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Lund researcher gives Seoul’s mayor advice on energy efficiency

Lars J Nilsson is Professor of Environmental and Energy Systems Studies at LTH and a member of the Seoul International Energy Advisory Council, an advisory body working on energy-efficiency enhancement and sustainable development in South Korea’s capital.
Seoul, Korea. Photo: Pixabay
Seoul, Korea. Photo: Pixabay

What have you learned from your work on sustainable development in a megacity like Seoul?

I have learned a lot about humility regarding the challenges that the world’s megacities face. Seoul is a city of just over 10 million inhabitants, or 24 million if considered as a metropolitan area. This means enormous flows of energy, food, traffic and waste. Making a high-density megacity sustainable, and building to make it a better place to live in, is no easy task. The management of air pollution, water treatment and noise are huge issues.

How do you see the role of the researcher versus advisor?

Lars J Nilsson

It is a new experience for me to be part of a political context. I have to be aware that I am participating in legitimising or supporting political processes, and I have needed to think through the expert role. Sometimes I contribute advice when there is a lack of clear scientific evidence for a certain measure. In those cases it is a matter of being clear about the issue and about the alternatives courses of action that exist.

What does Lund and Skåne stand to learn from Seoul?

In Sweden we can increase civil society’s level of commitment. In Seoul, the grassroots and citizens are very active in the campaign that has now developed into Promise of Seoul, a broader plan for sustainable development. Seoul is far ahead regarding public transport – seven million people use the underground system every day. Even though Lund is a very small city and can’t really be compared, we are on the right path in areas such as sustainable transport.

Is there a lot of travel involved in being an advisor to Seoul’s mayor?

I travel as little as possible, for me it amounts to one trip a year to South Korea. A great deal of the regular interaction during the year is via email.

Text: Tiina Meri

The article has previously been published in LUM, Lund University Magazine, 16 December 2015.

FACTS / Seoul International Energy Advisory Council

The origin of Seoul’s initiative stems from a major power cut that affected South Korea in 2011. The disaster in Fukushima had occurred earlier the same year. These two events led Seoul’s city management to initiate a campaign – One Less Nuclear Power Plant – to save energy equivalent to the production of a nuclear power plant. Seoul’s mayor Park Won-soon appointed 10 researchers, including Lars J Nilsson, in November 2013 to participate in the planning of the energy transition.

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