Ms. Han Jeoung Ae, Minister of Environment of Korea, and Mr. Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China held a virtual bilateral meeting in the afternoon of March the 16th and agreed to closely cooperate with each other on common issues shared by both nations, including fine dust and carbon neutrality.
The Environment Ministers' meeting between Korea and China was the first bilateral meeting held between the two countries since Minister Han took office on the 22nd of January 2021. Both sides immediately decided to hold this meeting after considering the current situation as being urgent and requiring "emergency reduction measures" for the reduction of high concentration fine dust, and issued for two consecutive days on March 11th of this year in metropolitan areas.
Both Ministers shared with each other the necessity for both governments to pay extra attention to and co-operate on one of the most worrying issues between the two nations as soon as possible.
Minister Han said to Minister Huang that the Korean public were concerned over the high concentration of fine dust. She suggested that both sides open up a direct communication channel, or a hotline, where high-ranking officials, including the two Ministers, can urgently share measures and reinforce cooperation when high concentrations of fine dust are expected.
In addition, both Ministers agreed to accelerate the sharing of air pollution prevention policies and technologies and exchange air quality forecast information and technology by ing the detailed action plan of the "Blue Sky Plan*" this year.
* Both Ministers signed the highest-level cooperative plan in the atmospheric sector, called the "Blue Sky Plan" in November 2019. Since then, nine projects have been underway in three areas of cooperation, including the exchange of policies and technology, joint research, and industrialization of technology.
Both sides also decided to collaborate with each other when setting individual measures to control high concentration fine dust, such as the Seasonal Fine Dust Management System of Korea and the Comprehensive Management System of Air Pollution during Autumn and Winter of China. Therefore, the two agreed to closely cooperate from the stage of planning such as with countermeasures.
* In Korea, the Seasonal Fine Dust Management System is implemented from every December to the following March, while in China the Comprehensive Management System of Air Pollution during Autumn and Winter is implemented from every October to the following March.
In response, Minister Huang welcomed the suggestion by Minister Han of leveling up the bilateral response to high concentrations of fine dust, saying bilateral cooperation between Korea and China has remained strong even at a time when in-person cooperation was difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In particular, he said that the Chinese government will unveil its 14th five-year plan during the two sessions this year and ultimately address high concentrations of fine dust with more focused countermeasures for the next five years. In this regard, Minister Huang highlighted that bilateral cooperation is all the more important this year.
Therefore, both sides agreed to reflect on the 2021 Blue Sky Plan and push forward with suggestions made by the Korean side, including the launch of a hotline for high-ranking officials, as soon as possible.
Along with that, they also set carbon neutrality as a new agenda for cooperation and discussed cooperative measures for the future as the world is shifting toward carbon neutrality under the recognition that climate change became more serious over time.
First and foremost, the two sides decided to take the first step onto cooperation and solidarity by developing the "Blue Sky Plan" onto the consultative body for carbon neutrality within the first half of this year, and then exchange policies and technologies.
Moreover, they agreed to join forces on producing fruitful outcomes to overcome climate issues in the international arena, including the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP26) to be held in Scotland in the coming November.
Minister Han emphasized, "resolution of high concentrations of fine dust requires much closer cooperation between the two countries." She said, "I hope that Korea can successfully mobilize the global commitment to carbon neutrality with China at the Summit of "Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G)" to be held in Seoul in May 2021."