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[Editorial] Green Climate Fund

Park advised to attend secretariat’s opening ceremony

The secretariat of the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. fund set up in 2011 to help fight global warming by funneling money from developed to developing countries, is to be launched Wednesday in Songdo, a newly developed international town in Incheon. World Bank head Jim Yong Kim, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and other global dignitaries are scheduled to attend the ceremony to open the headquarters of the first major international organization Korea has hosted.

But the event has not drawn much attention from the local media and government agencies that strived to bring the GCF secretariat to Songdo. Its organizers appear disappointed or even depressed with the likely absence of President Park Geun-hye at the ceremony.

This dampened mood is in sharp contrast with the fanfare trumpeted by the administration of then-President Lee Myung-bak in October last year when Korea was selected to be home to the 190-member body. At the time, officials here said the hosting of the GCF secretariat would not only enhance the country’s green growth image but bring it $343.9 million in annual economic benefits by accommodating hundreds of staff and holding about 120 international meetings every year.

This circumstantial change may be attributable partly to difficulties with achieving the GCF’s long-term plan to raise funds to be spent on curbing climate change and promoting green growth. But the weakening of the interest in the body also seems connected to the incumbent government’s reluctance to follow up with the “low-carbon, green growth” policy promoted by Lee. Park has distanced herself from the legacies of her unpopular predecessor, with her aides having sent the deer raised by Lee at the presidential mansion to a zoo shortly after her inauguration.

Park’s approach is not unprecedented. It has been almost routine in the history of Korean politics ― and in many other countries ― for new national leaders to degrade their predecessors and put forward differential policy agenda. It has often been the case, however, that a government’s key achievements originated from the initiatives taken by the administration that preceded it. The green growth policy may be considered as such.

Over the long term, the GCF can be a valuable platform for Korea to take a bigger role in global efforts to tackle climate and environmental issues, thus enhancing its contribution to the international community. More practically, the hosting of the body is expected to help boost the country’s service sector, as it is to be entailed by the establishment of high-standard hospitals, schools and leisure facilities. It is said that Park has no plan to attend its opening ceremony. Her participation would be a wiser choice that could demonstrate Seoul’s commitment to an indispensable global project.