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North Korea showed interest in combating climate change, official says

North Korean delegates who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, showed a great deal of interest in climate change issues.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea showed interest in combating climate change, official says
Chinese wear protective face masks at noon as they walk outside under hazardous levels of air pollution in Beijing on December 1. China's neighbor North Korea has expressed considerable interest in combating climate change during the Paris climate conference, or COP 21. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- There is "high potential" for inter-Korea cooperation on climate change within the provisions of the recent climate change accord reached in Paris, a South Korean official said Tuesday.

The government source, who spoke to News 1 on the condition of anonymity, said North Korean delegates who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, showed a great deal of interest in climate change issues.

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"We ought to know in the environmental sector, if the two Koreas undertake initiatives together, there is definitely potential for cooperation," the source said.

The landmark Paris Agreement reached Saturday was adopted by 195 countries and is to take effect in 2020.

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North Korea's delegation consisted of eight members, including Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, and the South Korean official said Ri showed considerable interest at the Paris meetings.

Ri reportedly said, "North Korea would actively participate to preserve the environment," and that "Workers' Party Secretary Kim Jong Un has declared a war against deforestation," during the meetings.

The South Korean official said North Korea's forestry sector could provide opportunities for inter-Korea cooperation, and that Seoul needs to find models of working together with North Korea. The official added it is likely Pyongyang could take advantage of the Green Climate Fund or the Global Environment Facility for aid.

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In July, North Korea requested the help of South Korean forestry experts in diagnosing a disease spreading across pine trees in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, and Seoul agreed to send eight specialists.

The Paris accord requires action from all countries, rich or poor. North Korea is one of the world's most impoverished countries and has sought U.N. aid in combating disease and food shortages.

South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported Tuesday North Korea's isolated economy continues to fall behind South Korea's industrialized system, and recent statistics from Seoul's National Statistical Office indicated North Korea's economy is 1/44, or 2.3 percent, of the South's Gross National Income.

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