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[2015] Mayor’s Speech

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  • Cities will Play a Leading Role in a Sustainable Future.

  • SMG 1158

    The inaugural speech given by the newly elected ICLEI Chair

    Date: 4/8/2015
    Venue: Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

    Mayors from ICLEI member cities,

    How are you today? Spring flowers like forsythias, magnolias, and cherry blossoms are coming out in full bloom everywhere in Seoul. The pink of the cherry blossoms is transforming the look of the streets. The flowers are attracting bees and butterflies. Birds are singing. A city filled with trees, birds, and bees, with a pleasant breeze under the sun; we should strive to keep the earth that way for good. We should hand over this green planet full of vitality to our descendants. We are gathered here today to discuss how to keep this green planet in a good condition. You are the leaders taking upon themselves the duty of protecting the earth.

    Thank you very much for electing me as ICLEI President today. Thank you for allowing the 9th ICLEI World Congress to be held in Seoul.

    Today, you have given me the important mission of leading the ICLEI for the next three years. As the new leader of a body with 1,200 member cities, I feel a deep sense of responsibility. I will do what I can to carry out the task of protecting the earth together with you.

    We are here today to discuss how to make a better future for our cities. I firmly believe that our friendly collaboration will go a long way to making our cities happier places to live in. I hope you agree.

    The world has entered the era of cities – an era of friendly communication and exchanges between cities, regions, and people beyond national borders.

    In this era of the shared community, a problem of a city is no longer a problem confined to that city or country. Problems faced by Seoul, Berlin, Beijing, and New York have become problems to be solved by all cities around the world together. In reality, Seoul and Beijing are working together to solve the problem of air quality. In September last year, representatives of 13 cities including Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo were gathered together in Seoul to set the targets for reducing air pollutants for cities, and we announced a joint statement for cooperation towards that shared goal.

    As someone once said, “Presidents talk about principles, and mayors pick up trash.” I do my best to pick up trash wherever possible. A mayor is supposed to pay attention to details related to people’s everyday lives. A city’s problems should be solved practically by selecting what is needed the most beyond political ideologies or views. I think that the ICLEI stands in the middle of such efforts.

    It has been 25 years since the ICELI was launched. The ICLEI has come a long way as the world’s largest network of local governments to convey the opinions of locals in regions to the international community and strengthen the role of local governments.

    We need to dream a new dream if the cities of the world are to work together. As the new ICELI leader, I intend to walk side by side with you toward a dream shared by member cities of the ICLEI and people all over the world.

    To that end, I will strive to strengthen the linkages and bonds between local governments. Cities have focused on how to cope with climate change and solve the problems related to housing and public transportation, while their central governments have strived to strengthen ideologies, national defense, and patriotism.

    In the 21st Century, world-renowned scholars are putting a higher value on cities than central governments. In his book Rising Cities, Benjamin Barber, a prestigious scholar proposes inter-city collaboration beyond national borders. He says that cities and mayors can work to face challenges of today, while states can do nothing to solve problems like climate change, poverty, ecological destruction, and other issues facing us.

    I firmly believe that the life of the earth and the fate of future generations depend on how much of a leading role local governments and cities play in developing innovative environmental programs and engaging in continued mutually beneficial exchanges.

    The world will go through an unprecedented era of urbanization over the next 30-plus years. We will undoubtedly be surprised at the speed and magnitude of that process. It is our task to make these rapidly expanding cities sustainable.

    To that end, we will announce the Seoul Declaration, expressing our specific commitment to reduction of greenhouse gases and sustainable development, during this Congress. We will also disclose our action plan designed to put the Declaration into action, asking for our member cities’ positive participation.

    We will also come up with specific ways to implement the greenhouse gas reduction target for cities, and strive to have international organizations and central governments adopt it in an effort to enhance the status of cities and local governments.

    This year is truly important for the whole world. In September, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are set to be finally decided upon, and the conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) will be held in Paris in December. For this, the ICLEI, UCLG, and C40 agreed to develop the Compact of Mayors at the UN Climate Summit last September, drawing global attention to the importance of the role of cities.

    The General Assembly is set to open further discussion based on the developments agreed to at the Compact of Mayors as well as the Mayors Forum, which will present each city’s targets and concrete measures for greenhouse gas reduction emissions. On top of the targets and measures collected at the forum, we intend to make an official announcement of the tireless efforts made by each city and local government at COP21, for the purpose of promoting and improving their profiles in the world. We also sincerely desire to attract more active participation among UN parties by elaborating each city’s and local government’s GHG reduction target and its implementation plan in more detail. To do so, close cooperation and collaboration with the UNFCCC is required. We must also increase cooperation with international environmental protection agencies in the future.

    My fellow delegates of member cities, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen! It is my hope that we can strengthen cooperation further with the cities all around the world for the betterment of our environment and share the outcomes with all. To achieve this, we will put in place the regularization of the Mayors Forum between cities and local governments.

    Third, we will try to share our experience and knowhow to improve the city brand of Seoul as well as further its sustainable development. Previously, Seoul used to be one of the largest energy consuming cities in the country. Although Korea achieved the so-called Miracle on the Hangang River, experiencing remarkable economic growth in the 70s and 80s achieved after the total ruin of the Korean War, the city also went through a series of environmental problems, including an excessive amount of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from urbanization accompanied by an increasingly concentrated population and an ever-growing rate of vehicle ownership, trash and sewage issues, stream and groundwater contamination.

    However, Seoul is transforming itself into an eco-friendly global city while successfully responding to a rapid increase in population. Since I took office in 2011, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has reduced two million TOE through the One Less Nuclear Power Plant campaign, and is currently working on a second phrase to decrease the amount, which is equivalent to two nuclear power plants. By making diverse efforts to conserve energy while also producing new renewable energy, the SMG plans to increase its electricity self-dependence rate from what began as a mere 2.5 percent, to the current 4.5 percent, and then up to 20 percent by 2020. We are now seeking ways to walk shoulder to shoulder with the cities around the world, by sharing the sustainable urban policy adopted and implemented with great success by the SMG.

    To fulfill all of our obligations regarding climate change and achieve a sustainable future for our city, a governing body will be set up consisting of civic groups, the central government, local governments, and NGOs in order to reduce GHGs by more than 25 percent, approximately 100 million tons, by 2020. The SMG has also set a goal of reducing more than 40 percent by 2030 to become the model of a green city.

    To achieve this goal, we will launch the civic campaign “Reducing 1 Ton of Greenhouse Gas per Person” with the participation of the ten million citizens of Seoul. Furthermore, we will expand our ongoing projects such as the Eco-mileage system, which encourages people to conserve energy, as well as the ICT-based BRP (Building Retrofit Project) project, and supply LEDs. Details of the already-established sustainable development plans, including Seoul’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, performance, and the plans for adapting to climate conditions will be reported on an annual basis through the cCR (carbon Climate Registry) and the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project). These will be disclosed to the public in a transparent manner. I hope these diverse efforts and the vision of the SMG can serve to set an example to other cities and governments.

    Honorable delegates, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen! I would like to share my favorite sayings with you: “Tiny raindrops gather to make a river, and finally make up the sea,” and “A dream dreamt together becomes a reality.” I strongly believe that our small efforts today will gather and accumulate together enough to become a change huge enough to change, protect, and save the Earth.

    The dream of a single person or of a single mayor may remain only a dream, but the dream shared by all the citizens, mayors, and the whole world will become a reality.

    As president of the ICLEI, I will gather the leadership from each city and local government and dedicate my best efforts to building a sustainable future and achieving the sustainable development of the planet. Honorable delegates of each city, I look forward to your active participation, cooperation, friendship, and solidarity. I will do my utmost efforts to ensure that the ICLEI World Congress is a successful conference that serves as a platform for achieving new advances and developments with the support of its members. Thank you.