Int'l cooperation crucial to sustainable development
By Yi Whan-woo
Korea plays a leading role in dealing with environmental challenges in the international community with the country’s green growth strategy as the driving force, according to Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook.
“Sustainable development requires not only state support but also worldwide collaboration, and keeping a close relationship with other countries is crucial,” she said in a interview with The Korea Times.
The country has tried to reduce greenhouse emissions to cope with the rapid climate changes that pose a threat to the globe.
The government has conducted an environmental impact assessment on greenhouse gases since 2010 and its data show that the nation cut such emissions by 11.47 million tons between 2010 and 2011. The reduced amount is 4.7 percent of the 2020 target of 244 million tons.
“In May, the National Assembly passed a bill on carbon emission trading or cap-and-trade to lay the legal groundwork for cutting down greenhouse gas emissions,” Yoo said. “The trading will begin in 2015 and we’ll be fully ready to move toward a green economy.”
The minister also touched on the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a Seoul-based environmental organization that seeks suitable models for green growth.
“The GGGI effectively shares its knowledge, develops its strategies, and promotes facilitation of green technologies throughout the world, including Abu Dhabi, Denmark and England where it has branch offices,” You said.
She added that the Korea will hold preliminary talks in October for the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) that will be convened in Doha in November. The international meeting is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 8th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
“As a member of the international community, we want the COP18 to be successful and will give our full support to make sure the conference is ready.”
The minister said the World Conservation Congress on Jeju Island will be crucial in that regard as the country can share its environmental policy with 10,000 delegates from over 170 countries.
The 10-day conference under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will present 450 forums, among which 20 issues will be on environmental challenges in Korea. Global interest in the issues will support the ministry in setting related policies, she said.
“I will take the Jeju conference as a chance to raise awareness of the Korea-related environmental issues to the world stage,” she said. And I’ll take suggestions of the international experts into consideration and use them effectively in making policies,”
The issues include a conservation strategy for Demilitarized Zone, cooperation for sustainable management and conservation of the Baekdu Great Mountain Range, mud flat preservation, international cooperation to decrease dust storms, and a new paradigm on green growth.
Both local and overseas experts will participate in forums to come up with practical solutions to preserve biodiversity of the regions and to seek sustainable development.
The issues will be raised at the IUCN member’s assembly _ a meeting among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies. They will select an agenda and reflect it in a Jeju Declaration to be adopted at the end of the congress.
“I believe some of the local issues have high chances to be selected at the assembly, which IUCN President Ashok Khosla will push to develop related programs for practical outcomes,” she said.
She added that she will participate as a panelist on the World Leaders’ Dialogue, the main program that will stimulate interactive talks among 30 global environmental leaders and experts.
She will attend the session, “Saving nature, why bother?” The Sept. 11 session will center on the preservation of biodiversity, one of the issues along with climate change, food security, green economy, governance over natural resources that will be discussed throughout the conference.
“The session basically covers all of the five issues as the protection of nature requires ways to cope with global environmental challenges, and people’s life, health and welfare by using natural resources efficiently and developing the economy,” Yoo said.
“The participants will be able to understand the value of life not only from the biological perspective but also the economic one, as preservation of rare species can bring financial rewards.”
She said she will also bring up the green economy that seeks nature-based solutions to social and economic development as well as governance of natural resources.
“If I had to put the issues in order of priority, I would put those two on the top of the list, as they’re related to Korea’s green growth,” she said.
“And I’ll make sure to promote our environmental strategy to stress the importance of sustainable economic development through the protection of nature,” she added.
The minister turned down skepticism that the suggestions of the Jeju conference will be unsuccessful in drawing out international support in terms of environmental issues.
“An important factor in deciding environmental policies is mutual understandings among the nations,” she said.
She admitted that the government leaders from the United States, Germany and Japan were absent in June at the Rio+20 conference sponsored by the United Nations.
“People point out such a fact and say the environmental meetings have limitations in terms of their effectiveness in real life,” Yoo said. “However, please note that the Rio+20 conference was among governments, while the World Conservation Congress involves both governments and NGOs.
“The participants will not only focus on issues that can benefit their respective country but also will put weight on other issues, and I guarantee we’ll come up with tangible results to protect nature.”