- Could you please briefly introduce the Global Green Growth Institute? What are the institute’s main missions and goals?
(00:12 – 01:09)
Yes, the Global Green Growth Institute, or GGGI, as we say,
is an intergovernmental organization set up by treaty.
And there are now 38 member countries that have joined.
And what we do is we work together with our members
to accelerate their transition to a model of green growth.
And that’s economic growth model
that is both more sustainable and more inclusive and in practice.
That means working with them to fight the climate crisis.
And right now, of course this year
to find ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, create green jobs,
in a way that will at the same time also accelerate climate action.
- As an environment professional, how much do you think the outbreak of pandemic is related to climate change? Why?
(01:10 – 03:47)
Well, certainly, there is a deep sustainability crisis not just climate and COVID.
But we have been transgressing across many boundaries, planetary boundary.
Some people even like to say
at the scale of our planet and destroying habitats, infringing on the habitats of wild animals.
And most of those new diseases because COVID-19 is not an exception.
There are many zoonotic diseases, diseases that jump from animals to people,
And, yes, that happens because we clash with their natural habitats
because we destroyed their habitats, because we eat wild animals and so on.
So yes, it is our difficult relations with nature the multifaceted sustainability crisis
that leads to plastic in the oceans, plastic in the fish we eat.
Air pollution that kills more people than COVID-19 pandemic in this year.
All eyes are on this Pandemic.
If you think of it as part of this much deeper sustainability crisis.
In the beginning of the year, I was quite worried that the COVID-19 pandemic could be a distraction
and would move all the attention away from thinking about
climates and other sustainability issues.
But I’m very pleased to see that, actually, for most people, for most normal people,
COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a realization that
our normal way of life that our normal way of doing business was indeed not sustainable.
So, I’m very pleased to see that, for many people,
actually, COVID-19, climate and all the other environmental issues are kind of a wake-up call.
The way that we really have to do business differently that we have to find a way
that will make planet earth more sustainable for our children and grandchildren.
And we call that Green Growth.
So that is very much aligned with the mission of GGGI.
- Recently, the pandemic has been undermining the cooperation among countries. In your opinion, how can the governments reinvent multilateral cooperation in the age of various global crisis like pandemic and climate change?
(03:48 – 08:27)
I’m not sure that it was the pandemic that is undermining the multilateral system.
Probably the last big success during our lifetime of the multilateral system
was that the world came together to agree on sustainable development goals,
and the Paris agreement five years ago.
After that, we’ve had a number of elections, I would say, in the US
where Mr. Trump was elected.
In Brazil, in Australia where nationalism, populism were really powerful forces
that led to election of leaders who didn’t support the multilateral system.
Now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back
and I’m not just talking about the US Election right now.
We had an election in Denmark over young female prime minister with a strong consensus in society
that there should be stronger multilateral system
and that there should be more profound climate action.
The same in New Zealand where Prime Minister Ardern was re-elected.
And hopefully even though not with such a strong mandate,
a new President Biden would take the US back into the Paris agreement.
And maybe that can lead to
rebuilding some of the energy that we had lost in the multilateral system.
But, you know, in the session where I just was,
people were calling for a new global governance and new United Nations.
In my own perspective, it is that I’ve worked with 49 nations,
and, for the most of the last 40 years, during almost all the time,
the UN has been in reform without quite managing the reform that we all think is needed.
It took many years to achieve the agreement on climate that we call the Paris agreement.
So, I don’t really think that we need a new multilateral system.
I think that we need to get more practical and make the Paris agreement work.
So that was my speech in the last session to show that, you know.
Yes, it is great that we, here, in Korea see the Green New Deal pledge and the Net Zero pledge.
But, now, translating that into practical action, you know.
How rapidly can Korea transition away from coal?
Can Korea commit to no longer funding coal fire power plants in Vietnam, as it recently did?
The practical action underneath the big pledges is where I am more interested,
and I am more hopeful because there are now commercially attractive alternatives.
Renewable energy has become cheaper and not everybody knows that.
Is not smart to build a new coal-fired power plants.
There are better investments.
But of course, there will be losers and there will be entrenched interest.
The incumbents who don’t give up power, you know, easily at least.
So. we will need to find a way to either compensate some of the losers,
or re-skill some of the workers that lose their jobs in the brown economy.
We call that the Just Transition.
So, this is still going to be a fight.
It’s not because the president proclaimed that Korea will joing the Net Zero 2050 Target Group,
which is a very important pledge, that, by itself will not lead to action.
Now, we need to look under the hood.
We met this week with parliamentarians in your National Assembly, here in Korea,
to talk about what it will take.
And they were saying well, it’s nice to have a Green New Deal pledge
and nice to have the president say that he wants Net Zero 2050.
But do we have the laws?
Is it in the budget?
What do we need to do to actually make it work,
at the national level, at the provincial and local level?
And frankly, we need to see much more engagement from the private sector.
We need to see more companies.
We’ve seen SK subsidiaries.
We’ve seen Shinhan Bank. We’ve seen LG, or the LG batteries, commit to some of these good goals.
We need to see many more of the green private-sector engage with these goals
and figure out what it means for them.
Like we have seen,
many other companies in Denmark but also in the US even without government support.
That is I think where we can make real progress.
- What is the unique contribution of international organizations like GGGI for cooperative global governance, as distinguished from those of state and local governments?
(08:28 – 12:17)
So, we work mostly with developing and emerging countries, emerging economies.
Now there are sorts of two groups.
The least developed countries, really poor countries in Africa
and the small island developing nations.
They have not really caused the climate crisis,
you know, they have not really caused this instability in our economic system,
but they are deeply affected.
Kiribati, or other small islands in the Pacific
They are at risk from the increased typhoons, some sea level rise.
Their primary income was tourism which has stopped like that.
Much more impact than here in Korea, say.
So, those countries deserve our solidarity and our support.
We need to build a resilience.
We need to support them in bringing back new green jobs
That is one group.
And then there is another second group of mostly emerging economies
like Indonesia and Vietnam, the Philippines
where they are rapidly building their industry,
where they are importing coal from Australia, and from Indonesia.
And there, I think Korea has a large role
because many of the factories in Vietnam are factories that are for Korean companies.
Because Korea provides finance for coal-fired power plants in those places.
So, International action is necessary to convince other countries that Net Zero 2050,
like Korea committed to, is feasible, and to work through what that means
in terms of finance, in terms of true value change, in terms of how the private sector behaves.
As an international organization, we support that
with Korea as the host of The P4G Summit next year.
Now, that there is a Korean Green Deal and a commitment to Nigeria 2050,
I think Korea could play an important international leadership role.
President Moon Jae-in has invited heads of government to, well, come to Seoul
if they can travel, or otherwise participate virtually in that head-of-state meeting.
And we hope that Korea will use its leadership position
to convince other governments to join Net Zero by 2050.
At the same time, as Korea will need to think about
its own more ambitious NDC commitments to the Paris Agreement.
That’s not 2050, that’s 2030 which are due at COP26 next year.
So, yes. More ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions
to the Paris Agreement are still a very important goal.
We have to combine that now with the money that will go to recovery from COVID-19
because there’s so much investment in the green recovery.
It is not conceivable that there will be another big bag of money.
So, if you like, this is our last chance we didn’t need climate action in the next 10 years.
So, if so many governments are putting massive investments in COVID recovery
and running up the bill and running up their indebtedness,
then this is our last big chance to, at the same time, achieve climate action.
So many countries haven’t quite realized that because not all stimulus packages are green.
There are still quite a few just Brown stimulus packages.
The stimulus packages after the previous natural crisis 2008/2009 had some green elements.
But by and large they reinforce the brown economy.
So, leadership from Korea and from a few countries that have already come to this conclusion
to convince other countries to join the movement
to move away from coal
to accelerate renewable energy, do more on energy efficiency.
There are many good actions that can be taken both at home and internationally.