2 September 2015

South Korea commits to climate action in the Arctic

South Korea will work closely with the international community to combat the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and to ensure sustainable development in the polar region, according to a government announcement on Monday.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se made the pledge at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic in Anchorage, Alaska, where leaders focussed on ways to minimise the effects of climate change in the polar region.

Yun said: "My government, for the first time ever, has designated the Arctic as a major policy area, with the vision of a sustainable future for the Arctic."

Yun confirmed that the Arctic region is an important part of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's "Eurasian Initiative" that calls for improving collaboration and connectivity between Eurasian nations by improving road networks, railways and maritime routes.

Yun added: "The opening of the Arctic Sea will inevitably generate both opportunities and challenges… Recently, Korea, the U.S.and Russia cooperated in a search and rescue operation in extreme conditions for a Korean vessel near the Arctic Ocean. Such cooperation for crisis management will continue to grow in importance."

South Korea’s Foreign Minister outlined his country’s Arctic policy, highlighting the opportunities emerging from the region while urging decisive action to combat climate change and global warming.

Yun described the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic as an opportunity to generate momentum in the build up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December when a global climate deal to limit emissions and global warming is due to be signed.

The UN’s 195 member states have been submitting national climate plans to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the proposed international agreement and Yun called for leading industrialised nations to submit ambitious plans by the October deadline.

South Korea submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) climate pledge in June and will cut GHG emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 from about 850 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that provides a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States and is made of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

South Korea gained permanent observer status to the key decision-making group in 2013.

Yun said: "Korea is committed to working closely with the Arctic Council in preserving the Arctic's pristine environment and securing its sustainable development." 

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