 million hectares of forests.

Korea also won the bid in 2012 to host the GCF, an operating body for financial support from the UNFCCC. As the largest climate fund in the world, GCF channels financial resources from developed and developing countries to support their adaptation and mitigation efforts. The GCF board has approved $10.4 billion for 196 projects in over 100 countries. The body estimates that such effort led to the reduction of 2 billion tons of CO2s by helping 615 million people around the globe to enhance their resilience.

Korea also worked to disseminate green technology by setting up technology centers, including the Green Technology Center in Seoul. Strategy, finance and technology are the three pillars of the campaign aimed at supporting developing countries to tackle climate change in an integral way.

We can draw the lessons learned from our experience in setting up the GGGI. First, we should secure an adequate number of donor countries with a strong track record of supporting developing countries in their battle against climate change. Among the 18 founding members of GGGI, Korea brought in 7 donor countries and it should not spare effort to draw more donors in the future. Second, in addition to sovereign member states, GGGI needs to benefit from the dynamics of the private sector — including academic experts and business leaders — by inviting them to the council as full non-state actor members.

The role of a national leader is critical here. For instance, former president Lee Myung-bak was deeply involved in the process of establishing GGGI — and hosting the GCF — by persuading his counterparts to support Korea in the competition to host the latter.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the elevation of the GGGI into a treaty-based international body — and with the inauguration of the new administration in May — Korea must reinforce the initiative to support developing countries in their climate action through the GGGI and GCF in return for what the country received from the international community over decades. That fits the role of a reliable partner to the international society. As the two international entities provided decent jobs and great experiences to Korea’s young professionals, they will continue to play the role in the future.
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