Green growth essential to saving 'Earth in danger' (50)
By Lee Myung-bak
First and foremost, I am grateful to the staff of The Korea Times for their hard work in publishing the feature series “Earth in danger” over the past six months. My thanks should also go to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and all other contributors from various sectors.
As many have noted with great concern, Earth is now in danger. Global warming caused by greenhouse gases emitted during industrialization now poses a threat even to the very nexus of life, from water to energy to food resources. Accelerated climate change adds to the sharp increase of disasters and the ensuing damage, rapid expansion of desertification and the reduction in biodiversity on a daily basis.
A new path we have to take
The conclusion I arrived at after much hard thought was that we should not pass on an earth in danger to our posterity. Novel ways of thinking and behavior were needed. We should choose a new path that would ensure sustainable prosperity and safety for future generations.
In the first year of my presidency in 2008, I announced “Low Carbon, Green Growth” as a new paradigm to guide the nation’s development.
Low carbon, green growth is a new policy of thinking outside the box, which is aimed at making efforts to deal with climate change and to resolve environmental and energy issues and turn them into new growth engines and lifestyles.
As part of efforts to realize these goals, the Presidential Committee on Green Growth was launched to facilitate collaboration in deliberating and coordinating various green growth policies across ministries and agencies at the government level.
Green growth committees were also set up under local governments. Both the central government and local governments worked out five-year green growth plans and have invested 2 percent of GDP in the sector annually.
On top of this, the government was the first in the world to lay the groundwork for the continued pursuit of green growth by enacting the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth. It also paved the way for reducing the greenhouse gas emission in a groundbreaking manner through a market system by legislating the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Act, supported across various political parties.
As such, the government prepared the legal and institutional groundwork as well as the framework for putting green growth, the new paradigm for national progress, into practice.
Transition to green growth
Though we still have a long way to go, numerous changes have resulted from such endeavor in Korea after about four years.
First of all, green growth is changing the economic landscape.
Green industries are emerging as a new growth engine. Investments by private businesses in green industries, including new and renewable energy, have skyrocketed every year. As a consequence, the green industry is growing rapidly, and the export of green products is rising sharply.
An increasing number of businesses are putting green management into practice. The number of businesses that practice low carbon and environment-friendly management principles is on the rise. In businesses, advocating green management is now establishing itself as a marketing trend that is the most effective in appealing to consumers.
Thanks to the government efforts to expand R&D in green technology, a growing number of companies have come to have top-notch green technologies that are grabbing attention in the international arena.
Second, green growth is bringing about changes to the environment.
Environment-friendly spaces have increased. Green areas, including urban forests, eco-friendly streams and ecotourism destinations, are sprouting up in the neighborhood.
Air and water quality in urban areas is also improving. In addition, some local governments have recently begun to implement the urban clean development mechanism. These all combine to bear testimony to the expansion of eco-friendly spaces where people coexist with the environment.
Green buildings and green transportation systems are also on the increase. The construction boom of energy-saving green buildings in both public and private sectors is spreading all over the nation. An eco-friendly transition in the transportation system from expressways to high-speed railroads is taking place. The era of electric automobiles is also dawning.
On top of this, bike paths that can be easily used in our day-to-day life have increased, and it has become possible to ride a bike across country on the 1,800km-long bike path stretching along the four major rivers.
The abilities necessary to respond to climate change have strengthened. The Government has come up with strategies to adapt to climate change as a hedge against global warming. The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project made it possible to secure and manage water resources in a stable manner, which is needed to prepare against floods and drought that had in the past only occurred once in two centuries. Furthermore, the stability of the food supply has been enhanced by efforts to prevent disasters resulting from climate change and develop new varieties of crops.
An increase in the accuracy of weather forecasts and reliable computation of climate change scenarios helped to bolster the abilities to cope with disasters caused by climate change.
Third, green growth is changing lifestyles.
Most people are aware of the seriousness of climate change. More than 90 percent of the people believe that green growth policies have to be continuously pursued under all administrations. As such, the national consciousness on green growth has been awakened.
On the basis of these changes in consciousness, green living is spreading: green consumption is rising among the general public and domestic waste is being reduced. On top of this, environment-friendly leisure activities, including bicycling, ecotourism and urban farming, are on the rise, which attests to the fact that green practices are becoming natural parts of the lives of ordinary people.
International proliferation of green growth
As such, there is a dramatic green growth-based transformation in many aspects of human life. But it will take a long time for green growth to reach full fruition. In fact, change has just started in earnest and is moving forward in the desirable direction. For this reason, I am very sure that it will succeed.
No matter how successful our transition to a green way of life is, however, green growth by Korea alone does not mean much. That is because all life is bound by a collective destiny. The peoples of the world owe it to themselves to build a planet-responsible civilization to cope with climate change and the energy crisis. This is why I have tried to work with the international community for global green growth even before my August 2008 declaration of the national vision of low-carbon green growth.
At the expanded G8 Summit in Toyako in July 2008, I volunteered to act as an “early mover” in responding to climate change. I also proposed the East Asian Climate Partnership (EACP), promising Korea would gladly play the role of a bridge linking the developing and developed nations.
From next year through 2020, the Republic of Korea will increase the amount of its green Official Development Assistance (ODA) to more than $5 billion. As our EACP commitment ends this year, Korea’s green ODA will shift to the Global Green Growth Partnership.
In order to more systematically support green growth in developing countries, Korea will work through the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), which was founded in June 2010.
The Institute will expedite cooperation between developing and developed nations, while encouraging partnerships between the private and public sectors. In this way, developing countries will more efficiently receive the necessary policy support as well as skills and know-how.
Last March, the Green Technology Center Korea (GTCK) was launched and will be nurtured as a hub for technical cooperation needed to support green growth in the developing world. The Center will also be responsible for training and educating international experts in relevant fields.
In September 2013, the Korean government is planning to establish still another higher educational institution in Hongneung in Seoul. The Green Growth Graduate School will be entrusted with nurturing professionals who will maintain a sustainable green growth system, such as green growth engineers, green managers and green policymakers. Hongneung, the cradle of Korea’s rapid economic development, is poised to emerge as a center of global green growth in charge of advancing green growth technology and expertise as well as fostering high-caliber global experts.
Recently, with the Presidential Committee on Green Growth playing a pivotal role, the Korea Meteorological Administration, Korea Forest Service and the Rural Development Administration built a collaboration system for climate change adaptation and green growth. The results of the cooperative work will in turn be relayed to GGGI so that it can actually be used in administering meteorological, agricultural and forest affairs in developing countries, contributing to international proliferation of green growth.
Action strategy for ‘Earth in danger’
It is significant that the international community is accommodating green growth as the action strategy to deal with the earth in danger.
OECD adopted green growth as a core strategy for achieving sustainable economic growth in its 50th Anniversary Vision Statement and has implemented green growth projects by sector. The Rio+20 and G20 Summits have also decided on green growth as a main objective to be carried out. Along with GGGI, World Bank, UNEP and OECD are propagating green growth systematically through the Green Growth Knowledge Platform.
I would like to thank the international community for enthusiastically endorsing Korea’s initiative to officially convert GGGI into an international organization this coming fall. I take great pride in the fact that GGGI is becoming a viable common asset for all nations.
As an international organization, GGGI will be the centerpiece of global green growth strategy. The GTCK will be the technology arm of green growth in developing countries. The Green Climate Fund, which was created as the result of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa last year, will provide financial resources for green growth strategies and technologies.
Now that a green triangle has been perfected with the three sides representing strategy, technology and finance, our hopes have been elevated that we will not necessarily leave the earth in danger for our descendants.
Korea will continue to strive to make the green triangle an impeccable green growth architecture for all, going beyond the developing and developed countries.
I hope coming generations will remember the passions and agonies that we suffered for their sake. I hope they remember us for how hard we worked and how much we sacrificed not to leave them an Earth in danger.
To the extent that the next generation appreciates what we did for them, they will do the same for the generation coming after them, continuing a virtuous cycle.
I certainly trust that our contemporaries will be long remembered as a generation that the earth in danger and transformed it into a planet characterized by harmonious coexistence between nature and humanity.