The earth is growing hotter at a faster pace than ever before. In recent years, due to natural disasters caused by unusual weather phenomena (e.g. intense heat, flooding, drought, etc.), countless lives have been lost, and extensive property damage has occurred. Unusual weather phenomena are caused mainly by human-caused climate change. The most effective way to curb climate change is to reduce greenhouse gases, one of the main causes of global warming. Since relaxation policies alone are an inadequate response to climate change, politicians and citizens alike are now focusing their efforts on reducing the effects of climate change and discussing ways to turn environmental friendliness into an opportunity for people across the world.
Overcoming climate change is a huge undertaking that must be tackled at a national level, but when it comes to actual execution in everyday life, the role of cities is critical. Major cities all over the world are responding to climate change by emphasizing the importance of creating low-carbon cities in which development-based policies are abandoned in favor of environmental values and energy conservation. Likewise, through its “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” policy, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) is focusing on reducing the volume of greenhouse gases the city produces—becoming a real-life example of the potential of sustainable urban development.
|One Less Nuclear Power Plant||10 Major Projects of the “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” Policy|
Seoul’s “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” began as a way to compensate for regions with low energy self-sufficiency rates and to protect the environment amidst ever-increasing levels of energy consumption. It is a citywide energy policy that seeks to engage in energy conservation efforts together with Seoul residents and expand the use of eco-friendly energy sources (e.g. solar power) to create the same amount of energy produced by a single nuclear power plant. Seoul’s energy policy, which aims to produce and conserve clean energy to enhance energy efficiency, ultimately aspires to benefit Seoul residents as well as residents of other areas through energy sharing. The policy is lauded as one in which energy “saves citizens and is saved by them.”
The ICLEI World Congress was held in April 2015 after the city of Seoul had already launched its policies aimed at addressing environmental changes. At the congress, representatives from Seoul urged those from other major cities around the world to join in efforts to respond to climate change. A presentation was made on “Seoul’s promise of response to climate change” to share with the global community Seoul’s vision of climate change response and the strong desire of its citizens to make the city’s vision a reality.
|“Promise of Seoul” launching ceremony||Parade with mayors of global cities|
The citizens of Seoul have been heavily involved in the “Promise of Seoul” even from the program’s beginning stages. The Citizens’ Green Seoul Committee (Seoul’s most representative governing body composed of civic groups, industry experts, and bureaucrats), the Citizens’ Committee for One Less Nuclear Power Plant, and the Promise of Seoul Execution Committee banded together to highlight the importance of writing up a vision and action plan for reducing greenhouse gases for a more concrete implementation of the program. A write-up committee was subsequently created, composed of members from each of the aforementioned committees and experts from The Seoul Institute, who represent a variety of fields and have extensive experience conducting research related to the major policies of Seoul.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that the program was effectually implemented, the government established an administrative body responsible for each of the city’s “11 Promises” (see Seoul’s 11 promises). Seoul citizens have been involved in each planning and implementation stage of the policy by regularly reporting the progress of each stage and collecting public opinions online and offline to be later included in official reports. Opinions and feedback about the program were collected through the SMG website and major portal sites. These same platforms were also used by civic groups and schools to make suggestions for the official Promises to be kept by the city in terms of energy conservation and make pledges for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
SMG, along with the citizens and companies of Seoul, has pledged to keep the following 11 promises as part of its response to climate change.
1. Reduce Seoul greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030 for the realization of a low-carbon, energy-efficient city.
2. Achieve energy welfare by sharing energy with socially vulnerable groups, who are also the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
3. Engage in comprehensive management of the causes of greenhouse gases and air pollution to transform Seoul into a model city in terms of climate change response.
4. Establish Seoul as a city that is highly resistant to climate change.
5. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasingly reusing, reducing, and recycling food waste.
6. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing water waste and collecting/utilizing rainwater.
7. Create “ecological cities” in which a wide variety of life forms coexist in increased adaptability to climate change.
8. Revitalize urban farming through a more collective lifestyle.
9. Create a healthier city by adopting preventative measures to minimize health risks (e.g. risks of heat strokes, infectious diseases, etc.) and increasing the city’s climate capabilities for climate change response.
10. Create a safer city by enhancing the city’s ability to prevent and respond to natural disasters.
11. Take a leading role in domestic/international cooperative efforts and establish an execution system for response to climate change.
|Seoul hosts the “Ten Thousand-Member Meeting for Response to Climate Change”||Ten Thousand-Member Meeting: Seoul’s promise for response to climate change|
The most decisive factor in whether or not the city as a whole will be able to keep its 11 promises is how well Seoul citizens themselves will be able to carry out the city’s promises in their everyday lives. Early education is particularly instrumental in enabling Seoul citizens to timely and effectively respond to climate change with minimal effort. SMG is now providing education on climate change measures in public schools. These climate education programs focus on measures needed to adapt to climate change and emphasize the magnitude of climate change that results from global warming.
Those interested in receiving climate education (elementary, middle, or high schools, and groups of 20 or more) should apply at the Environmental Affairs Bureau at the nearest district office. An instructor who is able to best meet the needs of the particular group will be sent to conduct classes onsite. Climate education includes an introduction to the latest issues related to climate change (e.g. outcomes of the COP21’s Paris Agreement), causes of and responses to climate change, response measures for abnormal weather caused by climate change, and ways to reduce carbon dioxide levels in daily life.
In order to provide additional training and hands-on experiences related to climate change, beginning from earlier this year, SMG has been operating a PR/experience booth on climate change and an affiliated hands-on educational program at the Seoul Energy Dream Center.
The “Promise of Seoul” is more than just words on a paper. Realizing the need for the same civic groups that participated in the write-up of the promises to take a leading role in their implementation, the Seoul city government established the “Promise of Seoul Citizen Action Committee” for the launch of the “1 ton LESS of carbon dioxide per person” program. Through this and other efforts, over 8,000 individuals from 25 districts, citizen action groups, SMG, and the Citizens’ Green Seoul Committee are participating in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and create a Green Seoul environment led by the citizens of Seoul.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is working particularly hard to increase participation by students—the leaders of the future—in climate change programs. Various environmental education programs are also being conducted (e.g. programs that focus on the prevention of global warming), which has led to increased brainstorming of energy conservation measures that can be implemented in everyday life. A total of 1,064 individuals from 1,299 schools are currently participating in educational programs provided by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
However, more efforts are needed in order for Seoul citizens to completely adopt the “Promises of Seoul” on a daily basis. Many have already expressed concerns that Seoul’s goals for climate change response cannot be achieved solely through the efforts of SMG alone.
|Climate change adaptation training
(Kuryong Elementary School)
|Seoul Energy Dream Center|
SMG’s efforts for climate change response were particularly evident at the “Action Day” event hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015. At the event, Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon gave a presentation on the changes resulting from Seoul’s climate change policies and shared the city’s expertise on the creation and execution of such policies. The presentation emphasized that Seoul companies and over 1.17 million citizens were actively participating in policies and that these efforts had already resulted in a reduction of 2 million TOE six months prior to the city’s goal (December 2004) for said reduction. The presentation also introduced the “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” policy as a success case that led to a 5.63 million ton reduction of greenhouse gases and introduced other citizen-participatory climate policy visions and accomplishments. A major event in which cities, companies, and civic groups share exemplary responses to climate change, Action Day was participated in by over 1,300 individuals in 2015, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg.
Mayor Park Won Soon also participated in the ICLEI’s first “General Assembly of Leading Global Cities for Sustainable Public Purchasing,” an event at which the city of Seoul was elected as the network’s chair city. Seoul will continue to serve as the chair city until December 2017.
The successful execution of the many plans and programs of the “Promise of Seoul” for the reduction of greenhouse gases depends heavily on the participation of Seoul citizens and private corporations. Even as it continues to encourage citizen participation, SMG is also focusing on building cooperative relationships with each of its 25 districts as well as with the Gyeonggi-do, Incheon Metropolitan, and federal governments. Together with these governing bodies and the citizens of Seoul, SMG continues to forge a cooperative network between various cities in Northeast Asia and the global community to promote a cleaner, brighter future.