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[Statement] Green ODA is a critical element of Climate Justice
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   HLF4 환경부문 입장문 번역 최종본.doc (87.5K) [22] DATE : 2011-11-25 18:05:52
Statement of Opinion on Environment for the Fourth High Level Forum (HLF4)

Green ODA is a critical element of Climate Justice

Climate change is recognized as one of the largest crisis of the 21st century in the world. The World Economic Forum selected climate change as the least prepared area among the major issues of the 21st century (55 percent out of the 11 agenda) (WEF, 2007), and the UN also pointed out that addressing climate change through the MDGs is key to poverty eradication and various inequalities. The effects of climate change are actually concentrated to developing countries. According to the Climate Risk Index which German Watch published in 2011, between 1990 and 2009, the top 10 countries which are most threatened by climate change are: Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Honduras, Haiti, Mongolia and the other poor countries, all of which are the poorest or the low-to-mid income countries. These countries are in a serious crisis situation facing damage caused by climate change as well as poverty. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that climate change is the most urgent matter to global village at the present time. Global warming, an urgent humanity's challenge is now calling for transition from resource-intensive growth strategy in the past to sustainable development strategy to eradicate the poverty of developing countries and support for social development. Since the joint efforts of the international community on climate change is slow to make progress as shown in the 2009 General Assembly in Copenhagen, international development cooperation should supplement such efforts to improve developing countries’ ability to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to new environment.

From this viewpoint, it would be advisable that governments and international organizations engaged in international development cooperation strengthen the environmental impact assessment for ODA programs and green ODA programs which will emphasize achievement of environmental goals. The OECD-DAC guidelines also recognize environmental issues including addressing climate change as a cross-cutting issue and strongly advise to introduce the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation capacity.

Ambiguous definition and distortion of green ODA

However, because the concept of green ODA is not yet clearly established, the environmental perspective is often ignored and sometimes distorted in the field. Furthermore, the international community lacks experiences in ODA programs which directly deal with the environment and climate change. Existing ODA projects are sometimes structured to need additional fossil energy or oriented toward focusing on environmentally destructive development projects so that these projects often cause negative impacts on global warming. Southeast Asian countries are repeating the path of economic growth of developed countries accompanied by high consumption of energy and other natural resources. The Mekong River dam construction is an example of such trend. The ‘Green Economy’ and the ‘Green New Deal’ which the South Korean Government promotes are composed of policies that support infrastructure building for a society based on high energy consumption. In that context, the concept of ‘green’ is a mere pretense.

South Korea's green ODA: tool for promotion and export of ‘green growth’

This type of international development cooperation goes against efforts to address global warming and is hardly proper to increase aid effectiveness because such programs do not have the backing of the majority of people living in developing countries, who actually needs development cooperation. Profit from development projects has been spread unevenly so that it has caused social injustice such as growing income inequality. Existing ODA programs are criticized for climate injustice because of that reason. If we fail to see air and climate from the perspective of global commons, we will be indifferent to the environmental protection of developing countries and the right of life and the environmental rights of the indigenous peoples. Because ODA programs are considered as a favor-bestowing or as a means to additional economic cooperation, aid money stays only in the hands of people who already have established themselves in their society. Since developed countries caused all the damage followed by climate change and threats to life in developing countries by the destruction of the environment through excessive energy consumption and natural resource exploitation, social justice and climate justice should be a major premise in ODA programs. Otherwise, ODA would be an economic transaction favorable to a granting country. The clearest example of such ill formed ODA would be river basin improvement and nuclear power technology exportation that the South Korean Government advocates as green growth.

Is river basin improvement ODA really green?

The South Korean Government plans to promote the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project as an example of green ODA portraying the project as a river basin improvement project during the HLF-4 held in Busan at the end of the coming November and to pursue support from participating delegates.

The key elements of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project which the South Korean Government has been implementing targeting the South Han River, the Nak-Dong River, the Kum River, and the Yeong-San River, over two years from the end of 2009 to the end of 2011 are 16 dam constructions and large scale river basin dredging operations. According to the claims by the South Korea Government, the goals of such projects are flood prevention, water scarcity elimination, water quality improvement, and river ecosystem restoration. However, South Korean environmental groups, experts and religious groups pointed out that the project is fundamentally flawed so that it will destroy the four major rivers.

First of all, dam construction and dredging itself is an anachronistic idea. Sixteen dams will hinder the flow of rivers. When large concrete structures block the flow, natural river ecosystem becomes huge artificial waterways and lakes. Next, large scale dredging operations to keep the depth of water at a certain level make wetlands and shallows disappear.  Wetlands and shallows play an important role as habitats for river ecosystems, and removing the sand from a river bed which works as water purifier will eventually worsen river water quality. European countries and the United States are aware of the negative effects of construction of a dam and indiscriminant dredging in their countries in the past and put a lot of effort to restore rivers to their natural status. Without an exception, all the world leading experts who visited the project sites warned that South Korea should not follow the wrong precedent in their countries' past.

When natural rivers turn into artificial ecosystem in most countries including South Korea, it showed serious side effects. Considering this, if projects similar to the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project in South Korea were undertaken in a third world country, the damage would be even worse than that of Korea. Therefore, we urge delegates to show wisdom of international community by rejecting the South Korean Government’s wrong approach to embellish the Four Major Rivers Projects with the title of ‘green ODA’ in the coming HLF-4 meetings.

Mekong River on the verge of a reckless development

The Mekong River is a transnational river running through six countries in Southeast Asia: the people's Republic of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam. Currently, big countries and international institutions have their eyes on the development of the Mekong River in the name of international development cooperation. As we witnessed, Viet Nam's dam construction caused severe floods damaging Cambodia. Development of the Mekong River influences adjacent countries as well as the country which undertakes the development operations. However, the developed countries pushed the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries into a development race by allurement of economic cooperation, and the Mekong River is facing reckless development operations such as large dam construction plans.

In particular, environmental problems caused by the development of the Mekong River may threaten the basic right to life of the residents.  Due to the construction of dams, the residents are in danger of losing their bases of livelihood: the river and farmland, and fishes and the surrounding environment are also adversely affected. In that regard, it bears the utmost importance that we put our efforts to find a sustainable way to develop the Mekong River preserving the river as residents’ base of livelihood.

The South Korean Government, threatening livelihood of tens of millions of inhabitants around the Mekong River.

In these circumstances, the South Korean Government held the 1st Korea-Mekong Foreign Ministers Meeting in Seoul, South Korea, October 28, 2011.  In this meeting, they adopted the ‘Han River Declaration’ for building a comprehensive partnership between Korea and the Mekong. The South Korean Government set out on aggressive pursuit of development cooperation initiatives in the Mekong region. South Korea plans to drastically increase grants and loans to support infrastructure construction, water resources development and etc. in the Mekong River region. The South Korean Government is advertising an ambitious catch phrase that it will make the miracle of the Han River happen again in the Mekong River region. However, the plan is nothing more than implementing a copy of the Four Major Rivers Restoration project which is flawed as we pointed out previously, in the Mekong River region.

The international community including UNEP is misled to believe that the Four Major Rivers Restoration project is an example of green growth by restoring rivers. Considering these circumstances, if the South Korean Government keep using ODA to export the wrong green growth businesses, this will be an international disgrace. Furthermore, South Korea will be in a position of threating the right to life of the residents living with the Mekong River. We strongly oppose the South Korean Government’s plan to develop the Mekong River solely based on the logic of government centric economic development without proper environmental assessment or gathering opinions from local residents. We also oppose the South Korean Government’s attempt to export the Four Major Rivers Restoration project in the name of ODA

Attempt to portray nuclear power plants as green initiatives

The international nuclear power industry has tried to make nuclear power a part of clean development systems, but as a matter of fact, it failed. It failed because people know radiation from accidents in nuclear power plants is much more harmful that the severity of climate change.

However, countries that want to export nuclear power plants advertise excellence and safety of their nuclear power technologies to developing countries while depicting nuclear power plants as green ODA initiatives. Nevertheless, the Chernobyl and the Fukushima incident suggest that in this world a 100 percent safe nuclear power plant cannot exist. In addition to the most serious problem with nuclear power plants, the enormous calamity caused by such accidents, there are other unavoidable consequences with them such as a large centralized energy system, the need for replacement of the transmission and distribution networks and the resulting environmental damage, and the management of nuclear waste. Considering these consequences, nuclear power is not suitable for a third world country. Rather, what a third world country needs for its electricity production is a small and distributed production system. Thus, we urge delegates to stop nuclear energy exporting countries’ attempt to pursue their own interests while portraying nuclear power plants as green ODA in the General Assembly.

Our demands

DuringHLF-4 in Busan, being deeply concerned about distorted green ODA becoming permanent, to straighten up collapsing climate justice, we, Korean environmental civil  organizations demand as follows:

1) Each government should acknowledge climate change is the largest crisis to the world and embrace ODA as a means to mitigate its impacts. (Climate change is an important factor that lowers the effectiveness of ODA and causes aid fatigue.)

2) To stop ODA programs from going against environment and climate, environmental issues should be stipulated as a cross-cutting issue and the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) should be fully deployed, and construction centric ODA programs and economic cooperation initiatives should be reexamined.

3) OECD should strengthen its partnership with international organizations working to respond to global warming such as UNFCCC to evaluate the environmental effects of various ODA economic cooperation programs and establish an advisory body with binding power.

4) Methods to increase environment friendliness of ODA should be provided to a recipient country so that it can couple ODA with its efforts to respond to climate change. Restrictive aid with the lure of economic cooperation which will cause reckless development should be eradicated.

5) We need to search for methods to provide emergency assistance to countries vulnerable to climate change to alleviate damages upon them before anyone else.

6) Since responding to climate change requires an astronomical sum of finances, ODA should be expanded more to contribute to international community’s efforts in addressing climate change.

7) The South Korean Government should abandon its globalization strategy of green washing and stop promotion and exportation of development projects such as the Mekong River development and nuclear power plants immediately.

We will keep up our efforts in greening of ODA while working closely with international development cooperation organizations and environmental groups around the world until our demands are met.

November 26, 2011

Citizens’ Movement for Environmental Justice, Green Korea United, Energy & Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition (ECPI), Energy Justice Actions, Korean Federation for Environmental Movements,


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