|Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the Seoul International Forum on Climate and Environment 2022 at Seoul City Hall, Thursday. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
By Ko Dong-hwan
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said the Korean capital is on its way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2026 via curbing single-use wastes and improving the city's circular economy, which involves incentives for reusing products.
In his opening speech at the Seoul International Forum on Climate and Environment 2022, Thursday, which was streamed live online for participants from across the world, the mayor said the city's greenhouse reduction plan is part of efforts to realize the country's goal of carbon neutralization by 2050 as the city is home to nearly one-fifth of the country's population of over 51 million.
"With the 'untact' (contactless) lifestyle taking root since the COVID-19 pandemic, single-use plastic wastes in the city have increased exponentially," Oh said. "While reducing them, recycling those wastes and expanding the circular economy around the city by actively reusing wasted products are critical."
The international forum was held at Seoul City Hall from Thursday to Friday. Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities, a network of nearly 100 world-leading cities collaborating to confront the climate crisis, Milag San Jose-Ballesteros, the regional director for East, Southeast Asia and Oceania from the same network, and Maria Castillo Fernandez, the ambassador of the EU to Korea, were among the participants of the forum's high-level discussion on how to accomplish zero-waste societies.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government shared at the forum its ongoing eco-friendly measures, including getting rid of single-use containers at cafes and restaurants, many of which use the receptacles to deliver food to customers. A growing number of supermarkets in the city stopped using product packaging materials like plastic bags and nylon wires, while the "zero campus" initiative has been encouraging universities and colleges to recycle waste. The mayor said the city's measures would not have been possible without cooperation between the country's franchise businesses, private delivery platforms and IT companies.
|From left, climate expert and TV personality James Hooper from the United Kingdom; Maria Castillo Fernandez, the ambassador of the EU to Korea; Lee Hoe-sung, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Oh Se-hoon, Seoul mayor; Korea University Prof. Moon Kil-joo who is also from Fine Dust Special Committee under the Korean Prime Minister's Office; and Lee in-keun, an official at the Environment Planning Bureau under the Seoul Metropolitan Government, at the forum's opening ceremony / Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Watts from the United Kingdom said that 75 percent of the member cities of the C40 network have plugged in agendas to fight the climate crisis that are "more ambitious than their central governments."
Lee Hoe-sung, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony University Graduate School of Energy and Environment in Seoul defined the global climate crisis as "a problem of choosing policies based on scientific proof." He reminded the guests that carbon neutralization by 2050 ― which many advanced countries have pledged to achieve ― holds scientific accountability that it can stop the ongoing global warming at no higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius from that of the Industrial Revolution era.
The forum included four sessions each under different topics, which invited a diverse group of city officials, environment experts from global organizations and individual players from across the world whose environmental insights have been recognized through their roles in private companies and media.
Representatives from the city governments of Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta, Tokyo, Kitakyushu and the Finnish city of Turku joined the panels, while officials from the U.N. Environment Programme, Local Governments for Sustainability, a global network of more than 2,500 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development, Norwegian circular economy platform provider PACE as well as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis based in Austria took part in the sessions.
The Seoul city government hopes the forum will serve as a turning point to realizing zero-waste goals by learning advanced measures being implemented outside the country and putting them into practice.
"By sharing the global trends geared towards zero waste and discussing ways to help the climate-vulnerable groups within our city community, we will utilize what we learned from the forum in our new policies," You Yeon-sik, Chief of Climate and Environment Headquarters under the city government, said.