RELEASE: 226 South Korean local governments declare Climate Emergency and call for climate neutrality by 2050

The municipalities further acknowledge the country’s need to decarbonize its energy sector, responsible for more than 86 percent of national GHG emissions

Seoul, South Korea (5 June 2020) - On World Environment Day, 226 local governments in South Korea jointly declared a Climate Emergency, acknowledging the urgency of the situation and emphasizing the country’s urgent need to decarbonize its energy sector, calling for “a grand transition from the existing energy systems.” During the declaration ceremony, local governments also promised to take an active role in tackling the climate emergency.

Through the declaration, South Korean municipalities urged the national government and National Assembly to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050 “without any further delay” and to “initiate policies of a grand transition.” They further pledged to expand the use of renewable energies to drastically reduce emissions, as well as establishing plans for attaining energy independence.

The declaration also emphasised the role and responsibility of local governments in the journey: “As we have witnessed during the COVID-19 crisis, local governments are the ones who move first in response to climate crises and disasters. It is also local governments that implement adaptive action plans for those vulnerable to climate disaster. Local governments, together with citizens, shall take the initiative to set targets for greenhouse gas reduction and to establish and implement responsive plans to protect the vulnerable.”

More than 86 percent of South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions originate in the energy sector. In the declaration, local governments described existing government-led centralized energy systems as “not the answer to dealing with the climate crisis.” Instead, they propose an inter-sectoral transition that combines the expansion of renewables with a multi-faceted effort on buildings, transportation and waste management.

The “Declaration of Climate Emergency in South Korea” ceremony took place on 5 June 2020, World Environment Day, in Seoul, with around 150 Mayors present virtually and in person. The event was co-organized by the National Association of Mayors, the Korea Local Governments Alliance for Sustainable Development, the Local Government Association for Climate & Energy Transition and the ICLEI Korea Office.

Prior to the event, climate emergency had already been declared by three provincial and metropolitan governments, Members of ICLEI: Chungcheong Nam-do (Chung Nam, October 2019), Incheon Metropolitan City (Earthday 2020) and Gyeongsnag Nam-do (Gyeongnam, World Environment Day 2020).

You can read the full Climate Emergency Declaration here and find more information on the ICLEI Korea website (in Korean).
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