Honorable heads of state and government, representatives from international organizations and everyone joining us online from around the world,
I am grateful to you all for attending the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit. Together with the Korean people, I wholeheartedly welcome everyone behind the “Green We Go, Change We Make” initiative.
Today is a day we gather insights for “Inclusive Green Recovery towards Carbon Neutrality” for the sake of ourselves and the earth. The spirit of P4G calls for action and putting steps into practice together. The Republic of Korea started the P4G Green Future Week last Monday, and 15 breakout sessions are underway on such climate and environmental issues as water, food and agriculture, green technology, oceans and energy. The two-day P4G Summit starting today will bring together heads of state and government of some 50 countries and leaders of about 20 international organizations, enabling us to move toward the common goal of a sustainable world.
Climate and environmental specialists as well as those from academia, businesses, civil society and future generations are putting their heads together. I hope this Summit will pave the way for the history of humanity to transition to a history of coexistence.
Having gone through past colonization, war and industrialization, the Korean people learned directly how immensely human beings and nature can impact each other. With our forest reserves plundered by another country, we had to cut down the remaining trees for firewood or fuel for industries. Artillery fire from the Korean War and wildfires further devastated our forests, making it much harder to preserve ground water. The resultant series of droughts and floods ended up reducing crop yields.
However, the Korean people successfully managed to revive nature. They replanted trees on bare hills and took action to restore nature by cutting back on waste. As a result, just 20 years after the campaign began, the Republic of Korea was credited by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as the only developing country to succeed with reforestation after World War II. Korea’s economic growth today was achieved together with the restoration of nature. The efforts and accomplishments made by the Korean people a half century ago demonstrated the fact that it is impossible to restore lives without restoring nature and that restoration is possible only when we act together.
The solution to the climate crisis now facing humanity is also clear. Namely, we must take action – go beyond just making commitments – and the advanced and developing countries must work together. From last year, the world has been broadening the scope of cooperation, while struggling to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, by arranging various dialogue tables such as the World Health Assembly, the U.N. General Assembly, the G20 Summit, the ASEAN+3 Summit, the Climate Adaptation Summit and the Leaders Summit on Climate. Higher goals have been set and are being implemented to address the climate crisis, the root cause of abnormal weather conditions and new infectious diseases. Amid crises, new hopes are being generated.
The Republic of Korea will also participate preemptively and actively in the international community’s efforts to overcome the climate crisis. We will stand together along the path toward an inclusive green recovery for sustainable development with humanity and the earth coexisting.
To everyone joining the effort to safeguard the earth,
I hope that our solidarity in addressing the climate crisis will be further strengthened through the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, and I would like to make several pledges to the international community on behalf of the Korean people.
First, the Republic of Korea will raise its 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) further. Our strengthened 2030 NDC – the interim target of the 2050 Carbon Neutrality goal declared last year – will be presented as promised at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) to be held in November this year.
We have also decided to stop public financing for overseas construction of coal-fired power plants. With the inauguration of my Administration, permits to build new coal-fired power plants were completely suspended, and ten aged coal-fired power plants were shut down earlier than initially planned. While doing so, we have been rapidly increasing the share of renewables such as solar and wind energy used for power generation. We look forward to an increasing number of neighboring countries participating in our efforts to boldly wean ourselves from fossil fuels.
Second, in the same way that the Republic of Korea achieved reforestation with international support, we will actively cooperate with developing countries. We will assist the energy transition of some developing countries that are heavily reliant on coal for power. By 2025, we will significantly increase climate- and green-related ODA to help developing countries in need of green recovery and raise a US$5 million Green New Deal Trust Fund through the Global Green Growth Institute. This will also enable developing countries to tailor their own green growth policies. Each country is in a different stage of economic development, and dependence on coal-fired power generation varies widely. Against this backdrop, I would like to emphasize that developed countries should increase support for developing countries, so the whole world can transition to a low-carbon economy.
We will do everything we can to make P4G’s operations sustainable. We will provide a new US$4 million grant to help spread creative green growth projects.
Third, we will redouble our efforts to protect various species. The Republic of Korea announced the Peace Forest Initiative in 2019 and has been working to revive land and forests – the sources of life – and settle peace in disputed areas. We will cooperate with the international community for the success of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th meeting (COP15) to be held in October in China. We will make contributions to the adoption of the New Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by joining three initiatives: the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, and the Global Ocean Alliance. I hope the international community will also support the preservation of the natural ecosystem within Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, a treasure trove of biodiversity.
The shipping and shipbuilding industries must also work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to reduce marine debris are important as well. Plastic and other disposable items are spilling into the oceans, destroying marine ecosystems and threatening the health of humanity. As a maritime nation whose land is surrounded by sea on three sides, Korea will also actively cooperate so that the United Nations can begin to discuss the issue of marine plastics as soon as possible.
Fourth, we will implement active and preemptive policies so that the journey toward 2050 Carbon Neutrality becomes the path to sustainable development. Carbon neutrality is not only a way for humankind and the earth to coexist but also an opportunity to create many innovative technologies, industries and jobs.
The Republic of Korea started taking bold steps last year toward a 2050 carbon-neutral society through the Green New Deal. With the Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality playing a central role, we plan to set out detailed measures to achieve the goal. Technological innovation is very important for achieving the 2050 Carbon Neutrality goal. Korea enacted the world’s first hydrogen-related laws, noting hydrogen’s potential as a green energy source. The country is spurring technological innovation to bolster a hydrogen ecosystem that encompasses hydrogen vehicles, charging stations and fuel cells.
The private sector and individual businesses are working together. An increasing number of companies are declaring carbon neutrality and their commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy. ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) has become a new standard in corporate management. To achieve carbon neutrality in the transportation sector, around 110 major domestic companies have declared that they will convert over 1.2 million vehicles in their fleets to electric and hydrogen vehicles by 2030. Some 112 financial institutions have declared support for 2050 Carbon Neutrality climate finance. The National Pension Service, one of the world’s three largest pension funds, has also declared a coal-free initiative.
For its part, the Korean Government plans to expand financial support from state-run banks for green sectors by nearly doubling their current share of total financing to 13 percent by 2030. At the same time, we intend to establish a Korean-style taxonomy so that green finance can operate smoothly. Korea will move toward 2050 Carbon Neutrality together with other countries while sharing its Green New Deal experiences and achievements worldwide.
Distinguished heads of state and government, leaders of international organizations and those who are taking part through video conferencing,
We started today’s opening ceremony by playing the pre-recorded voices of children, adolescents and young adults. This was intended to bring more attention to the urgency felt by future generations. Our present shapes the future. The future can change when we ourselves sense the value of coexistence and mutual benefit.
I hope that the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit becomes an important step toward a safer and more sustainable future for all of us, including future generations; an inclusive green recovery for humanity; and carbon neutrality.
The Republic of Korea intends to host the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties in 2023. Moreover, we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities and roles as a bridging nation between developing and advanced countries. As the host country, we will do everything possible until the end to make this summit a venue that produces an actionable vision and strengthens cooperation.