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Mayor’s Speech

I would like to propose three core visions and roles on the occasion of my inauguration as ICLEI President:

  • 1) Strengthen sharing, cooperation, and connection between global cities and local autonomies
  • 2) Announce greenhouse gas reduction targets and concrete implementation measures of cities to the international community
  • 3) Share Seoul’s brand image and expertise in sustainable development


○ Dear Mayors of ICLEI member cities, I am Park Won Soon, president of the ICLEI and mayor of Seoul. During the last few days, the spring flowers have burst forth and blossomed in such splendor in Seoul. The yellow forsythias are in full bloom, and the magnolias are beginning to shyly open their buds.

○ Cherry trees have also bloomed, sprinkling our roads with beautiful light pink petals. The bees are buzzing and the birds are chirping. This is a city of sun and wind, of trees and flowers, birds and bees, nature and man…

○ Dear friends, this is what Seoul looks like today. This is what your cities and our planet looks like today, and this is how our planet and our cities should remain forever.

○ This blue planet is filled with such beauty and vitality, which we must pass on to our descendants, exactly as we inherited it from our ancestors. This is what brings us together today—our determination to protect this blue planet called “Earth.” And this is why I believe we are the guardians of the Earth.

First of all, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for my appointment as president of the ICLEI. This year, the ICLEI celebrates its 25th anniversary, and it is a great honor that it is hosting its 9th World Congress in Seoul.

Today, you have bestowed upon me a great mission—to lead the ICLEI. And as president of the ICLEI, an organization with an extensive membership of over 1,000 cities, I feel the heavy weight of the responsibility that comes with this position on my shoulders, and yet, I know that by working hard, serving as president of the ICLEI will be a profoundly rewarding experience that will inspire a deep sense of pride in me.

I will do my best to work with you to save and protect our planet.

○ Each and every one of us has come here today to build a better future for our cities, and I strongly believe that this like-mindedness that brings us together, as well as our responsibilities, friendship, and solidarity, will make our cities and our lives happier. On this, I think we are all in agreement.

Delegates from member cities! Our world has now entered an “era of cities.” We live in a time where national boundaries have been left far behind, and where practical communication, exchange, and cooperation between cities, regions, and people are valued above all else.

○ We live in an era where our destinies are intertwined, and the problem of one city is no longer the problem of that country alone. Our problems no longer remain within the confines of our city alone.

○ The problems to which we struggle to find solutions in Seoul and Berlin, and in Beijing and New York, have moved beyond cities and crossed borders, and have emerged as global issues that demand the full cooperation of all global citizens in order to solve them.

○ In this regard, Seoul and Beijing have joined forces in an effort to respond to the challenge of air pollution, and last September, thirteen city representatives, including representatives from Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, gathered in New York to set air pollution reduction targets and announced a joint declaration to work together toward achieving these targets.

Like the saying, “The president lays down the principle, but the mayor picks up the litter,” it is now time that cities and mayors take the lead in solving urban issues.

○ I make this call because to solve urban issues, we must go beyond ideologies and political opinions, and make practical decisions regarding what is most urgently needed for the lives of our citizens.

I believe the ICLEI stands right in the heart of this idea.

○ Delegates of member cities! It has already been 25 years since the foundation of the ICLEI, and I know very well that as the world’s greatest network of local governments, the ICLEI has been committed to connecting the leaders of global cities, advocating the voices of regions, and strengthening the roles of local governments in the international community.

○ If we want global cities to help one another, we must dream a new dream. As president of the ICLEI, I intend to take a significant step toward realizing the dreams of the international community, global citizens, and ICLEI member cities, and I hope to take this step with each and every one of you.

First, I plan to further reinforce the sharing, cooperation, and connections between global cities and local governments.

○ While states have strengthened ideologies and emphasized national defense and patriotism, cities have actively responded to climate change. They focused their efforts on directly solving the housing and public transportation problems faced by their citizens.

○ The argument of world’s scholars that cities are more valuable than states in the 21st century is increasingly gaining support. One such scholar, Benjamin Barber, proposes in his book, If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, that we must leap over national boundaries and cooperate with other cities.

○ He argues that in the face of the tremendous challenges of climate change, poverty, and ecological destruction, the efforts of states have proved to be futile, and that we should look to the mayors that govern our cities to effectively address these problems.

○ I firmly believe that “Life of Earth, Destiny of Future Generations” depends on how each local government and city takes the lead in developing innovative environmental programs and engages in continuous exchange for the purpose of mutual survival.

○ The world is currently experiencing, and will continue to experience for at least the next 30 years, an era of global urbanization unprecedented in the history of humankind. What is more surprising is the speed and scale of this urbanization.

○ Recognizing this, my mission is to make such rapid and explosive urbanization sustainable, and I believe that this is also the mission of everyone here today.

○ During this World Congress, and with this sense of purpose, we will adopt the “Seoul Declaration,” which sets forth our determination, in detailed, practical measures, regarding sustainable development principles and the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

○ We will also adopt the “Seoul Action Plan,” which establishes specific, practical measures for implementing the Seoul Declaration. In this way, we will further invigorate our cities’ efforts and participation.

Second, we will establish greenhouse gas reduction targets for cities and come up with detailed implementation measures. We will announce them to the international community and work to ensure that they are adopted by international organizations and inter-governmental meetings, thereby heightening the position of cities and local governments.

○ This year is a very important year for the entire world. In September, the final discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be held, and in December, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 21) will take place in Paris, France, where members of the international community will gather to discuss and agree on a post-Kyoto Protocol. In this context, the Compact of Mayors, jointly adopted by the ICLEI, C40, and UCLG, was adopted by the UN Climate Summit last September, with the whole world now focused on the roles and importance of cities.

○ This year’s meeting will continue the discussions of the Compact of Mayors, and the Mayors Forum will also be held, where cities will announce their goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions and detailed measures to achieve their targets.

○ The target goals and measures announced by each city and local government through the Forum will be gathered, and, together with the past efforts of cities and local governments promoted at the COP 21, we will heighten the position of cities and local governments.

○ By announcing the goals and plans of local governments and cities, I intend to compel the participation of the parties at the COP 21. This will require close coordination and cooperation with the UNFCCC, and we must expand cooperation with other environment-related international organizations as well.

○ Delegates of member cities and distinguished guests from home and abroad! I intend to reinforce environmental cooperation with global cities and share our achievements. To this end, I will make the Mayor’s Forum a regular meeting.

Third, I will share the brand image of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and its expertise in the area of sustainable development, thereby enriching the lives of all citizens of the world.

○ In the past, Seoul was a major energy consuming city. Although we managed to achieve the so-called “Miracle on the Hangang (River)” through rapid economic growth during the 1970s and 80s, achieved upon the ruins of war, the city had its fair share of serious environmental problems, such as excessive greenhouse gas emissions, waste and sewage problems, and polluted streams and underground water, as a result of urbanization that was accompanied by an increasingly concentrated population and increased vehicle ownership.

○ But today, Seoul has managed to embrace it rapidly increasing population, and has transformed into a green, global city.

○ Over the past three years since 2011, when I first took office, we have managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two million TOE (Ton of Oil Equivalent) through our “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” campaign, and now we are launching the second phase of the campaign, which aims to reduce emissions by a TOE equivalent to that of two nuclear power plants. Through its various efforts to save energy while also producing electricity from new and renewable energy sources, Seoul has managed to almost double its energy independence from 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent, and we plan to increase this to 20 percent by 2020.

○ The Seoul Metropolitan Government hopes to share such successful and sustainable urban policies with other member cities, and seek a way for all global cities to develop together.

○ Furthermore, we plan to install a governing body composed of civil organizations, government, local autonomies, and NGOs within the Seoul Metropolitan Government in order to fulfill its responsibilities to respond to climate change with the goal of building a sustainable future. We will thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 million tons by 2020—reaching a level of emissions just slightly more than 25 percent of that in 2005. Our goal is to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent, and transform Seoul into a true “green city.”

○ To achieve these goals, we will launch the “Reduce One Ton of Greenhouse Gas per Person” campaign with the participation of the 10 million Seoul citizens, and we will also expand various projects, including the Eco-mileage system, which encourages people to conserve energy, as well as the ICT-based BRP (Building Retrofit Project) project, and supply LEDs.

○ The detailed implementation of the already established Basic Plan for Sustainable Development, which includes Seoul’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals and performance, and the plans for adapting to climate conditions will be reported every year through the cCR (carbonn Climate Registry) and the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), and disclosed to the public in a transparent manner.

○ I hope such diverse efforts and vision of the Seoul Metropolitan Government serve to set an example to other cities and governments.

○ Delegates of member cities and distinguished guests from home and abroad! Two of my favorite sayings are: “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 efforts today will gather and accumulate, and some day, we will become a powerful force that will move, protect, and save the Earth. The dream of a single person, or of a single mayor, may only be a dream, but if all global citizens, cities, and mayors dream the same dream, it will cease to be just a dream, and become a reality.

○ As president of the ICLEI, I will gather the leadership of cities and local governments and devote myself to building a sustainable future and achieving sustainable development on a global level.

○ Delegates of member cities, I look to you for your active participation, cooperation, friendship, and solidarity. And I will do my utmost to ensure that the ICLEI World Congress, which commences today, is a successful conference that serves as a platform for achieving new advances and development with the support of its members. Thank you.

ICLEI ICLEI Seoul Declaration