From right to left: Jiang Kejun, Director of Energy Research Institute, China's National Development and Reform Commission; Jusen Asuka, Professor in Environmental Policy, Japan's Tohoku University; Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Founding Director of ICLEI East Asia Secretariat; Yun Sun-Jin, Professor in Environmental and Energy Policy, Seoul National University; Nik Midlam, Manager Carbon Strategy, City of Sydney

East Asian Cities set goals to build energy-safe cities by 2030

Consuming more than two-third of the world’s shrinking energy resources, cities around the world are seeking ways to develop in a more sustainable way that is effective and energy-efficient at the same time - especially in the East Asia region, where rapid development and urbanization over the past decades have brought tremendous costs to the natural and urban environment.

“Cities have to move ahead before national governments and UN act on climate change. Oil shortage and skyrocketing emissions are undeniable facts, and the more we wait, the more costly it would be,” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Founding Director of ICLEI East Asia Secretariat, as he opened the 2nd Talk4 Action on Energy-safe Cities held in Seoul on 12 December 2013.

Cities officials and energy experts from Australia, China, Japan, Korea and Germany presented city cases in the seminar, explaining how their cities are addressing the growing needs for energy, as well as the innovative solutions and technologies that they have employed to reduce CO2 emissions.

Through conservation and developing new renewable resources, the host city of Seoul, vows to reduce 2 million TOE of energy by 2014 – the amount of energy that one nuclear reactor can produce. Under the “One less nuclear power plant” initiative, the city has embarked on 71 specific projects to make itself more energy-safe, such as expanding the use of renewable energy, retrofitting buildings, greening the transportation system, creating green jobs, and redesigning the urban environment to lower citizens’ energy demands.

“Although Seoul does not physically have a nuclear plant in the city, but we are heavily dependent on nuclear energy. This has to change if we want to make our city safer and more energy-efficient,” said Lee In Keun, Director of the Environmental Policy unit at Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Korean cities including Gwangju and Jeju also presented their strategies at the seminar. The latter, claiming to become a carbon-free island by 2030, has a series of ambitious initiatives, including 100% conversion into electric cars by 2030, creating a region-wide smart grid city by 2020, and replacing the island’s energy sources with renewables completely by depending more on solar and wind power.

Stressing the need to think beyond the city’s administrative boundary, Nic Midlam, Carbon Strategy Manage of the City of Sydney, explained Sydney’s plan to meet up its energy needs by developing renewables in its surrounding area and at the local community level. “But the development of new energy should always go hand in hand with efficient use of energy,” he added.

In the panel discussions, experts across the region agree that short political cycle and completing priorities always pose challenges to the implementation of climate-related policies, but they also point out the potential of cities to be a catalyst, complementing what the national governments fall short in addressing.

Jusen Asuka, Professor in Environmental Policy at Japan’s Tohoku University, Yun Sun-Jin, Porfessor in Environmental and Energy Policy at Seoul National University, and Jiang Kejun, Director of Energy Research Institute of China's National Development and Reform Commission, pointed out the solidating role of ICLEI in bringing cities worldwide together to exchange knowledge and practices, while facilitating international negotiations and accelerating actions at the subnational levels.

Featuring motivation speeches and city case studies, Talk4Action is a series of thematic forum organized by ICLEI East Asia Secretariat. The next seminar will be held on 17 December with the theme of green procurement. Visit here for more information.

To download presentations at the 2nd Talk4Action, please follow the following links:

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