The Seoul Connection: One city’s mission to spread climate action

  • 09 October 2019

Seoul is home to about 10 million citizens and is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The rapidly growing population has also been critical to the city’s success in becoming one of the world’s most sustainable cities.

Host of the upcoming 2019 Seoul Mayors Forum on Climate Change, Seoul Metropolitan Government is a clear leader when it comes to climate planning and policy with a diversity of initiatives and an ambitious action plan launched in 2015 that aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent, or 10 million tons, by 2020.

However, Seoul is also committed to strengthening action on climate and sustainability abroad. Through leadership in city networks like ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, Seoul Metropolitan Government is driving action at the local level by exchanging with cities from around the world and sharing ideas and strategies.

At the end of October, local leaders from around the world will gather at the Seoul Mayors Forum to share their challenges and successes and learn from one another as they strive to strengthen action in the face of a growing climate emergency.

From sharing experience on climate planning and policy to consulting on programs and initiatives, Seoul is connecting a global network, and the results of this exchange can be seen in policies and initiatives in cities around the world.

Spreading the Promise of Seoul

The Promise of Seoul is a comprehensive climate strategy adopted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government at the ICLEI World Congress in 2015. The Promise of Seoul was developed by the Citizens’ Committee for a Green Seoul, a committee made up of up to 100 members including researchers, journalists, government officials and representatives of citizen groups such as housewives and senior citizens. The committee developed the Promise of Seoul through intensive consultation process that gathered input from residents, experts and environmental NGOs.

This model of effective climate action at the community level is at the heart of the Ambitious City Promises project. Seoul Metropolitan Government supported the development of the project from the beginning, offering support across all sectors and levels of leadership.

Through Ambitious City Promises, local governments in Southeast Asia, including Jakarta (Indonesia), Pasig City (Philippines) and Hanoi (Vietnam), are adapting this model of inclusive, ambitious climate action and mainstreaming low emission development strategies. By spreading the vision behind the Promise of Seoul, Ambitious City Promises shows that cities can be both engines of growth and global leaders on climate action by establishing inclusive low emission urban economies.

A bottom-up approach to energy efficiency

Seoul Metropolitan Government works closely with citizens and businesses to improve energy efficiency and conservation across the city. One initiative trains and employs residents from communities across the city as Energy Consultants.

Pasig and Parañaque, two cities in the Philippines, learned of this initiative while engaging with Seoul Metropolitan Government through the Ambitious City Promises project and have funding approved to replicate and adapt this initiative in their communities as they aim to improve energy efficiency and conservation. City representatives from both Pasig and Parañaque will be attending the Seoul Mayors Forum 2019 and will meet directly with Seoul Metropolitan Government as they plan the implementation of this initiative in their own cities.

These consultants help educate and advocate for increased energy efficiency and conservation by providing assessments and consultations at the residential and commercial level in their communities. They are fully equipped to support their friends and neighbors with resources to `help them improve the energy efficiency in their home or business, leading to a reduction in costs as well as emissions.

Tackling food waste the Seoulite way

With such a high-population density, Seoul faces particular challenges in waste management and is pioneering new approaches to reduce and manage food waste. Half of Seoul’s food waste is processed in neighbouring regions due to lack of space but the city is also trying to reduce dependence on these external plants.

Hong Kong faces similar population density and food waste challenges. Through a recent ICLEI-organized study tour, a Hong Kong delegation visited Seoul to see how they are managing the issue. The delegation was introduced to initiatives such as Seoul’s revolutionary “pay-as-you-waste” system recycling scheme that incentivizes residents to reduce waste. Seoul’s action to tackle food waste has led to an impressive 10 percent reduction of food waste annually.

Cities and regions all over the world face similar challenges when it comes to inclusive action on climate and sustainability. Seoul Metropolitan Government is one of the cities paving the way to show how peer-to-peer exchange and a systematic knowledge transfer process can lead to increased action and tangible impacts for communities the world over.

Read more about some of the key policy solutions that are supporting sustainable urban development in Seoul.

Ambitious City Promises is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Seoul Metropolitan Government is a supporting partner.