Northeast Asian countries join UN talks on low carbon city strategies

UN Photo/Kibae Park

Improving subregional cooperation on low carbon city (LCC) strategies was the focus of a United Nations symposium that closed in Beijing last week, bringing together development experts, academics, subregional and international agencies and city representatives from across Northeast Asia.

Countries in the Northeast Asian subregion have undergone similar resource-intensive development paths accounting for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and this is expected to rise as the average share of urban population is projected to grow to almost 70% in the subregion by 2020. As cities are the primary contributors to GHG emissions, there is a clear and immediate need to adopt an LCC approach to support long-term sustainability across the subregion.

Recognising this, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) East and North-East Asia Office (ESCAP-ENEA) as the secretariat of the North-East Asian Subregional Programme for Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC), in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, brought member States together for an international symposium on ‘Realizing Low Carbon Cities in North-East Asia: Bridging Science, Policy and Promoting Cooperation.’

A clear outcome of the symposium was the decision to launch a cooperation partnership for information sharing and capacity building, as a practical way to address the needs expressed by countries and to support city initiatives in moving towards low carbon pathway. ESCAP and ENEA will work closely with international and national agencies working on LCCs to develop and carry out partnership activities.

“Member States of ESCAP in the Northeast Asia subregion have initiated a range of policies and experienced different stages of developing LCCs, each with its unique setting and needs,” said ESCAP-ENEA’s Director Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna. “But it’s time we stepped up subregional cooperation to enable adoption and advancement of LCC development strategies across the region.”

The symposium was NEASPEC’s second event on LCC development. It follows on from the ‘Suwon Conference on Low Carbon, Green Cities in North-East Asia,’ held jointly by NEASPEC and Suwon City in the Republic of Korea in 2011, where the need to establish a subregional partnership for LCCs was raised to accelerate LCC development in the subregion.

Policy perspectives, the roles of stakeholders, tools and technological methodologies were among the issues discussed, along with mobilizing capital to meet funding needs, and knowledge sharing on LCC development practical experiences and challenges.

Other highlights included a review of China’s policies and methodologies, particularly the designation of 42 pilot LCCs, along with Japan’s new Environmental Future City Program, developed in the wake of the Fukushima incident in 2011. Meeting participants underlined the need to promote knowledge-sharing and support innovations in policy, technology and financing mechanisms. The need to adopt an integrated approach to accelerate LCC development was also raised.