The Green Economy and … Eunkyung Park

“Developing countries can profit from the new green economy paradigm by refusing to follow the ‘develop now and clean up later’ path”

Ms. Eunkyung Park is President of the Korea Water Forum and Governor and Bureau Member of the World Water Council.

Why is ‘water in the green economy’ an important theme?

During the nineties we talked mostly about energy matters, but now we are beginning to realise that we have to move to “water”, since water is a resource for economic development. The most pressing question for the 21st century is how we can use water in an efficient way. The economic crisis of 2008 really accelerated the concept of green economy and green growth. This was a historical change I think; a paradigm shift. In the current century we should focus on balancing. The green economy balances between the traditional idea of economic development and sustainability.

How will the World Water Forum in Marseille in March 2012 contribute to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012?

At the Korean Water Forum, we regard the green economy as a very important issue and we are very happy that this topic is a priority in the Rio+20 process. We are all working together now with our partners to make sure that water is put high on the agenda. We are trying to engage with the Rio+20 process through the 6th World Water Forum (WWF). The theme for the WWF in 2012 is ‘Time for solutions’.  We will focus on practical solutions for water-related issues.  We have spent a lot of time talking about how to solve the existing water issues; now we should really tackle them.

‘Promote green growth and value ecosystems’ is a key priority within the thematic process. Furthermore, green growth is a cross-cutting issue through our four WWF processes; the thematic, regional, grass-root and political process. Basically, the whole forum is about green growth. We are trying to be engaged in the Rio+20 process as much as possible.

Which change is essential for realising a green economy?

We have been talking about sustainable development since 1992. Since that moment, green economy has already been put into practice, but under the label of sustainable development. To make the green economy happen, I think we should engage leaders at every political level. Strong political will and leadership is critical. The private sector is not going to make the change; they usually move toward the profit, not the public good. The changes will be made by government leaders. Government should give the people stimuli to follow the green growth path. In this respect, Korea can form an example for other countries. Our President Lee Myung-Bak declared in 2008 that green growth was his main goal. This was after the adoption of the Seoul Initiative which was adopted at the Seoul Minister of Conference on Environment and Development (MCED) in 2005. I see this as the very start of the green growth concept in the world.

Apart from political leadership, also raising public awareness is very important; changing the minds of people. When a government is really taking the lead and the grass-root level (NGOs, multi-stake holders etc.) responds positively to the government policy, green growth can be a success. Such an integrated top-down and bottom-up approach is the best way to kick-start a green economy.

What are the most persistent barriers to realising a green economy?

Realizing a green economy is not easy. It involves taking risks and nations are afraid of losing their competitiveness. Until now, we don’t have many examples of successful green growth strategies. We are not sure what the impacts will be of certain green policies. Therefore, it is very important to collect evidence of successful green policies. So it is very interesting that the Zaragoza conference will showcase many projects that can teach us about changes on the ground. Evidence is a good teacher for a change.

Which tool is most effective for overcoming these barriers?

In Korea, we have experienced that a three-pronged approach is most effective to overcome the barriers to green growth. Firstly, we have set up a legislative framework to foster low carbon green growth. This law encourages the development green technologies and the creation of new green jobs. Secondly, we started a five year green growth program which runs from 2009 until 2014. Thirdly, we have created green tax-system. We think that these three policies will contribute to a green society. I always say that in a few years the ground of Korea will turn green, because all we talk about is green, green, and green!

How can we make sure that the transition towards a green economy is “inclusive”?

Since the beginning of industrialisation, the developed world has used an enormous amount of fossil fuels to develop their countries. You could say that the developed world has an economical and ecological debt to the developing countries; while the developing countries became economic debtors. However, the developing countries have to realise that the green economy can act as a “shortcut” to future development. Developed countries have messed up and now it is time to clean up. Developing countries can profit from the new green economy paradigm by refusing to follow the ‘develop now and clean up later’ path. Developed and developing countries can help each other and work together for our common future.

What are your expectations for the conference in Zaragoza and what would you like to learn?

Unfortunately I cannot attend the conference, but I admire your database of best practices and I hope you will find a way to make the cases accessible for as many people as possible, for example by publishing them on the internet.

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