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P4G summit ends with Seoul redoubling climate role

President Moon Jae-in speaks during the Leaders' Dialogue session of the P4G climate summit held at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in speaks during the Leaders' Dialogue session of the P4G climate summit held at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

A global climate summit wrapped up its two-day run Monday, with host nation South Korea pledging stronger environmental action and a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as the country seeks a bigger role in the global fight against climate change.

The Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, or P4G, summit brought world leaders together to discuss public-private partnerships toward carbon neutrality and sustainable growth.

Due to the coronavirus situation, the meeting was mostly online, with a mix of recorded and live addresses at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul.

After hosting its first multilateral international session on the environment, South Korea identified its stronger green pledges and expanded role in environmental issues as major achievements of the summit.

“Through the summit, South Korea pledged to the international society to support developing countries’ green recovery and strengthened climate actions to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Environment Minister Han Jeoung-ae on Tuesday during a briefing on the outcome of the summit.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong stressed that Seoul would actively participate in strengthened climate action in partnership with leading nations such as the US. He also underlined South Korea’s role as a bridging nation that can encourage both developing and advanced countries to pursue green initiatives, reiterating President Moon Jae-in’s message during his opening address.

A concrete action plan was mentioned at the summit. Moon pledged that the country would raise its greenhouse gas emissions goals and unveil the updated goals at the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. Previously, Seoul had pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 24.4 percent from 2017 levels by 2030 as part of its blueprint to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The president also expressed South Korea’s intent to host the COP28, which is slated for 2023.

Moon reiterated promises he made at the earlier US-led climate summit in April, including South Korea’s commitment to end public financing for overseas coal projects.

As part of Seoul’s efforts to assist developing countries to implement green growth policies, Seoul promised to significantly increase the amount of official development assistance that goes to climate-related projects by 2025. It will also launch a $5 million “Green New Deal” fund within the Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute to help emerging countries transition to renewable energy, and a further $4 million grant for the operation of P4G.

The summit culminated with top officials from 38 countries adopting the Seoul Declaration, highlighting sustainable and green efforts to fight climate change and hasten the COVID-19 recovery.

“We recognize the climate crisis as an urgent global threat whose impacts reach beyond the environmental agenda to include economic, social, security and human rights-related challenges,” the declaration said. “We reaffirm the fight against COVID-19 leaves important lessons for the global response to the climate crisis and believe that the pandemic should be overcome through green recovery as a progressive strategy.”

The 14-point statement includes vows to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius degrees in line with the Paris Agreement, phase out coal-powered energy plants and better respond to marine plastic issues.

But there was a mishap at the summit too. A video introducing the summit venue during the opening ceremony mistakenly featured a satellite image of Pyongyang instead of Seoul.

In response to sharp criticism, Chung expressed deep regrets during the briefing and said there would be a detailed examination of the matter.

Seoul sees the P4G session as paving the way for the major summit COP26, where the 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement will review and report back on their progress on the commitments made under the accord.

Adopted in 2015, the Paris Agreement set out an ambitious goal of limiting the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels or 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

More than 60 world leaders and heads of international organizations took part in the two-day session, some through prerecorded video speeches. They included British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria.

P4G is a global initiative that seeks solutions for climate action and green economic growth through public-private partnerships and aims to deliver on the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement. The forum involves 12 countries, including South Korea, Denmark, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico, as well as international organizations and private firms. The inaugural summit was held in Denmark in 2018.

By Ahn Sung-mi (