The crucial role of local governments in South Korea’s bold actions towards carbon neutrality by 2050

On 5 June 2020, World Environment Day, 226 local governments in South Korea gathered at the national assembly to declare a climate emergency. One month later, on 7 July 2020, 80 sub-national governments (17 provincial and 63 local governments) launched the Korean Local Governments’ Action Alliance for Carbon-Neutrality and urged nation-wide action for carbon neutrality by 2050. 

These bold actions by sub-national governments were highly influential in  the adoption of the Urgent Actions for Climate Emergency Resolution, agreed upon by 98 percent of the National Assembly members, on 24 September 2020. 

On 28 October 2020, South Korea took center stage  when President Moon Jae-in officially announced South Korea’s intention to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Yeom Tae-young, Mayor of Suwon and member of ICLEI’s Global Executive Committee, has been a unifying force for local governments in South Korea as they have been leading by example in tackling the climate crisis and calling for more ambitious national action.

As the president of the National Association of Mayors (NAMK), Mayor Yeom led the local governments’ declaration on the climate emergency on 5 June and serves as co-chair of the Korean Local Governments’ Action Alliance for Carbon-Neutrality. He currently also serves as a member of the supreme council of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and  represents  the commitment of local governments to tackle the climate emergency in his cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of Korea.

At ICLEI Daring Cities 2020 in October, Mayor Yeom shared Suwon’s action plan  to reach net-zero by 2050. He stated that “climate neutrality is not merely getting to net-zero, but is also in line with the value of realizing environmental justice. I sincerely urge the local governments in South Korea, as well as those around the world, to join this race. And Suwon will keep leading the initiative and pushing the national government for more daring actions in close cooperation with ICLEI and our peers.”

Read more about the Resolution on the Urgent Action for Climate Emergency (Korean)


Written by Yeonhee Park, Director of ICLEI Korea Office

Contributed by Eunyoung Seo, Program Officer (Climate·Energy), ICLEI Korea Office

Edited and Illustrated by Jeongmuk Kang, Manager of Policy and Knowledge Management Team, ICLEI Korea Office

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