November 2011, Jeju, South Korea – From 9-11 November, CIFAL Jeju convened over eight country delegations for its fourth training on “Improving Eco-Efficiency: Green Growth for Local Governments”, which took place in Jeju Self-Governing Province, South Korea’s designated province for testing national Green Growth policies, projects and technologies such as Smart-Grid energy technologies.
Last October 31st, as the UN reported the birth of our planet's 7 billionth citizen in India, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon questioned: “What kind of world has baby 7 billion been born into? What kind of world do we want for our children in the future?".
Perhaps, we all questioned this, as we also question the implications of a growing population and the carrying capacity of the Earth. But, what allays these malthusian fears, is that across cities everywhere there is a new innovative greener development paradigm taking hold. One nation leading this new Green Paradigm Shift is the Republic of Korea, or South Korea. In 2009, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak announced the national 5-Year Green Growth Strategy, positioning Korea as the global leader for Green Growth, Eco-Efficiency, and Low-Carbon Development.
From November 9-11, UNITAR conducted a workshop with its training centre for local governments in Jeju, in South Korea, with a variety of presentations from: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Republic of Korea’s Presidential Commission on Green Growth and Ministry of Environment, Atkisson Network and FWR a green consultancy based in Australia, Seoul National University, Chung-Ang University, and Jeju Province; participants were given a holistic look at what Green Growth means from a national to local perspective and how this is a Paradigm Shift, especially for the republic of Korea and similar cases. Whether it was for participants from Batam, Indonesia, Andong, South Korea, or Yunnan Province in China – many reiterated that the message is clear – a greener development path is the only way forward.
In South Korea, the Self-Governing Province of Jeju serves as a national test-bed for new models of green in the production of basic services such as energy. Since 2007, Jeju was designated as this national Green Growth test-bed, and has now also become one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. In Jeju, South Korea's most advanced investments in Smart-Grid technology are tested across the island, as well as other new methods to spur South Korea's national green growth strategy.
Part of UNITAR's global network of nine CIFAL training centres for local development, CIFAL Jeju's mandate is to develop capacities among regional local governments in this area, and it successfully completed its fourth training on Green Growth for Local Governments with delegations from Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, South Korea, and The Maldives, among others.
As the closest level of government to citizens, consumers, or producers, local governments have a unique responsibility, especially as urban populations continue to grow, while financing continues to decrease in current times of economic uncertainty. As one participant at CIFAL Jeju's workshop also noted in the context of Nepal "the Village Development Committee is the closest level of government at the local level (...) people can plan and centrally go to the VDC and to have their projects implemented."
The richest portion of the workshop was by far the actual experiences participants themselves shared from their own countries, with Malaysia’s new Low-Carbon Cities Framework and Assessment System, Green City models from Australia’s Brisbane City Council, and Cambodia’s own national Green Growth roadmap, developed through a partnership with the South Korean based Global Green Growth Institute.
Participants from the People’s Republic of China’s Global Ecological Economy Institute, China Urban Construction Design & Research Institute, and Yunnan Province, highlighted a variety of various low-carbon and green urban development cases happening across the country. The most notable initiative highlighted was how in 2010 the P.R. of China’s National Development Reform Committee’s launched a Green City initiative where 8 cities were chosen across China to become test-beds for low-carbon practices, fomenting new practices such as green business incentives in Chongqing or Low-Carbon Tourism in Lijiang.
Participants hailed from a variety of cities such as Surabaya, Indonesia, Andong, South Korea and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and had the chance to visit Jeju's Smart Grid testing centres exploring future innovations and test products used on Jeju Island for renewable energy (Smart Grid technologies), electric cars, and other household products to conserve and even trade back energy reserves, while offsetting and mitigating carbon emissions.
Participants learned about the background of Korean development, where "the last 30 years focused on growth, and the next 30 years the focus is on Green Growth." Consultant Michael O’ Brien of the Atkisson Network and FWR Group (representing Brisbane City Council’s Green) highlighted the “4 Ps and Quadruple Bottom-Line = People + Planet + Profit + Process” as a new framework tantamount for sustainable development and green planning. Korean officials taught how eco-efficiency for the Republic of Korea is really "A Carbon Advantage = Money + Opportunity" to drive home the concepts of how a Low-Carbon city can also produce sustainable economic development, and how economic growth can go hand in hand with environmental protection.
Learning priorities for the delegations included topics such as how to: i) secure political will for green growth nationally and locally, ii) generate community awareness and multi-stakeholder partnerships for mass-scale green growth commitments, iii) develop framework policies and laws to instititonalise green growth, iv) secure sustainable financing and sustainability of green growth projects.
In comparison to the first green growth for local governments workshop held one year ago, this training confirmed there is an observable growing demand for learning how to integrate green growth into local development across Asia, a paradigm shift, and that the region has already begun garnering a wealth of experiences to exchange on resource-efficient growth strategies to confront the challenges of Climate Change while reaching poverty reduction targets in innovative ways.
But, whether the local government is of a highly urban or rural profile, the responsibilities of governance and facing growing challenges are ever-present, such as providing basic services for growing urban populations, food security, and more. In the mega-cities of the developing world though, these challenges are even greater. The Local Development Programme of UNITAR will continue amassing good practices for knowledge transfer and investing in the skills development of those local leaders closest to making the change for greener and more inclusive cities possible.
One key lesson reiterated during the workshop was that consumption is finite and, like economic growth rates, it depends on our resources. Excess consumption is never healthy, and neither is excess resource exploitation - but for this balance both consumers and producers must agree on this greener development paradigm. Research and development of cleaner technologies, technology transfer, green entrepreneurship, and the democratization of this knowledge and technology across our global population is the key to this new and improved version of the Earth's carrying capacity.
Local governments are in need of tangible and rapid skills development to confront the needs of population integration, services delivery, and sustainable urban growth, but there are many other challenges that often place the environment or “Green” concerns at the bottom of the agenda. Therefore, workshops CIFAL Jeju are showcasing Green Growth in an integrated way, where resource-efficiency can be applied to development as a more effective and “eco-efficient” method of growing and developing locally with practical green growth examples from a local perspective.
As South Korea continues to develop its Smart Grid technology, Israel develops its improved methods of desalination, and Pioneer DuPont its new seed varieties, to many local governments across the developing world these may seem like unattainable technologies and green lifestyles reserved only for the rich. Our mission is to empower human resources and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills on these new solutions to enable urban or rural local governments make this once far off and inaccessible dream of green growth a reality for the growing numbers of citizens today – be we urban or rural, young or old, we all play a part.
“If we each dream alone, we may end up with just dreams. But if we dream together, the dream can come true.” 2010, Presidential Committee on Green Growth.
The workshop was sponsored by South Korea’s Presidential Committee on Green Growth, the Ministry of Environment, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province and Veolia Environnement.