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[2015] Mayor’s Speech

  • Increasing Worldwide Interest in Seoul as a Sustainable City: SEOUL ON STAGE

  • [2015] Mayor’s Speech SMG 1803

    Date April 9, 2015 Venue Dongdaemun Design Plaza

    Distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Can human beings live on a planet that is inhospitable to polar bears? This question has brought us to this place today. That is why I invited polar bears here as well. I wonder if you were happy to see them.

    It is my sincere hopes that the answer we will find here at this ICLEI World Congress can help build a sustainable future for the survival of these polar bears with us today. I also hope that you show continued interest and support for our sincere efforts and plans for sustainable development, which I will go into shortly.

    We have gathered here to find a sustainable solution to the future of our city. This coincides exactly with the definition of sustainable development agreed to at the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. In other words, the sustainable solution we will find here will help us not to waste the economic, social, and environmental resources or conditions that will be passed down to our future generations. Rather than catering to our needs, we must achieve social stability and integration as well as environmental conservation while maintaining harmony and balance.

    To make this definition into a reality, the SMG has revealed the goal of realizing a safe and sustainable city faithful to the basics in the 2014 Seoul Metropolitan Government Administration Plan, which is aimed at protecting the livelihood of the citizens and facilitating the city’s sustainable development. What then are the major challenges Seoul is now facing in the field of environment, social culture, and economy in its process of creating this sustainable city? The city needs to thoroughly examine its current situation, and it needs to launch a commitment to a better future. Let us first look into the Seoul of today.

    First, the city’s energy consumption accounts for 92.4 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, and 56 percent of the energy used to power the buildings covers 87 percent of the total electricity consumption of the city. When it comes to air pollution, more work to decrease the ultra-fine particles is needed. More than half of the annual level of fine dust particles in the city is caused by dust scattering and road mobile pollution sources.

    Park area per person also needs to be improved. The proportion of households who feel unsatisfied with the amount of parks in the city in their daily lives amounts to 39 percent, and 70 percent of the parks are concentrated on the outskirts of the city. True, daily domestic waste has significantly decreased, but we still need to do more.

    What about in the social cultural area? Women’s labor force participation rates and decision process participation are still very low. In fact, the city’s rate of women’s economic activity is below the average for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    Up to 40 percent of households spend more than 10 percent of their expenditures on medical bills, and our society is rapidly aging. It is expected to become a super-aged society by 2030. City deterioration has now emerged as one of our biggest problems, and polarization between rich and poor is also a significant issue. Specifically, the cultural separation resulting from income differences is another major underlying cause of our current social problems.

    What about the economy? The city of Seoul has both possibilities and risks, problems and solutions. The city’s sales account for 75 percent of the creative economy sector nationwide. About 25 percent of institutions and universities in the country are located in Seoul. In practice, however, citizens are enduring a high unemployment rate.

    The number of tourists is increasing: the social economy has increased by as much as 275 percent in 2014 compared to 2012. This clearly shows that Seoul has enormous potential for development if it pursues the industrial diversity of a sustainable city.

    Let us now look at the plans the SMG is pushing forward with to achieve a sustainable development and a bright future of the city. Seoul has made clear the meaning and direction of the plans regarding environment, social culture, and economy that I have already mentioned earlier. More specifically, we will first reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Reducing 1 Ton of Greenhouse Gas per Person campaign is a promise to our citizens. I am sure that this can be done by reducing energy consumption and increasing production as well as by reducing the amount of waste and extending the recycling scheme.

    Improved water circulation will contribute to reducing the amount of natural disasters, making ours a safer city. We will also expand cooperation with cities across Northeast Asia and other related local governments to improve air quality. The city’s environmental improvement measures will involve creating urban pathways and creating a human-oriented transportation environment. In the social cultural area, the SMG has come up with and implemented a number of practical plans as well.

    We have established a social system for a reducing the highly polarized social structure and discrimination. This includes strengthening the public availability childcare services, providing aid to those who have fallen into the dead zone of welfare through our home-visiting welfare system, and creating assisted living facilities. On top of these, we will not cease our efforts to make a society where people can live together. At the moment, we are working on measures against low fertility and population aging, as well as policies to protect those who have limited access to medical services. I also expect a cultural ecosystem to develop that can contribute to the development of citizens’ potential energy.

    The best way toward economic sustainability is to set a very solid foundation for a creative and innovative economy. In addition, ensuring a variety of sustainable, decent jobs, creating a global economic city where people can be happy and contribute to the economy and ultimately to the sustainability of Seoul.

    Let’s take a look the evaluation of Seoul in terms of sustainability. To do this, we used the Wheel Model, which you are watching now. The spokes within the Wheel Model show the current status of each indicator, and the inside dotted line and outside dotted line represent the goals of 2020 and 2030, respectively. If the 30 indicators of the development of sustainability come closer to each goal, reaching the edge of the Wheel, the level of sustainability is evaluated as high. Currently, do you recognize that the indicators of the environmental areas stand out?

    Through this Wheel Model, we can clearly compare each indicator with one another, seeing how far the goals are from being achieved from the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic perspective. In the environmental areas, the number of Hangang River visitors is higher than the others, meaning the Han-River is the most loved nature destination among Seoul citizens. In the meantime, what we still have to put more focus on is reducing greenhouse gases.

    When it comes to socio-cultural areas, we have to focus more on ensuring a suitable income standard and senior citizen employment rates. On the economy side, we have stable numbers in venture businesses, while the rates of youth employment and workers in creative industries are low. This shows that we should not spare our efforts in making our policy goals become a reality. To this end, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will update the indicators in the Wheel Model every year. At the same time, it will also manage indicators in overall administrative affairs to be rectified and the core policies of the 6th Civil Election to be implemented, and the feedback of those outcomes will be reflected as well.

    Aside from the management of those indicators, proceeding with the development of sustainability of Seoul requires various endeavors. Precise evaluation and new agendas of policies on sustainable development is required. We therefore need a constant cycle of evaluation and suggestion. More importantly, we need awareness, consensus, and participation among the public. The governance areas in previously rectified administrative affairs will be a contributing factor for the sustainable development of Seoul.

    Moreover, laws and regulations should play a role in supporting such efforts. It is an important challenge for us to reflect on the major tasks of laws regarding sustainable development on rectification plans, and we must flexibly reshuffle municipal organizations as required.

    Cooperation triumphs over competition. Each city will come up with measures for their own sustainable development, depending on their environment. However, enabling such efforts to be viable is within the power of cooperation and collaboration among cities.

    In this context, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will continue to share and enhance the model of sustainable development in Seoul. It will also continuously check whether its model satisfies the goals of the UN sustainable development criteria.

    Fellow citizens! I would like you to be interested in and support the sustainable city of Seoul and its sustainable development. The glowing lights you are seeing now are fireflies made by some students in Seoul with the help of solar energy. I am sure that such lights will shed light on our future. Those lights have started to light our direction and guide us in the direction we must go. The city of Seoul and its citizens have started to discuss the sustainable development of Seoul, cooperating with each other to achieve that shared goal.

    The city of Seoul is now at the forefront of our society; it is responsible for leading cities into the light of a new sustainable future.

    I ask for your support for the sustainability embodied in those lights, and I also hope your cooperation will be added to those lights for more brightness and vision in the future. Thank you.