Green Recovery in Asia: Opportunities for Concerted Action
At the virtual webinar, “A Green Recovery in Asia: Opportunities for Concerted Action“, hosted by Elevate on January 20, 2021, Ambassador Yeonchul Yoo spoke on the topic of building sustainability into post-pandemic recovery.
As we continue to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have finally seen a glimpse of hope with the news of vaccines. We should note, however, that this fight against COVID-19 may just be a prelude to what we may face with the climate crisis. Unfortunately, neither personal protective equipment (PPE) nor vaccines are available for climate change.
The international community has never played down climate change but we used to believe that there would be more time for us to prepare. However, we are experiencing the stark realities of climate change more frequently than ever before. Natural disasters and climate extremes, such as typhoons, floods and wildfires, not to mention the ice melting in the Arctic, all became a new normal that hit the Asia-Pacific region this year harder than ever before. And that makes us worry that the climate crisis might be really just around the corner. I believe this is why green issues have become a high priority issue globally and a key item on domestic political agendas.
As we navigate challenging global issues, such as COVID-19 and climate change, one thing we realize is that no one country can tackle them alone. Multilateral efforts are essential and perhaps the only way out. As in the case of COVID-19, the challenges posed by climate change have no respect for boundaries and the sustainability of our planet cannot be assured by efforts of a single country. For this reason, the combined efforts and approach of the international community are most needed.
That brings us to the importance of multi-stakeholders’ engagement. As we pursue multilateral cooperation to address these challenges, it is also becoming very clear that governments cannot do it alone. We need the businesses, civil societies and the people to join in on the effort. If we can bring together the commitments of all stakeholders, we will have a much better chance to address the hurdles ahead.
The next question may be what do we do with the diverse actors on different levels gathered together? The first step would be the well-known cliché, “building back better and greener.” As we struggle from the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, we need to understand that this is an opportunity for us to reset what we have been doing wrong by going green. As governments seek to implement recovery packages, we need to make sure that this time around, we pursue green stimulus packages that will help us build back our economy in a sustainable manner.
The second step is aligning this short term goal with our long term climate ambitions. As we prepare to implement the Paris Agreement, our recovery package, NDCs and LEDS need to be coordinated. The encouraging news is that China, Japan and Korea have all announced carbon neutral goals in recent months. Long term commitments are not easy to make. We are literally trying to fly into unchartered territory and it is natural for us to be prudent.
Let’s think back 30 years to 1990 – we may have imagined that in 2020, we would all have mobile phones. But we may not have imagined that we would be watching movies and videos with such high quality images and even make video clips with our devices. The development of technology will lead us to a whole new level of life in 30 years from now. 2021 is already here. And we are living in an era of digitalization and decarbonization. To achieve the global goals ahead of us, we need to continue our investment in technology. With such confidence, if we continue to build on these ambitions by bringing together more commitments within the Asia-Pacific, we can certainly project a brighter future for our next generation.
The global dynamics of climate policy is changing. I hope that the Asia-Pacific region will lead the efforts to address climate change with ambitious policies and measures for both immediate and long-term goals with the participation and engagement of diverse stakeholders.
As Korea seeks to contribute to the global efforts through the Green New Deal as well as the 2050 carbon neutrality goal, we will also be hosting the 2021 P4G Summit on May 30-31 in Seoul. This will also be an exciting venue to further the momentum towards ambitions and actions as we prepare for COP26.
Read more about the P4G Summit.
About the Author
Ambassador Yeonchul Yoo
Ambassador Yeonchul Yoo has served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more than 30 years. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador for Climate Change, he served as Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the State of Kuwait and as Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative at the Korean Permanent Mission in Geneva, Switzerland. Ambassador Yoo has consistently involved in the environmental issues.
Within the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he served as Director of Environment and Science Division and the Energy and Climate Change Division, and he was the Director-General for International Cooperation within the Ministry of Environment. He became the Ambassador for Climate Change in 2018. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science & Diplomacy at Yonsei University, has completed the Foreign Service Programme at the University of Oxford in the UK, and received his Master’s Degree in International Relations at the University of Reading, UK.
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