“For a long time, we talked about climate change as if it were a problem of the distant future but it is not. Not anymore,” Sejong Youn, 2023 Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader said. “We need to reduce carbon emissions now. The question is, how do we do it? And how quickly can we do it?”
Trained as an environmental lawyer, Sejong says his passion for the climate was always present, but in 2015 he stopped worrying and turned his advocacy into action.
He is the co-founder and director of Plan 1.5, a non-profit organization that advocates for better and stronger climate policies in Korea in key sectors like energy, industry, finance, and transportation.
“It disturbed me that there was a huge gap between how serious the problem was and what was being done about it,” Youn reflected. “Plan 1.5 focuses on improving the government’s climate policies and regulations. We advocate for a climate target that is aligned with the 1.5°C goal. We also look for weak points and flaws of existing regulations and propose policies for areas that are not being properly addressed. In doing so, we collaborate with other civil society organizations to strengthen the message of the climate movement.”
He says his participation in the Obama Leaders Asia-Pacific Program has enhanced his fight for the cause and connected him with like-minded leaders in the field.
“It is inspiring to see so many dedicated people in the region working on diverse causes,” Youn shared. “I am constantly impressed with their kindness, humility, and how they are keeping the integrity of their true character fighting through challenges and frustrations.”
Sejong says he’s in the climate fight for the long run because he understands that change takes time.
“We don’t expect government policy to change overnight just because we published a report or a brief, and even if it does, we cannot solely attribute it to our work,” he said. “We measure our progress by tracking policy trends over the years to see the issues we work on continue to develop in policy discussions and make sure our long term objectives are met.”