Friday, August 21, 2009

Environment: South Korea to boost green growth

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has joined forces with the Republic of Korea (ROK) to support the East Asian nation’s quest for a sustainable ‘green’ economic future in the midst of a global recession.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that Asia – particularly the ROK, China and Japan – as well as Australia have seen the greatest share of economic stimulus packages channelled into environmental investment.

The ROK’s strategy “cuts across a wide swathe of sustainability challenges from renewable energy and waste to transport, freshwaters and forestry – fostering a green recovery and transforming it into a vision of green economic growth and underlining a new and dynamic strategic direction and journey that we are delighted and excited to share,” he said.

In January, the country launched a nearly $40 billion stimulus plan, with more than 80 per cent allocated to environmentally-friendly investment, further expanding its “Green New Deal” into a five-year $84 billion plan.

Under the new partnership, UNEP has reviewed the ROK’s green strategy, the first of a series of national and regional initiatives as part of the agency’s Green Economy initiative. The assessment notes that regulatory and fiscal reforms will drive sustainable growth.

Earlier this year, UNEP encouraged governments to seize the historic opportunity presented by the current financial and economic crises to increase public spending and private investment to promote green growth.

One per cent of global gross domestic product – approximately $750 billion – should be utilized over the next two years to foster the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy better equipped to tackle the environmental, developmental and social challenges posed by the 21st century, the agency said.

UNEP said that the ROK is among several nations taking the lead on the issue of climate change. Under the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012, the country is not obligated to slash emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

This December in Copenhagen, Denmark, countries are expected to wrap up negotiations on a new climate change deal. World leaders “must ‘seal a deal’ in the name of humankind,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this week in the ROK capital, Seoul, at Korea University.

Meanwhile, in the ROK city of Daejeon, 700 young people attending the largest-ever UN-backed global youth gathering on global warming issued a call to take urgent action against climate change.

Ranging in age from 10 to 24, they issued a declaration, entitled “Listen to Our Voices: The Future Needs Strong Vision and Leadership,” expressing their “concern and frustration that their governments are not doing enough to combat climate change,” and emphasizing that “we now need more actions and less talking.”

The week-long Tunza Children and Youth Conference on the Environment is part of the UN’s “Seal the Deal” campaign spearheaded by the Secretary-General, who has made tackling global warming one of his top priorities.

The young people’s “voices will and must be heard because they will inherit the outcomes of our actions,” Mr. Ban said.

Today’s declaration asks governments to, among other things, agree on a more fair, just and action-oriented post-Kyoto agreement; develop and implement carbon action plans to be monitored by an independent body; and support youth efforts to bring about change in the world.

“This statement is the fruit of a diversity of views and voices from young people of different ages and cultures,” said Mr. Steiner. “We very much hope the spirit set by these young people will be reflected in the negotiations that will take place in December.”

Source: UN