[2021-01-21] 2021 Special Lecture on Forests, Forestrys, and Outlook Presentation Competition: Future Sustainable Society and Forests

By 2021년 1월 28일 No Comments

On January 21, Chairman Ban Ki-moon gave a special lecture on “Future Sustainable Society and Forest” at the 2021 Forest, Forestry and Outlook Presentation Conference held at COEX in Samseong-dong, Seoul.

Source: Yonhap News

He explained that in addition to the 15th goal, “Onshore Ecosystem Conservation,” the 1st goal, “end poverty,” 2nd goal, “achieving food security, strengthening sustainable agriculture,” 3rd goal “health and welfare,” 12th goal “sustainable consumption and production,” and 13th goal “climate change” are all linked to one another.

Chairman Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for a drastic revolution in the social and economic paradigm to overcome the climate crisis. He emphasized three things to move toward such a paradigm shift: the internalization of sustainable development goals, the establishment of a clear policy roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, and the acceptance of policies by the people. It also highlighted the importance of life cycle climate-environmental education for children for a more fundamental green transition.

In addition, he stated that he expects the upcoming international conferences in the climate sector to be changed by the U.S. Biden administration’s entry into the Paris Climate Change Convention to provide a new momentum for international climate action.

Finally, Chairman Ban Ki-moon concluded his special lecture by saying that he expects this forum to create a consensus on achieving sustainable development goals and implementing the Paris Climate Change Convention and recognize the important role and need of forests in human sustainability.

Below is the translated full script of chairman Ban’s speech


Chung Hyun-chan, chairman of the Special Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Park Jong-ho, director of the Korea Forest Research Institute,

It’s nice to meet you, VIPs who attended in person or online.


Happy New Year, and I wish you good health especially during difficult times with Covid-19.


It is very meaningful to attend this event to envision the developed future of forests, forestry, and mountain villages.


The year 2020 will be recorded as a very special and harrowing year in human history due to COVID-19. Even for me, who went through war as a child, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole world suffer this much lockdown and confusion. Pandemics like COVID-19 are the result of the destruction of ecosystems and the climate crisis caused by the reckless development of humans.


The climate crisis is an existential problem associated with human life. Many scientists warn that the current era should be separated by the Anthropocene, and that 70% of all life species will die out as the 6th Mass Extinction within 100 years. The Korean Peninsula is no exception to the daily weather changes, such as wildfires in the U.S. and Australia and high temperatures in Siberia. Last summer, the longest rainy season ever lasted on the Korean Peninsula.


The effects of COVID-19 are immediate, but climate change is occurring gradually, so it may not feel right away. However, the climate crisis will pose an unparalleled threat to humanity in its impact. We should not forget that if we don’t solve the climate crisis, there may be a second and third pandemic.


Ladies and gentlemen,

As the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am most proud of the achievement of establishing sustainable development goals for future generations and bringing together the world’s commitment to reach the Paris Climate Change Convention. It was not an easy process, but the Paris Climate Change Convention was able to take effect as soon as possible by persuading President Obama to participate in climate change negotiations and receiving ratification from President Xi Jinping at the 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit.


In 2015, the 70th United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a common goal of the global community. Unlike the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which focused on eradicating poverty in developing countries, sustainable development goals suggest a direction for the entire human race, both developed and developed countries, as shown by the slogan “Nobody is left out.”


Ladies and gentlemen,

Forests are the home of life (UN, 2015), which provides habitat for more than 80% of animals, plants and insects, and the source of economic, cultural and environmental benefits to mankind (WWF, 2017). Forests account for 63% of the country’s land in Korea, so forests play a great role and value.


Forests are closely linked to other goals of sustainable development as well as the preservation of the land ecosystem, which is the goal of  SDG No. 15. First of all, the role of forests is important for the end of poverty, the first goal of the SDG, and the second goal of the SDG, “achieving hunger, achieving food security, and strengthening sustainable agriculture.”


Since ancient times, forests have provided human beings with various foods such as fruits and wild animals as well as their home. Although many people moved to cities after industrialization, one in five people in the world still relies on forests for some of their food. Therefore, efforts to prevent forest destruction from large forest fires or forest exclusive use are most important.


The role of forests has become important to achieve SDG No. 3 goal of ‘Health and Welfare’. Especially, COVID-19 is changing our perspective on the forest and the way we use it. It is a reminder that conservation of forests and ecosystems has a direct impact on our health and lives. Also, the world is paying attention to the positive effects of forest on human health and well-being. From 2020, the OECD has included “a recreational green that can be accessed within 10 minutes of the living zone” in the Better Life Index (BLI), and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using parks and green areas for mental and physical health. As such, forest recreation and forest healing based on forests should be treated as areas for survival as well as sound leisure life for future generations.


Next, the role of forests is important for ‘sustainable consumption and production’, which is the goal of SDG 12. A fossil fuel-based carbon economy can lead to resource depletion. However, forests can continue to provide resources such as wood and food. Therefore, in the future, efforts will be made to develop sustainable materials that can replace fossil fuel-based industrial materials, not just to expand and cultivate forests well.


Lastly, the role of forests is important to respond to the ‘climate change’ goal of SDG No. 13. Forests will play a very important role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The role of forests as a ‘carbon sink’ in responding to the climate crisis is very important. When we plant trees in forests and cultivate them well, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large amounts of carbon in stems, roots, and soil.


However, if indiscriminate logging or forest fires occur, the forest will emit carbon that was stored. According to the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land published in 2019, forests absorb 11.2 billion CO2 tons a year, which is equivalent to 21.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to replace cement with carbon-intensive, the French government has mandated that more than 50% of building materials in new public buildings be used as sustainable materials such as wood, and such eco-friendly policies should be noted. As forests are such an important source of carbon absorption, the role of forests to achieve carbon neutrality goals in 2050 will be highlighted in the future.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The Paris Climate Change Convention, signed in 2015, sets a long-term global goal of “to limit the temperature rise to 1.5℃ compared to the pre-industrial period.” However, it has already risen by 1℃ for more than 150 years since the last industrialization. The COVID-19 Pandemic is also said to be the result of neglecting the pain of the natural ecosystem due to the short-term growth provided by the carbon economy.


Ironically, however, hope can be found even in the difficult situation of COVID-19. When human activity stopped for a while, I could see the clear blue sky. I believe that we can overcome any crisis if we respond with sincerity.


To overcome the climate crisis, we need a drastic revolution in our social and economic paradigm. Faced with the worst crisis with COVID-19, mankind is at a turning point in civilization’s history. It’s up to us whether we will ignore the warnings of nature and pursue unsustainable economic growth, or listen to the despair of our future generation represented by Greta Thunberg, and make a transition to sustainable development.



Ladies and gentlemen,

At this meeting, I would like to emphasize three things in the direction that we need to move toward paradigm-to-transition. First, the internalization of sustainable development goals. The Paris Climate Change Convention and Sustainable Development Goals provide a clear direction now that more than ever efforts are needed to resolve climate change and pandemics, the existential crisis of mankind. In the future, we need to internalize the goal of sustainable development, which is the joint promise of the global community and the highest value that encompasses economic growth, environmental protection, and social integration.


Unfortunately, our society now knows about sustainable development, but it seems that there is still little interest in action. It should be remembered that the goal of sustainable development should be achieved by all stakeholders, including the government, businesses, and civil society.


For example, the goal of Green New Deal is to promote a clear transition to a green economy and society toward carbon neutrality to overcome the climate crisis and eventually create a sustainable society by embracing vulnerable groups who may be marginalized or damaged in the process. Therefore, it is necessary to link sustainable development goals in the process of promoting green transformation.


Secondly, establishing a clear policy roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050. Carbon neutrality is needed by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5℃. Carbon neutrality is needed by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5℃. More than 120 countries have declared or are considering carbon neutrality targets, and some have even legislated carbon neutrality. China, Japan, and South Korea, which are carbon-rich countries, declared carbon neutral in 2020, are also considered by the international community as game changers and are considered new possibilities in responding to the climate crisis.


In fact, Korea may incur huge conversion costs in the process of carbon neutralization due to its high dependence on fossil fuels and manufacturing-oriented industrial structure. Nevertheless, carbon neutrality in 2050 is a must-have task for the survival of our economy and society and an inevitable trend for the international community. If we don’t actively move toward carbon neutrality, we will be left behind in the international community due to the reef of carbon border taxes, which the EU and the U.S. are already considering introducing.


In order to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, Korea, the world’s ninth-largest carbon producer as of 2019, should review all possible measures to establish and implement a clear and clear policy roadmap based on social consensus. The shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is essential, such as the early removal of coal power generation and the conversion from internal combustion locomotives to eco-friendly vehicles.


In addition, mid- to long-term policies that utilize and preserve forests, which are essential for achieving carbon neutrality, should be established and linked.


Fortunately, the Will government’s policy efforts have been strengthened recently. Last October by 2020, Moon Jae-in president has declared carbon neutral by 2050 goal. Since then, in December and 2050, he has declared three major directions: 1. Strong promotion of carbon neutrality in all areas 2. Creating a low carbon industry ecosystem 3. Fair transition without the underprivileged. We hope that a carbon neutral committee will be launched to implement this vision and a detailed roadmap will be well prepared.


Third, for the economic and social paradigm shift toward carbon neutrality in 2050, the public’s acceptance of policy must be preconditioned. The National Climate and Environment Conference, which I am the chairman of, has been proposing policies bottom-up by gathering people in all fields, including industrial and civic groups, under the name of “National Policy Participation Group.” In 2019, the first year of its launch, the National Policy Participation Group proposed a “season management system” that applies to high concentrations of fine dust. As a result, up to 27 out of 60 coal power plants nationwide have been shut down.


Based on the recognition that a more fundamental policy is needed in 2020, we proposed a very bold policy to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 1. suspension of coal power generation 2. restriction on sales of new cars by internal combustion engines in 2035 or 2040.


In fact, 10 years ago, it was difficult to discuss practical efforts to cope with climate change in our society. However, recently, I heard the vivid voices of our people from more than 500 national policy participants, and I was able to see their strong willingness to participate and have a high sense of citizenship that they are willing to endure inconvenience for the environment and the planet. I think this higher policy acceptance than in the past is a natural result of the increasing share of climate and environment in the components of “happy life” as our economy develops. The public consensus for carbon neutrality in 2050 will serve as a strong foundation for future policy implementation.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In addition, I would like to emphasize the importance of climate-environmental education for growing children for a more fundamental green transition. For sustainable development, individual perceptions and behaviors must first change and thus change the atmosphere of society as a whole. Environmental education that teaches the importance of the earth and nature from an early age will be the most effective carbon reduction policy.


For example, Italy recently mandated 33 hours of environmental classes per year for elementary and secondary school curriculum. This life-cycle environmental education is expected to help growing children grow up to be adults who know how to enjoy forests and mountains, and further cherish nature and the earth.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2021, when the new climate system is launched, a very important and diverse international conference will be held in the climate field. £ Climate Adaptation Summit in Amsterdam on January 25 £ P4G Summit in Seoul in May (2021 P4G Seoul Summit) £ Climate Change Party General Assembly (COP26), scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November. Also, the Biden administration of the United States announced on its first day that it would rejoin the Paris Climate Change Convention. We expect these international events and changes to provide new momentum for climate action in the international community. We will also have to take advantage of this momentum and actively participate.


Also, in the midst of difficulties in inter-Korean relations, forests on the Korean Peninsula are a common asset of the two Koreas and an area where the South and the North can cooperate jointly to cope with the climate crisis and sustainable development. As forests can contribute to the improvement of inter-Korean relations in the future, it is necessary to prepare practical inter-Korean forest cooperation, including support for forest restoration by North Korea.


To all viewers connected directly or online today,

Now humanity is at a critical inflection point toward a sustainable life. There is only one planet called Earth, so we have to have a sense of crisis that there is only one opportunity, and make sustainable development that is not ashamed of future generations through the great transition of social and economic paradigms.


Once again, I would like to thank the guests who attended today, and I hope this forum will serve as an opportunity to build a consensus on achieving sustainable development goals and implementing the Paris Climate Change Convention, and to recognize the important role and need of forests, especially in human sustainability.


Thank you.