H.E. Mr. Hyoung-chan Choe, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea: Green We Go, Change We Make

H.E. Mr. Hyoung-chan Choe, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea

2021 P4G Seoul Summit

With a sense of urgency for leadership and accelerated actions to meet the goals set by the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, the inaugural P4G summit was held successfully in Copenhagen in October 2018. This year, the Republic Korea is hosting the 2nd Summit online on May 30-31 with the slogan “Green We Go, Change We Make” and under the main theme “Inclusive Green Recovery towards Carbon Neutrality.”

Korea is hosting P4G Summit. What is P4G?

P4G, which stands for Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, is a global platform to develop solutions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN member states and the Paris Climate Agreement. In particular, P4G aims to address solutions on the five sectors of SDGs -food, water, energy, cities, and circular economy-which are closely related to climate change with the participation of governments and international organizations as well as business partners and civil societies in the private sector.

Governments propose policy directions and provide initial funding; companies carry out direct actions through investment; and civil societies come up with innovative ideas and conduct monitoring. With such global public-private partnership, P4G develops practical cooperative projects and responds to the imminent threat of climate change by supporting many countries, particularly the developing ones.

As the host, what are Korea’s major goals to achieve by hosting the summit?

The year 2021 will be a special year for the international society in its endeavor to overcome climate change crisis. At the end of 2020, countries officially submitted their ten-year goals to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030 in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Therefore, 2021 will be the first year when countries embark on the implementation of their own goals to respond to climate change. Setting goals is important, but they will bring the intended effect only when countries fully implement them.

We hope that the Seoul summit will provide an opportunity to tighten the bonds of the international community for the sake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, and take actions rigorously to build back better and greener in the post-COVID world. We also hope that the Seoul summit will serve as a stepping stone towards the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) which will be hosted by U.K. in November.

There are different opinions between developing and developed countries on how to respond to climate crisis. What can the P4G do better to make progress on the SDGs?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which consists of climate change experts, has emphasized the need to limit the temperature rise to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels to ensure the survival of humankind. To that end, they have also insisted that the entire world should be carbon neutral by 2050. Against this backdrop, many countries, amidst the challenges caused by COVID-19 pandemic last year, announced their strategies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and Korea was also one of them. Moreover, world leaders pledged even more reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate organized by the U.S. last April. Korea pledged to end all public financing for new overseas coal-fired power plants and enhance our NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) once again to be consistent with its 2050 carbon net zero goal.

Even though there are still different views among countries on how to respond to climate crisis, they fully agree without exception on the fact that no one can do it alone and it is necessary for all members of the international community to strengthen their cooperation through global partnership to take climate actions. In this sense, P4G has some advantages over conventional international consultative bodies. First, it is an inclusive multilateral platform encompassing private and public sector stakeholders. Second, it focuses on supporting developing countries by playing a bridging role between developed and developing countries. Third, it aims to accelerate action-oriented solutions by adopting an investment-based approach through public-private partnership to make progress on climate change responses.

How many projects are active now? Please show us some examples.

There are more than 50 P4G partnership projects on-going in many developing countries in the world focusing on the five sectors of SDGs. If I take one example, a project named ZEBRA (Zero Emission Bus Rapid-deployment Accelerator) is being implemented in Latin America. As public transportation system is the major source of air pollution in many mega cities in Latin America such as Sao Paulo, Brazil and Medellin, Colombia, these cities introduced electric buses with the support of P4G partnership. Since ZEBRA has been launched only recently, electric buses account for only less than 1% of all public buses in Latin America. With this project, however, more electric buses will be operating on the road and this project is expected to contribute to tackling global warming by reducing carbon emissions across Latin America.

Why do people talk about pandemic when they talk about economic recovery? Do you think there are any correlations between the outbreak of COVID-19 and climate change?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no direct evidence that climate change is influencing the spread of COVID-19, but it insists that many of the root causes of climate change also increase the risk of pandemics. For example, deforestation is the largest cause of habitat loss which forces animals to migrate and potentially contact other animals or people and share germs. Therefore, our actions to respond to climate crisis will also help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and that is why the Harvard School of Public Health strongly suggests that climate change and global health policy shouldn’t be treated as separate issues.

As we struggle to overcome the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, we need to understand that this is an opportunity for us to reset what we have been doing wrong by going “green.” As governments seek for recovery packages, we need to make sure that this time around, we pursue “green recovery” that will help us build back our economy in a sustainable manner.

Korea is one of leading economies in the world. Why is Korea so active in addressing the green growth agenda?

Korea used to be a country that exerted all efforts focused on accomplishing industrialization and economic development goals. As a result, Korea became one of the leading economies within rather a short period time from a devastated state caused by the Korean War. At the same time, however, rapid economic development mainly based on fossil fuel caused air pollution and steady increase of average temperature. Then, we realized that it was not the right path and we need to change course to go green even if it was a daunting task. The economy and industry could suffer a short-term impact from it, but the losses and damages from avoiding climate actions would be far greater than that in the longer-term.

In line with this acknowledgement, Korea announced “Green New Deal” strategy together with “Digital New Deal” strategy last year to recover its economy from the COVID-19 pandemic in a greener way and to achieve the goals of Paris Agreement. While seeking a quick transition to green growth, Korea is trying to become a fast mover, if not the first mover, and to share its experiences as a bridge connecting developed and developing countries by joining international joint efforts such as P4G.

What do you think we can do individually to join the global campaign to tackle climate change?

I think everyone knows the importance of de-carbonization. We may help reduce carbon emissions by practicing simple things in our daily life such as reducing and recycling garbage, saving water by shortening shower time, and using an eco-bag in a market. And, I’m personally very pleased to have attended the “Green Serbia” tree-planting campaign organized by Color Media Communications. It is a small step individually, but if combined globally, it would be a great step towards a better future for our next generation.

2021 Seoul Summit partners

The partners of P4G are: Governments-12 countries from each continent (Europe: Denmark, the Netherlands, Asia: Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Africa: South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, The Americas: Mexico, Chile, Colombia); International Organizations: 6 Partners (World Economic Forum, UN Global Compact, International Finance Corporation, World Resources Institute, Global Green Growth Institute, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group); Businesses: 140+ global businesses including SK Telecom, Toyota, Nestle, and Dell. Civil; Societies: 100+ civic groups including the Climate Policy Initiative and the Forum for the Future. You can find more information here: 2021 P4G Seoul Summit : https://2021p4g-seoulsummit.kr and P4G Hub: https://p4gpartnership.org


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