Monday, February 2, 2009

Low-Carbon, Green Growth and Eco-Capitals in the Asia-Pacific Region

Kwi-Gon Kim, Ph. D.
Director, International Urban Training Center, supported by UN-HABITAT

Prof., Seoul National University

Emerging as a serious issue rather than a problem in the distant future, global warming has become an environmental problem affecting almost all sectors in our lives. It is time for policy makers to view and respond comprehensively to global warming effects.
The recent climate change impacts in the Asia-Pacific region range from floods and tsunami to vegetation zone, migratory birds' migration, and vegetable cultivation. East Asia in particular is cited as one of the highest greenhouse gas emission areas in the world.
The issue of climate change becomes an essential component for consideration in the management, growth, and spatial planning of urban areas. Thus, low-carbon, green growth should be a paradigm for dealing with the urban change impacts and urban development issue.
Green growth is a new paradigm for environmentally sustainable economic growth. Therefore, the goal of green growth is to create a win-win synergy between the environment and economy through the integration of economic and environmental policies. The success of green growth through the eco-capital policy depends on the maintenance of urban ecology. Therefore, the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation as adopted during the World Summit on Sustainable Development required green growth as well. Low-carbon, green growth policy was also emphasized in the Tokyo G8 Summit.
Some suggestions that are helpful to the creation of eco-capital for low-carbon, green growth in the Asia-Pacific region are presented below.

First, we need to share information on the best practices of eco-capital creation in the Asia-Pacific region. There are many ecological cities, villages, and buildings developed to be in harmony with natural environment based on each country's custom and culture in the region. An information exchange system for sharing such best practices needs to be built, and the collection of best practices or catalogue publication may be included in such efforts.

Second, we need to build the Asia-Pacific Eco-Capital (or Eco City) Network (tentative name). In the network, cities wishing to be eco-capitals may be included as well as those recognized as eco-capitals. Centered on the network, low-carbon model city strategy and action plan should be devised comprehensively at the level of the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, we need to establish a city governance system in the Asia-Pacific region to implement the low-carbon, green growth and eco-capital strategy and action plan. Creating a "Low-Carbon, Eco-Capital Fund" in the Asia-Pacific region is recommendable to build and operate inclusive city governance where all stakeholders participate. In other words, there is a need to unfold the eco-capital initiative in the Asia and Pacific region using the fund.

Fourth, we need to analyze and assess the ecological or carbon footprints of major cities in the Asia-Pacific region. The ecological footprint is a tool for measuring the productive land amount required for a limited population or an economic unit to consume natural resources and process waste; it is derived from the analysis of environmental capacity and carrying capacity. Ecological sustainability in particular can be carried out when the ecological footprint and carrying capacity match.
Korea's ecological footprint as calculated by the UN environment program was 3.4ha per person in 1999, revealing a shortage of 2.7ha per person. In 2002, however, the footprint was 4.3ha per person or 3.8ha per person short. This means that development beyond the limit was realized, and that the extent of development becomes more serious each year. Thus, climate change impact mitigation and adaptation measures need to be prepared as rapidly as possible based on the abovementioned data.

Building eco-capital is expected to contribute enormously to green growth that can meet the international society's requirements, creating social, economic, and cultural values. It can also be helpful to ecological and cultural policies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The eco-capital policy for green growth not only enhances the balance between environmentality and economic efficiency of the already proposed projects but also helps create new businesses and jobs. In this regard, WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) has provided more progressive green businesses since the mid-1990s and has promoted the concept of ecological efficiency.
The formation of eco-capital contributing to low-carbon, green growth requires CO2 emission control, CO2-absorbent source expansion, scientific survey and research, observation and monitoring, technology development and dissemination, and social, technical, and systematic responses on the dimension of international cooperation.
In particular, the expansion of ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) and supporting strategy should be prepared from the financial system perspective. For this supporting strategy, the status of climate change impacts of cities to be supported, vulnerability assessment, and climate change adaptation-related organizations as well as policies, program status, minimization and adaptation alternative and strategy, action plan and pilot projects, and identification of limitations and opportunities for implementation need to be included.
Finally, concerning eco-capital development for low-carbon, green growth, conducting climate change impact assessment and environmental impact assessment together according to various urban development projects would be ideal.

* Copyrights: International Urban Training Center