Monday, December 7, 2009

Business for the Environment Global Summit 2010 in Seoul

Ahead of the 15th U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP15) which just started in Copenhagen, Korea has, like every major polluter, worked hard to improve its "green" image.

All chaebols somehow prepared for the event, relying essentially on advertising and PR to embellish symbolic actions. But that's likely to change : most recent announcements do include aggressive plans for the future, it's not only a matter of image but of international competitivity. Furthermore, Korean conglomerates cannot just sit and watch rivals parade in their capital city next year.

last August, Seoul was selected as the host for the 2010 B4E Global Summit between April 21 and 23 at the COEX, on time for Earth Day (April 22) and the 2010 Champions of the Earth Awards. The Business for the Environment Summit ( brings together corporate leaders under prestigious umbrellas : UNEP (the U.N. Environment Program), WWF (the Worldwie Fund for Nature), and UNGC (U.N. Global Compact -

Seoul also hosted the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit earlier in 2009 ( - April 18-21). The Large Cities Climate Leadership Group can really make a difference at the global level ("50% of the world's population live in cities, which account for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and at this rate, by 2030, two thirds of the world’s population is predicted to live in urban areas"), and at the local level, Seoul committed to significant objectives for 2020 : -15% vs 2000 for energy consumption, and -25% vs 1990 for greenhouse gas emissions. At the national level, the recently announced targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions can sound disapointing : -30% by 2020 compared to business as usual only mean a reduction of 4% compared to 2005 levels... and Seoul can spur competition with other Korean cities considering its considerable weight in Korea.

Mayor OH Se-hoon pointed out several projects :
- Renewable energies should claim 10% of total in 2020 compared to 0.6% in 2004 : photovoltaic power generators everywhere, more solar panels, a boost for geothermal, and even mini hydro fuel cell power plants.
- More responsible constructions : the city is already delivering labels and guidelines for more energy efficient buildings, incentives for green rooftops, and it will also boast an eco-friendly City Hall (judging by its design, people walking on Seoul Plaza will feel like a tsunami is about to collapse on them). Note that major developpers are also considering improvements : Samsung (#10 among FTSE 500 for Carbon Disclosure) wants to reduce energy consumption of its apartments by 20% in the medium term.
- Sounder transportations : bicycles should reach 10% of urban transportation by 2020 (1.2% in 2006), and bike lanes 418 km by 2014. All Seoul taxis (over 72,000) will use LPG, and at last Eco Buses are on their way. NB: again, a denser subway network would also make sense, and definitely more sense than new highways across the Capital.
- More biomass with new parks and the Hangang Renaissance (replacing concrete with green along the Han river : 23% by 2009, 87% by 2020 - ie Apgujeong, Hapjeong, Ichon, Songsu, Yeouido)
- Restoring streams as natural cooling systems : 17 streams recovered by 2010, 35 by 2020 (temperatures dropped -3° celcius for Cheonggyecheon, probably less for
- As we saw (""), Seoul later promoted transparency about the quality of air.

Compared to his predecessor, OH has a more pervasive approach, demultiplied at the local level. LEE Myung-bak is uniquely focused on great projects, but I do applaud the brand new project to extend subway networks all across the country... provided it's not just a token to appease railway unions or to please builders and speculators.

Seoul Village 2009

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