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2012 World Conservation Congress kicks off on Jeju Island

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest environmental conservation event, opened on June 6 at the International Convention Center on Jeju Island.

“Separated from nature, we cannot imagine ways to resolve climate change, poverty, or shortages of water, food, and energy resources,” said President Lee Myung-bak in his congratulatory address on Thursday evening. Over 4,000 dignitaries attended, including Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook, IUCN President Ashok Khosla, Chairman of the Korean Organizing Committee for the 2012 WCC Lee Hong-koo, and Jeju Provincial Governor Woo Keun-min.

President Lee Myung-bak gives a congratulatory address at the opening ceremony of the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress on September 9 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).President Lee Myung-bak gives a congratulatory address at the opening ceremony of the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress on September 9 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

A vision for a green peninsula

During his opening remarks, President Lee stressed the importance of joining together to build a “planet-responsible civilization” that strives for the peaceful coexistence of nature and humanity. Referring to the progress that has been made in restoring Korea’s forests and waterways, President Lee highlighted the importance of finding “a balance between conservation of natural resources and their sensible utilization” in working toward green growth.

President Lee also introduced the key policy objectives that comprise Korea’s long-term strategy for environmental conservation on the Korean Peninsula -- continued expansion of ecological reserves, the establishment of a framework for sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable ecotourism, and the restoration of the three main pillars of Korea’s ecosystem, namely, the Baekdudaegan mountain range, the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the regions along the eastern, western, and southern coasts.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon delivers a video message at the opening ceremony of the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress on September 6 (photo: Yonhap News).Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon delivers a video message at the opening ceremony of the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress on September 6 (photo: Yonhap News).

“[We] plan to turn the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula into the quintessential ecological peace park,” explained President Lee, “thereby publicizing widely the value of peace and the natural environment across the globe.” President Lee also reaffirmed the commitment of the Korean government to green growth as outlined at Rio+20, including the goal to expand ODA (Official Development Assistance) for green growth to more than USD 5 billion by 2020.

“The Korean government will strengthen [its] partnership with the IUCN and actively spread the highly expected outcomes of this Congress,” said President Lee.

Celebrating sustainability at “Nature’s Olympics”

In addition to the congratulatory address by President Lee, the opening ceremony for this year’s congress included a video message by Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon as well as a special lecture by biologist and former director of Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Cristian Samper. On behalf of the IUCN Secretariat, President Ashok Khosla awarded President Lee with a commemorative plaque to recognize his efforts to respond to climate change and advocate for green growth.

The 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress is in full swing on Jeju Island. Pictured are (clockwise from top left) bicycles for use by participants, children enjoying outdoor festivities, United Nations Environmental Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner participating in the World Leaders Dialogue event, and designer Lie Sang Bong onstage during a concert on September 8 that also featured K-pop performances (photos courtesy of IUCN).The 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress is in full swing on Jeju Island. Pictured are (clockwise from top left) bicycles for use by participants, children enjoying outdoor festivities, United Nations Environmental Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner participating in the World Leaders Dialogue event, and designer Lie Sang Bong onstage during a concert on September 8 that also featured K-pop performances (photos courtesy of IUCN).

Appropriate to the event’s slogan, “Nature’s Olympics,” the opening day festivities featured an array of “green” innovations, including presentation materials provided on tablet PCs rather than paper, as well as green transportation options such as electric-powered shuttle buses and bicycles for loan.

The design of the event facilities also stayed true to the focus on sustainability, with energy sourced by solar photovoltaic panels and a rooftop garden providing visitors with a quiet place to rest in addition to a beautiful view of the island. And in a testament to the commitment of both event organizers as well as participants to holding a truly environmentally friendly congress, the over 4,000 guests who attended the opening ceremony traveled the 1.6 kilometers from the convention center to Yeomiji Botanical Gardens on foot.

The 2012 World Conservation Congress will continue until September 15, with lively discussion on pressing environmental issues unfolding at various venues. In addition to the Members’ Assembly, where delegates of member organizations will be discussing, among others, the adoption of the Jeju Declaration, other scheduled events include the World Leaders Dialogue which will bring together leaders in business and academia for live-streaming debates, and the World Conservation Forum which will provide workshops and forums for the public.

Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook (second from right), IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre (third from right), and Chairman of the Korean Organizing Committee for the 2012 WCC Lee Hong-koo (second from left) pose together in front of the Carbon Offset Desk at the 2012 World Conservation Congress exhibiton area, where visitors can make voluntary contributions to offset their carbon footprints (photo courtesy of IUCN). Minister of Environment Yoo Young-sook (second from right), IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre (third from right), and Chairman of the Korean Organizing Committee for the 2012 WCC Lee Hong-koo (second from left) pose together in front of the Carbon Offset Desk at the 2012 World Conservation Congress exhibiton area, where visitors can make voluntary contributions to offset their carbon footprints (photo courtesy of IUCN).

Korea is the first Northeast Asian country to host the 2012 World Conservation Congress, which has been held every four years since 1948. More information on the congress, its history, and its aims can be found at http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org.

Adapted from Gonggam Korea
Translated by Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer

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