Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to Green Korea 2009 Conference
Seoul, 9 September 2009

Prime Minister Han,
Distinguished Chairmen,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join our generous host, the Government of Korea, Mr. Hyung-Kook Kim and Mr. Cae One Kim, in welcoming you to this Green Korea 2009 Conference.

We meet as the world confronts multiple crises.

Unsustainable patterns of global growth have given way to a severe global economic slowdown, with a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable. This comes on top of the food security crisis, continuing rapid depletion of the world’s natural resources and a looming climate crisis.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has stressed, failure to tackle climate change will only bring more poverty and hardship. It will destabilize economies, breed insecurity in many countries and undermine efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

These interconnected crises call for integrated solutions, combining economic, social and environmental elements. They require a sustainable development approach.

A “green” vision recognizes that business as usual is not an option. The times require transformational change in our economies, our energy systems, and our way of life.

We see movement in this direction in response to the global economic crisis, which has included stimulus spending designed to lay the foundation for more sustainable and equitable growth. Here, the Republic of Korea leads the league, with almost 80 per cent of its stimulus labelled “green”. In aggregate, the major economies are investing almost half a trillion dollars in green stimulus projects – a strong message that future growth must be green.

Your country has been a pioneer of the concept of green growth, in facing many of the same challenges as your neighbours: reducing carbon dependency and ecosystem degradation; making investments in sustainable transport; increasing energy efficient industry and renewable energy production; and changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. There is already a rich sharing of experience and knowledge within the region and beyond. This can be continued and intensified as the world confronts new challenges.

One of our main responsibilities at the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and practical lessons among Member States on how to advance sustainable development. Our latest flagship publication, the World Economic and Social Survey 2009, entitled Promoting Development, Saving the Planet, focuses on how developing countries – with support from developed countries and the international community – can move onto a low-carbon high-growth path.

Developing countries need to continue growing strongly to lift their people out of poverty and, at the same time, to redirect growth along a greener path. To make this happen, large investments will be needed in the next few decades, financed in no small part by developed countries. These include investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies and infrastructure, and public transport.

The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the higher the costs are likely to be. And if we do nothing, the costs will be higher still.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Internationally, the Republic of Korea has contributed to the climate change negotiations, including proposals to ease dissemination of publicly funded technologies to developing countries and to create a voluntary NAMA registry. Regionally, you have played a leading role through the East-Asia Climate Partnership. And nationally, you are showing the way through your Comprehensive Plan for Combating Climate Change, your green growth vision and national sustainable development strategy.

I am delighted that the Government has agreed to host a United Nations office for sustainable development strategies. The office will serve an important function in developing expertise, building leadership and institutional capacity, and sharing practical knowledge based on countries’ experience.

UN-DESA welcomes this opportunity for collaboration with you in strengthening the global partnership for sustainable development. We stand ready to work with the Republic of Korea and other UN Member States to help translate low-carbon growth into reality – and to support developing countries’ active participation in what is likely to be a new, “green industrial revolution”.

I offer you my best wishes for a productive conference.

Thank you.