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Seoul - 11 Mar 2024

News Number: G/08/2024

Group photo of participants in trilateral partnership in North-East Asia spotlights digital innovation and just transition in achieving carbon neutrality goals

Photo credit: Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat

Digital innovation, along with fair and equitable transitions, play a crucial role in charting a path towards achieving carbon neutrality in the region. This was among the focus areas highlighted at the third Forum on Carbon Neutrality Goals of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, co-organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) and the Climate Action Team of the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Held in-person for the first time, discussants at the forum also recognized the urgent need for collective and immediate action to confront the climate crisis, adopting innovative and inclusive strategies that align with the ambitious goals set by the global community.

"In light of the reaffirmed commitments by China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century and their leadership in elevating climate action in the Asia-Pacific region, it is very clear that our collective action is more vital than ever,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in her opening remarks.

She emphasized, “As we embrace innovation, we must navigate its challenges wisely, ensuring that our approaches remain inclusive, practical as well as sustainable. As we integrate these principles into our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Climate Strategies, it is imperative to consider the impacts on all sectors of society, particularly the most vulnerable.”

Building on this perspective, Lee Hee-sup, Secretary-General of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, amplified the importance of North-East Asia in this context. "North-East Asia is no exception in this global crisis. China, Japan and Korea have been active forerunners in addressing climate change and promoting cooperation to tackle this common threat," he stated. Lee added, "The theme of this year’s Forum – digital innovation for carbon neutrality – could not be timelier given the unique position of China, Japan and Korea in leading global climate action and their reaffirmation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050/2060."

Subsequently, Selwin Charles Hart, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Action and Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action Team, contributed valuable insights into the practical steps needed for a sustainable future. He remarked, "At COP28, all governments agreed to transition away from fossil fuels to achieve net zero by 2050, underscoring the urgency of phasing out coal by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 for the rest of the world, along with reducing oil and gas production and use during this pivotal decade."

"A just transition demands urgent action to unlock the finance developing countries require to move beyond or leapfrog fossil fuel dependency, mitigate economic risks and stranded assets, while ensuring clean power accessibility for all, and ameliorating the effects on affected workers and communities," added Hart.

The keynote speaker, Liu Zhenmin, Special Envoy for Climate Change, China, capitalized on the crucial roles of the three countries’ efforts in climate change by highlighting that “China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are important drivers for both Asian and global economic development, as well as key participants in global climate governance. Achieving carbon neutrality/net-zero emissions is not only the common vision of us, but also a favorable opportunity for East Asia to achieve the green transformation in our economy.”

Liu further highlighted the importance of empowering green development by digitization, sharing “the future of global governance will be characterized by digitization and decarbonization.” Noting the hurdles of such digitization, he noted, “the digital-enabled green transition still faces challenges such as the lack of rules in governance, policy differences among countries, and the technological gaps. China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea could cooperate on how to address those challenges and bridge the gap.”

At the forum, experts from China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Mongolia, including policymakers at national and local levels, academics, and industry innovators emphasized the critical roles of digital innovation, cooperation, and just transition strategies. The forum illuminated the integration of global commitments into national policies, showcased digital innovations driving sectoral transitions, and explored cooperation avenues to amplify these efforts across the Asia-Pacific region. Highlighting best practices for a just transition, discussions revolved around inclusive policies and stakeholder engagement to ensure that the shift towards a greener economy benefits all sectors of society.

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