Korea eyes bigger role at Rio+20 summit

Korea plans to showcase its green-growth policies and experiences at a UN meeting on sustainable development this week, officials said Sunday.

Headed by President Lee Myung-bak, the Korean delegation will participate in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as Rio+20, to be held in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro from June 20-22.

“Rio+20 will create crucial momentum for the world to move toward ‘green growth,’ as it brings together world leaders and civil society to shape a shared vision for the future,” Environmental Minister Yoo Young-sook said through a press statement.

Thousands of government officials, including over a hundred heads of states, along with representatives from international organizations, non-governmental organizations and businesses are expected to gather in the Brazilian city for the event.

Participants will strive to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development; assess progress made to-date since past summits ― the first held in Rio in 1992 and the second in Johannesburg in 2002; and identify new and emerging challenges.

It has two themes: green economy in the context of sustainable development, and poverty reduction and institutional frameworks for sustainable development.

Lee will make a keynote speech at the summit, while Yoo and other ministers will attend high-level roundtables.

The president in 2008 proclaimed low-carbon, green growth as a new vision for Korea, as he strived to create new momentum for Asia’s fourth-largest economy, largely dependent on the manufacturing sector. Since then, he has pushed various policies aimed at reducing the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels, while developing green industries, such as alternative energy, into a new growth driver.

Last month, the government unveiled the Green ODA Initiative, which envisions greatly enhancing green international aid projects, utilizing the country’s experience and know-how in the environmental field.

The proportion of green aid projects stood at 14 percent of the country’s total official development assistance in 2010.

On the sideline of the event, Korea will hold the high-level policy forum on development of framework for green economy, in cooperation with UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

At the forum, Korean officials will introduce two of Korea’s most successful programs ― the Green Card and a green procurement program.

The Green Card, which the government developed in cooperation with private card issuer BC Card, gives holders rewards and benefits to encourage environment-conscious consumption. The green procurement program, introduced in 2004, compels government agencies and public organizations to buy green products.

A Korean booth will be set up with the theme of Green Growth for All, promoting the two and other programs in Korea.

“We will try to keep the green momentum from Rio alive into two other crucial meetings later in the year ― the pre-COP 18 meeting in Seoul and COP 18 meeting in Qatar,” she said. COP 18 refers to the 18th UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change to be held in Doha in November. Seoul will host a ministerial-level preparatory meeting in October.

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