The view from Seoul: Moving from climate goals to climate action

The goals of the Paris Agreement will be achieved if there is climate action at the ground level. Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul, shares how his city is not only catalysing action against climate change at home, but also abroad.

Seoul City Hall Indoor Green Wall
A green wall indoor at Seoul city hall. The capital of South Korea has its own climate strategy named Promise of Seoul, supported by the citizens of Seoul and adopted at the ICLEI World Congress in 2015. Image: Inhabitat, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Climate change is happening. We can feel its impacts in cities, peri-urban and rural areas across the world.

The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement was a historic moment that set the stage for global climate action. Nations have committed to do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the effects of an already changing climate. Now is the moment for nations to join forces with local and regional governments and with all climate stakeholders to rise to the occasion.

Now is also the time for local and regional governments to solidify our role as leaders within this global climate coalition and turn climate goals into climate action. We are uniting to do our part by forming global coalitions for action and transferring our experience and knowledge to one another.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy represents the unity of cities and local governments around the world committed to combating climate change. This coalition brings together nearly 7,500 cities, representing nearly 10 per cent of the global population. Mayors are working directly with residents and climate stakeholders to tackle climate change in cities of all sizes around the world, reducing global emissions and enhancing resilience and livability in and around urban areas.

As a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors board and President of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, a leading global network of over 1,500 cities, towns and regions, I firmly believe that local action at a global scale is critical.

Networks like ICLEI have an important role to play in fostering, supporting and capacitating climate action on the ground. Together, local and regional governments and their networks are forging new models of climate action, building mechanisms for implementation and sharing local solutions.

Seoul is proud of its ambitious climate efforts and is proud to take on a leadership role within ICLEI and the Global Covenant of Mayors. The City of Seoul has committed to fighting climate change through our own climate strategy named Promise of Seoul, supported by the citizens of Seoul and adopted at the ICLEI World Congress in 2015.

It offers a concrete model for climate action that addresses climate change holistically, promotes ambition and fosters climate leadership from the bottom up, engaging citizens, communities, and businesses as climate stakeholders.

 As a demonstration of this leadership, I am pleased to host the Seoul Mayors Forum on Climate Change 2017 on 20 October. This event brings together local leaders from around the world to share best practices and coordinate climate efforts and strategies that can be employed at the local government level.

The Seoul Mayors Forum will also mark the launch of Ambitious City Promises, an initiative implemented by ICLEI in collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Taking inspiration from our Promise of Seoul, the project enables and supports cities in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam to develop their own City Promise plans.

At this critical moment, as we tackle the increasing challenges of climate change, as the Paris Agreement moves from words to action, we are strongest when we act together. 

This project, supported by the German Government’s International Climate Initiative, will promote the implementation of low emissions development strategies and help cities to set higher targets and contribute to the goals of their respective national governments and the Paris Agreement.

Initiatives such as Ambitious City Promises show how effective models of climate action can be transferred between cities, strengthening knowledge exchange between cities, and driving climate action from the bottom up.

This November, nations will gather at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) to start creating a roadmap for realizing the aims of the Paris Agreement.

National governments will decide which frameworks and mechanisms should be put in place, and as these crucial negotiations take place, local leaders will be present to make our voices heard and show the impact of our efforts through the flagship Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders on 12 November 2017.

Ultimately, much of the implementation of the Paris Agreement will take place at the local level. Local and regional governments and affiliated networks are providing effective models for climate action and locally sourced solutions. As national frameworks and mechanisms are being designed, local models and initiatives can be integrated and scaled-up, thereby increasing impact at a local and national scale.

At this critical moment, as we tackle the increasing challenges of climate change, as the Paris Agreement moves from words to action, we are strongest when we act together. For the well-being of our cities, towns and regions, the goals of the Paris Agreement must be achieved. This demands action and collaboration across all levels of government and among all leaders, climate stakeholders and communities.

 Park Won-soon is the mayor of Seoul, South Korea. 

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