This week South Korea’s capital city showcases its efforts to greatly reduce air pollution, increase energy efficiency and improve urban environments. At a major climate change conference, Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon talked with VOA about how investments in green technology are paying off, and how he is working with neighboring cities to prevent toxic dust from blowing in across the border.
The Mapo Resource Recovery facility in Seoul converts 750 tons of trash a day into electricity, produces the equivalent of 41,000 barrels of oil a year, and uses a system of filters to capture most of the carbon gases produced in the burning process.
It's just one of the projects Seoul is highlighting as it hosts the world’s largest climate change conference focusing on city governments.
Park Won Soon said the eco-friendly investments are good for the environment, the economy and the 10 million people living in the city.
“I think it brings more incentives that have helped us recover our health and improve our quality of life. This also works as a philosophical base for our policy,” he said.
A decade ago, the Cheonggye Stream project restored the waterway that runs through the city, making it a tourist attraction that also acts to slightly moderate heat during the summer.
In the modern, glass-enclosed city hall building that critics say looks like a tsunami wave, plants line the walls to create oxygen. Solar panels on the ceiling produce renewable energy.
And the Seoul Resource Center provides jobs, reduces city landfills and recoups much of its operating costs by selling salvaged parts from discarded electronic waste.
The mayor said Seoul is working to export its expertise and technologies to other cities facing environmental problems.
“We have been developing various know-hows and techniques through the process of resolving such problems. I think it is very important to share these with various countries around the world," Park said.
Despite the reduced local pollution, a toxic mix of desert dust and factory smog often hits Seoul when the winds blow in from China.
The Seoul mayor said he reached out to 13 cities in China and Mongolia to help them curb pollution and erosion in the region.
“If these things progress, I think various ways will be prepared to tackle erosion and global warming by the international common effort,” he said.
There is much cities like Seoul can do to limit the effect of climate change, but the mayor says no city can do it alone in this interconnected world.