|Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon speaks during a session on climate and environment at the Cities Against COVID-19 2020 summit, Wednesday. Screen capture from YouTube|
By Kim Se-jeong
Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon said Wednesday the city will implement its own "Green New Deal" in the post-COVID-19 pandemic period to create jobs and to reduce the city's carbon emissions.
The comment came during a talk on climate and environment as part of the Cities Against COVID-19 2020 summit. His mention of the new environmental policy echoed a statement by President Moon Jae-in who a few days earlier vowed to invest resources in industries that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aftermath of the pandemic.
"Seoul promises to make a big investment in the transition of ecology and civilization that will transform the green crisis into a green opportunity," Park said during the session.
The city government is expected to disclose details of the policy later this month.
Some experts explained theories that suggest the main cause of the COVID-19 pandemic is climate change that has pushed animal habitats, including bats ― one of the species identified as transmitting the recent coronavirus ― northward and closer to human civilizations.
Natural science professor Choe Jae-chun of Ewha Womans University said humans have never been so vulnerable to infectious diseases as they are now and urgent action was necessary.
Former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said in a pre-recorded speech, "The vast scale of the pandemic, as well as the climate crisis, requires united efforts on the global scale. The whole planet has to work as one in the face of such crises."
Mayor Park vowed to reduce greenhouse gases from buildings in the city. Buildings are considered the biggest source of carbon emissions for Seoul.
"Seoul will strictly limit the total greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and expand the construction of zero-energy buildings. Also, we will regenerate the city with the citizens by renovating old buildings. Seoul will greatly increase the generation capacity of solar power to 1 gigawatt, and of fuel cells to 300 megawatts by 2020," Park said.
The city recently changed building codes requiring new major structures to include renewable energy sources in their energy mix.
Park said the city will increase the number of city bikes, known as Ddareungi, to 40,000 by 2022 and move to 100 percent electric vehicle use. To achieve that, the mayor said, the city is installing electric vehicle charging stations that can be reached within a five-minute drive from any location in the city.
Seoul has more than 3.1 million registered vehicles, but including vehicles used by people that commute in and out of Seoul daily, the number of vehicles on the city's roads would be much higher. Vehicles are another major contributor to total carbon emissions.
The mayor also promised to reduce the amount of waste generated by the city.
"Seoul will build more resource recovery facilities and establish new recycling facilities with the aim of achieving zero landfills of domestic waste."
Park placed policy priority on reducing greenhouse gases over the last eight years in office. Other participants, Samuel Bowles, behavioral science expert, from the Santa Fe Institute, British Ambassador to Korea Simon Smith and Green Transit Institute researcher Lee Yu-jin, praised Park's new initiative.
However, Lee said the new policy should go hand in hand with institutional reform and increasing climate change awareness among the Korean public.