Source: Yonhap News Screenshot
On December 8th 2020, Chairman Ban was invited to speak at POSCO’s Corporate Citizenship Culture Day event. “Today I’m talking about ‘the way for POSCO, a corporate citizen, to move forward for a sustainable future,’ and I’d like to reflect on my experiences as UN Secretary-General and share some thoughts. The Corona virus is becoming a big challenge these days, and it’s a sustainable future, and it’s directly related to corporate citizens.” He started.
Chairman Ban started by speaking on his memories during the great acceleration. “In 1970, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Pohang Iron & Steel Plant was broadcast live on TV, and I still remember announcer Park Jong-se saying, ‘When this black smoke covers the sky, Korea will become a rich country.’ Fifty years later, I didn’t know that black smoke would be a disaster, not a blessing. Black smoke is responsible for climate change and for unparalleled infectious diseases such as natural disasters and coronavirus.” He stated worryingly.
In addition, Chairman Ban continued on how to achieve Carbon Neutral 2050. “If you practice Carbon Neutral 2050, you will become a climate leader. But carbon neutrality is never an easy task, and it’s only possible if you quickly transform the current carbon-centric energy mix into an eco-friendly energy mix and transform the industry and lifestyle itself.” He stated.
In conclusion, Chairman Ban said a message of hope and engagement for all leaders. “Carbon neutrality can also be achieved if governments, businesses, and civil society all work together. If the leader’s vision and determination are combined, there will be nothing we can’t do.” He concluded.
Nice to meet you.
I would like to thank Chairman Choi Jung-woo for inviting me to this precious occasion, and I would like to welcome Kwak Soo-geun, Chairman of the Corporate Citizens’ Committee, former president of Korea University Yeom Jae-ho, and Professor Song Ho-geun of POSTECH.
Chairman Choi joined POSCO in 1983 and became the 9th president. Born in a farmhouse, he drove cattles when he was young, and walked six kilometers to and from school when he was in middle school. However, He was always a talented student who never missed the valedictorian because he was so absorbed in studying. Due to this attitude, he has always done his best in any environment and had a sense of compassion for people in need. I think this is why Chairman Choi presented his vision of ‘corporate citizen POSCO’.
POSCO, which was founded in April 1968, has many myths as a leading player in the industrialization of this country. At that time, we were able to overcome opposition from steel companies in advanced countries who were concerned about overproduction in the global steel market, and we know that we had a surplus from the first year of production, which is really great. It is still the world’s top company by World Steel Dynamics, which has topped the list for 11 years in a row.
Today I’m talking about “the way for POSCO, a corporate citizen, to move forward for a sustainable future,” and I’d like to reflect on my experiences as UN Secretary-General and share some thoughts. The Corona virus is becoming a big challenge these days, and it’s a sustainable future, and it’s directly related to corporate citizens, so I’m going to start talking here.
Currently, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases has reached 68 million in 210 countries around the world, of which 1.6 million have died (as of December 8). Indeed, it is the biggest disaster since World War II, a real global crisis that threatens not only the global economy but also international peace and security. The emergence of new viruses such as corona is directly related to the destruction of the global environment. Since the 2000s, infectious diseases have occurred frequently, including SARS (2003), H1N1 (2009), bird flu (2013), MERS (2013), Ebola (2014), and COVID-19. Behind it are changes in the natural environment and climate change, where the habitat of natural ecosystems is destroyed by human reckless development and climate change, bringing the distance between wildlife and human beings closer and spreading viruses to humans. The emergence of new viruses and germs is, in a way, a punishment inflicted on humans by angry nature. Pope Francis also said that COVID-19 is “I don’t know if these are natural reprisals, but they are authenticated natures’ responses.”
In 1970, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Pohang Iron & Steel Plant was broadcast live on TV, and I still remember announcer Park Jong-se saying, “When this black smoke covers the sky, Korea will become a rich country.” Fifty years later, I didn’t know that black smoke would be a disaster, not a blessing. Black smoke is responsible for climate change and for unparalleled infectious diseases such as natural disasters and coronavirus. I never took a break from school while attending elementary school during the war, but now my grandchildren are not able to go to school even though it has become such a rich country. This is the huge paradox caused by the black smoke, and it is now putting the world in a health and economic crisis and posing a decisive threat to the future and future generations of mankind.
Over the past hundreds of years, mankind has been mired in industrialism, economic all-aroundism, violence in the ecosystem, ignoring scientists’ warnings, and our actions and attitude toward life, which have now achieved a high level of civilization, are creating a disaster of nature’s counterattack from the blessing of civilization. Greenhouse gases and plastics, like methane and carbon dioxide, are accumulating in the atmosphere, in the stratosphere, in the oceans and in glaciers, causing other geological changes than in previous times, and the pace is getting faster and faster. Another clear evidence is that at the rate of extinction of species, more than 400 species of vertebrates have been extinct in the last 100 years, and 70 percent of all species are expected to disappear in the next 100 years.
Climate change is happening all over the planet. On August 16, daytime temperatures soared to 54.4 degrees Celsius in Death Valley, California, the highest since 1931. This year’s adjusted Doomsday clock has only 100 seconds left until the end of the Earth.
Climate change is going strong in our country as well. While the average global surface temperature has risen by 1 degree in the past 150 years since industrialization, Korea has risen by 1.8 degrees in just 100 years from 1912 to 2017. Since the 1970s, the number of days of heat waves on the Korean Peninsula (days above 33 degrees Celsius) has increased by 0.89 days every 10 years, and the number of days of tropical nights has increased by 0.96 days. At the end of this century, Korea’s temperature is expected to rise by 2.9 degrees and 4.7 degrees, depending on the degree of greenhouse gas reduction efforts. The climate crisis caused by climate change is not a future event, but something that is happening right in front of us, and COVID19 Pandemic may be the last warning on the planet for mankind to take immediate action on sustainable development and climate change.
- Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality
When I was Secretary-General of the United Nations, I put a lot of effort into adopting the SDGs and the Paris Climate Change Convention, and I finally achieved both in 2015. With the slogan “Not a single person is left out,” SDGs present 17 goals and 169 detailed goals for humanity in five areas: human, earth, prosperity, peace, and partnership. As I pass by, I’m worried that SDGs are not yet embedded in our government and businesses. Among SDGs, I pay special attention to responding to climate change. The response to climate change is only one of the 17 goals, but if this is not realized, the remaining 16 goals will be meaningless. For that reason, the remaining 16 goals of SDGs are political proposals, but climate change is an international agreement that has been negotiated and ratified separately.
During my tenure, I went to the North Pole and the South Pole, and I met with world leaders to persuade them of the legitimacy of the Paris climate change agreement. As a result of these efforts, the Paris Climate Change Convention was finally adopted on December 12, 2015, and it was very rewarding and felt like I was taking off my big burden just before I left office a year later.
Under the agreement, the international community has promised to curb rising global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius before the industrial age, but limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible. Scientists on the IPCC, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where Dr. Lee Hoe-sung heads, have warned that there is no hope if we don’t control it at 1.5 degrees. As I said before, since the industrialization era, we have only 0.5 degrees of freedom. So if you don’t carbon neutralize, you can’t achieve a 1.5 degree goal, which is not usually hard. Currently, the U.S. and China account for 42% of the world’s carbon emissions, and by 2050, the U.S. carbon neutralization contributes 0.1% and China 0.2% by 2050. So all the rest of the world should be carbon neutral. If mankind does nothing, it will rise 3-4.5 degrees by 2100, which will lead to an unimaginable catastrophe.
For this reason, European countries have long declared carbon neutrality and made concrete preparations. Our country participated in the Paris climate change agreement but was not very active in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Far from active efforts, it is currently the seventh-largest greenhouse gas emission in the world and has long been branded as a “climate villain.” When I was the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Korean government was not active in responding to climate change, so U.N. officials sometimes complained to me, and every time I was very embarrassed. So, after returning to Korea in 2017, especially when I took the chairmanship of the National Climate and Environment Council, I have argued that our country should be more active in setting drastic reduction targets whenever we have the opportunity.
So when the government announced the comprehensive plan for the Korean Green New Deal last July, I was glad. However, the scheme there is a Moon Jae-in, and was still a concern that the president is finally the end of October the National Assembly declaring carbon neutral in the speech and a very lucky. The United Nations and the international community are very welcome. But the declaration came after China announced its 2060 carbon neutral in late September and Japan announced its 2050 carbon neutral on October 26th, which made me feel reluctant. But as the saying goes, “Never too late,” I don’t think it’s too late.
If you practice Carbon Neutral 2050, you will become a climate leader. But carbon neutrality is never an easy task, and it’s only possible if you quickly transform the current carbon-centric energy mix into an eco-friendly energy mix and transform the industry and lifestyle itself. But industries, especially the automobile industry, are already criticizing the government’s carbon-neutral policy, saying it is difficult to break away from internal combustion engines until the 2035-2040 period. President Moon Jae-in, has held a “2050 carbon neutral cross-ministry strategy meeting” from “2050 carbon neutral has become an irreversible global trend.” and will take place on November 29. It is a big welcome to announce that it would constitute a “2050 carbon neutral committee”.
I am currently in charge of three organizations related to climate change: the chairman of the National Climate and Environment Council, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), and the chairman of the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA). From my experience, I think partnership and leadership vision and determination are very important to realize these difficult challenges. POSCO should make joint efforts by forming partnerships with various stakeholders instead of trying to do so alone. In fact, the most important thing in responding to climate change is the global partnership. Without a global partnership between the United States and China, which account for 42 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and the United Nations, climate change cannot be prevented. Carbon neutrality can also be achieved if governments, businesses, and civil society all work together. If the leader’s vision and determination are combined, there will be nothing we can’t do.
- Closing remarks
Overcoming a series of health crises, achieving goals for sustainable development, climate change, and fine dust can only be achieved by changing the human lifestyle so far. POSCO’s new vision of corporate citizenship is to be compatible with these human challenges, and must succeed. As part of the global village, please work together on the responsibility of Koreans to transform Samcheon-ri Geumsugangsan Mountain into an eco-friendly living space where humans and nature coexist.