Eco-mileage, a program to engage citizens in GHG reduction
Climate Change & Air Quality Management Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government

The Problem

Emergence of the Necessity of Citizens’ Participation in the Reduction Efforts of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Reducing greenhouse gas is now a global issue. Cities and countries are taking diverse measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Research on new and renewable energy sources and the promotion of electric vehicles are outstanding examples. Yet these approaches have a problem—they take significant amounts of time and money.
According to a survey on the characteristics of greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Seoul, households and buildings account for 67% and transportation 24%. Those two areas take more than 90% in greenhouse gas emissions. The most effective way of reducing emissions in the city in the short-term at least is for households and businesses to voluntarily implement energy conservation efforts on a constant basis.
Obstacles to Citizens’ Participation: Inconveniences and Limitations in Energy Conservation
Most Koreans are willing to conserve energy because they know that the country produces little energy. The government has tried to reward people who are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is difficult to attract voluntary participation, because it involves long-term inconveniences and commitment.
Even if the government offers citizens some energy conservation incentives, citizens’ participation is bound to decrease; once they reach a certain level of energy conservation, citizens realize that they can no longer reduce their energy consumption any more.
Problems with the Incentive System
The government offers incentives to households and organizations that implement energy conservation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the system has problems. The city of Seoul has seen no sustainable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, yet it must continue to pay into its incentive system. For instance, this system allows a citizen, who does not sustain their energy reduction after having received an incentive once based on a previous or short-time energy reduction, and may continue receiving an incentive whether they still deserve it or not. That exemplifies the main problem with the incentive system. The city budget is spent on things that do not contribute to the lasting reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Difficulty Suffered by the Internet Disadvantage
Additionally, to join the Eco-Mileage Club, individuals must log on at home. People who do not have computers at home or cannot operate them well cannot participate in the program.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Continuous Participation due to a Change in Evaluation based on Accumulated Quantity instead of the Quantity at a certain Point in Time
The Eco Mileage Program was adopted on September 15, 2009. For three years until August 2012, the membership sharply increased with 65,000 households, 1,407 schools, 1,705 multi-unit housing complexes, 2,885 public institutions and 31,543 commercial and general-purpose buildings. During the past year, the members have voluntarily reduced 100,715 TOE in electricity, water and city gas. They have also reduced 119,947 tons in CO2 emissions during the same period.
In terms of eco-rights and energy cost reduction, the above figure is equivalent to the monetary gains of 69.394 billion won. The achievement was possible, because the city had changed the calculation method of energy consumption comparison from the quantity at a certain point in time to the average quantity used during six months, encouraging continuous energy conservation.
Spread of Motivation for Energy Conservation & Reinvestment of Incentives in the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
If citizens become Eco Mileage members and take part in energy conservation efforts, they can monitor their conservation efforts in figures, while also receiving economic incentives. The city’s fundamental philosophy is that citizens’ energy conservation efforts should not only bring social and environmental benefits, but also result in personal gains.
The incentives are given in goods and facilities that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve energy efficiency. The incentives have worked as a significant motivating factor for energy conservation for many citizens. Despite some anticipated inconveniences, households and organizations become involved in energy conservation efforts to receive economic gains in return.
Through the Eco Mileage System, Budget Savings and Maximum Economic Benefits for Citizens
With the Eco Mileage program, the city has expanded its efforts to save energy on a broad range of related activities, such as the purchase of environment-friendly products, and the use of public transportation versus driving. As the program expanded and member numbers continued to grow, the city adopted the “Eco Mileage Card” system to aid in decreasing the programs fiscal burdens.
793,679 Eco Mileage Cards have been issued in Seoul. The city promoted the benefits of the mileage card system and as a result, 3,249,252 cards have been issued nationally. The card mileage system benefits citizens remarkably and enhances their commitment to environmental protection. The benefits are a result of the collaboration of the city administration, a card company, financial institutions, manufacturers and retailers. The system costs the city administration very little while bringing about significant effects.
Support for Citizens through a Two-Way Information Channel
Along with the provision of incentives, the Eco Mileage program promotes two-way communication with citizens. The Eco Mileage Web site posts citizens’ energy conservation tips and experts’ advice. Of course, it also informs citizens of various new arrangements by the city administration like the Energy Clinic that pays visits to households or buildings to offer energy diagnosis service.
Resident Centers Helping the Disadvantaged to Participate in the Efforts
The city has arranged for those who have no computers at home or cannot operate them well to visit a resident center and become members. In addition to in charge officials, a temporary student worker at each resident center will reduce difficulties by helping them apply for the membership online.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Input by Civic Groups, Colleges, Corporations & Research Institutes
A number of civic groups called on the city of Seoul to come up with energy conservation systems. In April 2008, the city established the procedures for the implementation of the Eco Mileage system along with the energy consumption quantity management system under the leadership of the city’s director of Climate & Environment Headquarters. In January 2009, the Eco Mileage system was put into effect and its aim was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city.
From April 2008 to January 2009, there were 12 advisory council meetings attended by academics, researchers, activists and officials of energy related institutions. Additionally, during this period there were 8 workshops for officials of autonomous districts to collect diverse opinions about the issue and improve the mileage system.
A Joint Governance among the City Administration, Civic Groups, Corporations & Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education tackles the Problems
To expand citizens’ participation and solve problems identified in the implementation stage of the mileage system, the city of Seoul established a new governance system with the participation of civic groups, businesses, Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, and the municipal government. This was to establish a closer collaboration between the public and private sectors. Open forums and seminars have been conducted to reach consensus on various issues.
The City Administration & District Offices Dividing Tasks
The metropolitan government and its 25 autonomous district offices have closely cooperated with one another. The former (Climate and Environment Headquarters) is charged with preparing the guidelines of the Eco Mileage system and readjusting systematic arrangements while the district offices are responsible for direct contact with citizens in such areas as publicity and education. To maintain effective collaborative relations between them, the city administration has held workshops regularly to collect ideas from district offices and has implemented them through system modifications.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Seoul Eco Mileage System Established at the Request of Civic Society
The Climate & Air Quality Management Division in the Climate & Environment Headquarters attempted to find a solution that would promote citizens to engage in constant energy conservation efforts through its contacts with citizens, civic groups, academics, research institutes and government agencies. Their conclusion was that there were limits in citizens’ energy conservation efforts and that the city administration should play a significant role, as a partner, in the targeting of energy conservation endeavors.
To that end, the city administration implemented the new incentive system and launched a two-way communication channel with the purpose of ensuring sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy Suppliers’ Provision of Information on Citizens’ Energy Consumption
‘Energy providers (Korea Electric Power Corporation, city gas companies and the Waterworks Authority)’ sends the Eco Mileage members’ electricity consumption information to the Eco Mileage system. The information contains the electricity usage during the past two years. Owing to this data, the city administration can now implement the incentive system on the basis of the accumulated total electricity use.
Sponsorship by Socially Responsible Corporations
The rewards are not cash. They are mileage and environment-friendly products and facilities. The city administration signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with 24 big and small companies, including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and LG Hausys, which produce either high-efficient electronics or environment-friendly products. The companies offer their products to the city administration free of charge, and the city government delivers them to those that significantly conserve energy.
MOU with BC Card and Six Banks
The Eco Mileage Card System offers mileage on energy conservation, the purchase of environment-friendly products and the use of public transportation. The mileage benefits have become possible through the city administration’s MOU with BC Card, Korea’s biggest credit card company, and six commercial banks, such as Woori Bank, SC (Standard Chartered) Bank and NH Bank. The system continues to evolve. The card benefits will soon include low carbon benefits accrued from the purchase of low carbon emitting products through collaboration with environment-friendly product manufacturers and retailers.
MOU with KT Corporation
KT Corporation, an integrated wired/wireless telecommunication service provider, provides mileage to citizens that contribute to the Eco Mileage Web site. When they post tips on energy conservation or report energy waste cases, KT gives them mileage. With the mileage, citizens can shop for necessities in the KT online shop and claim the merchandise offline in convenience stores or bakeries. As mileage turns into goods, more citizens participate in the online communication on the website.
Cooperation of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education
The city administration signed an MOU with Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education for schools in Seoul to actively implement energy conservation programs in the context of environmental education, as students will play a leading role in the creation and development of a future sustainable environment. As of November 2012, a total of 1,407 primary, middle and high schools in Seoul have joined the Eco Mileage system and many students are educated about saving energy through lectures and examples.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The Eco Mileage System began in April 2008 at the request of civic groups to promote “the program designed to address climate change through citizens’ energy conservation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Climate & Environment Headquarters of the city administration formed a task force team, and through numerous meetings with Korea Electric Power Corporation officials, five city gas companies including Seoul City Gas Co., Ltd. and the Waterworks Authority, they set up a system and developed a software program to receive consumers’ energy consumption information with the assistance of these organizations.
In October 2008, the municipal government executed an MOU with the same organizations laying the groundwork for the implementation of the system. In December, the city received approval from the National Intelligence Service about the security of the Eco Mileage System, ensuring that the system would not encroach on citizens’ privacy.
In February 2009, a pilot Eco Mileage system was implemented in 25 districts. Cash rewards were given according to the amount of reduced carbon emissions. To gather feedback there were 12 advisory council meetings with experts and 8 meetings with district officials.
In September, the cash rewards were replaced with environment-friendly goods and facilities. The incentive recipients were switched from all the members of the Eco Mileage System to those who have made a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The system was officially launched in the same month.
In October 2009, the city administration set up a two-way website so that citizens could express their opinions while obtaining a variety of energy conservation information from experts.
In January 2010, the city administration decided to expand the Eco Mileage system to embrace green consumption and green transportation. It joined forces with BC Card and implemented an Eco Mileage Card system. Through an MOU with BC Card, which has 6.5 million subscribers, the Eco Mileage Card began to be issued in December 2010.
In March 2010, the city administration signed an MOU with 24 manufacturers of high-efficiency environment-friendly products, including Samsung Electronics, to supply of their goods as Eco Mileage incentives. In October 2010, the MOU with KT allowed members to receive online mileage benefits from KT.
In January 2012, the city administration held three advisory council meetings with experts from environmental community groups, colleges and research institutes to explore the possibility of connecting the Eco Mileage System to its new campaign—reducing energy produced by one nuclear power plant or eliminating the need to build one new nuclear power plant.
The results of the meetings were the diversified uses of the Eco Mileage benefits and a variety of events designed to boost the self-esteem of energy conservationists. The expanded usage of Eco Mileage includes the payment of the maintenance charge of apartment buildings or other types of multi-unit housing with the mileage, which has been very much appreciated by the residents.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
First, Difficulties Establishing an Automatic System to Identify Individuals’ Carbon Emission Quantities
Energy providers were reluctant to share their information on citizens’ energy consumption. They saw it as delicate consumer information that should be protected. Therefore a system and program needed to be developed to ease their concerns. Through numerous meetings with Korea Electric Power Corporation and city gas companies, measures were taken to protect personal information and the National Intelligence Service regarding the protection of privacy approved the security system.
Second, Conflicts with District Offices over Eco Mileage
25 district offices refused to implement the mileage system on the grounds that they could not afford the cash grant because of their budgetary restraints. They demanded that the system be changed and that a website be created for each district.
As a compromise, incentives would not be provided to all the members. They were to be given only to those who had reduced their energy consumption by more than 10%. Each district office was to have its own website for mileage management. The resources for incentives were to be supplied by 24 companies. In the long term, the mileage program will require little support from the city budget when the Eco Mileage Card system is fully implemented.
Third, Insufficient Awareness of Citizens about Climate Change and Little Voluntary Participation
Voluntary participation showed a lackluster result. Awareness of climate change remained at a low level. To solve the problem, the city administration set up an organization with district offices, schools, civic groups and enterprises at an early stage and worked diligently to raise citizens’ awareness about climate change.
The organization toured the city and held 788 education sessions for 72,771 citizens including community leaders, leaders of vocational associations, commercial building managers, environment teachers, apartment maintenance managers, and women’s association leaders.
Fourth, Difficulties Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
It was important for large energy-gorging buildings to participate if the city were to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Education was provided to the managers of college and business buildings about the need to conserve energy and the contents of the city administration’s mileage system. At the outset, energy conservation effects were minimal. However, the proportion of buildings that have reduced energy consumption has continued to increase due to PR campaigns and the incentive system involved. The proportion has increased from 38.4% in 2010, to 50% in 2011 and to 56.5% in 2012. The energy conservation degree has also intensified, from 1.0% in 2010, to 2.1% in 2011 and to 2.9% in 2012.
Fifth, Difficult Participation by the Disadvantaged
In order to solve the complaints of seniors and the disadvantaged who had no access to computers, the city administration arranged for resident centers throughout the city to establish a system to help these people. A full-time official or a volunteer helps them to navigate the processes and join the eco-mileage membership.
Sixth, Difficulties Securing the Budget
As memberships increased, incentives had to increase, straining the city budget resources to their limit. Collaboration with 24 enterprises solved the problem. They offered their environmentally friendly products to the city for use as incentives. The Eco Mileage Card system was made possible through the cooperation with a card company, financial institutions, and manufacturers and retailers. Thus, the city does not have to pay for the system alone with its budget.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Eco Mileage Plan Finalized in April 2008
The Eco Mileage System began in April 2008 at the request of civic groups to promote “the program designed to address climate change through citizens’ energy conservation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The Environmental Protection Headquarters organized a task force team to develop the system and a necessary program for the implementation of a pilot project. Following adjustments through meetings with experts and the input of district offices, the mileage system was officially launched in September 2009.
Fiscal Resources
The municipal government’s budget input was kept to a minimum, which was possible due to private companies’ sponsorship. The city government spent 1.2 billion won on incentives and 2.5 billion won on the establishment of a website and a system, indirect incentive costs, and assistance for district projects. Following the establishment of the Eco Mileage Card system, the city administration was able to operate the system with the donation of private companies’ proceeds. Without any budget input, the system can now be run as a sustainable one.
Human Resources
Seven officials from the city administration worked in the task force team. Additionally, each of the 25 districts sent a representative to become involved in planning and administrative tasks. For the implementation of the Eco Mileage Card system, an official of BC Card is now fully engaged in the matter.
Technical Resources
A program was developed to identify participants’ accurate energy consumption information and to guarantee the security of personal information. The new system was approved by the National Intelligence Service. Furthermore, the system was connected to energy providers’ computer systems allowing participating citizens’ energy information to be available in real time.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Eco Mileage System is a model for low-carbon incentive arrangements that provide mileage to citizens that have implemented energy conservation and purchased high-efficiency products. It is a collaborative network among the city government, a card company, banks, and manufacturers and retailers.
The card company and banks donate 50% of their proceeds. The city uses these funds as the resources for the mileage program. The city government, citizens and private companies have established a virtuous circle where the citizen’s mileage benefits and corporations’ profits rise together.
In order to expand citizens’ participation in greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, civic groups’ cooperation is as crucial as the city government’s leadership. To that end, the city of Seoul organized a joint governance system between the city administration, civic groups, schools, enterprises and corporations. In addition, the city administration enacted the Green Growth Framework Ordinance as the legal basis for the incentives as means to promote citizens’ active participation.
The Eco Mileage System is the first citizen-participating greenhouse gas reduction program implemented by a local government in Korea. The city of Busan, Gyeonggi and Jeollanam-do Provinces have already benchmarked it.
In January 2010, the Ministry of Environment designated the Seoul Eco Mileage System as a model for the government-enterprise cooperation in the implementation of environment-friendly measures. It has begun to prepare for the dissemination of the system to other municipal and provincial governments in the country. In July 2012, the ministry benchmarked the Seoul Eco Mileage Card System and introduced a card called Green Card for the national application. President Lee Myung-bak was issued one.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The Three Major Reasons for the Eco Mileage System’s Success
The first factor was the commitment and devotion of the mayor of Seoul. In order to meet the goal of greenhouse gas emissions of the city (a 40% reduction of the 1990 level by 2030), the traditional municipal policies were not enough, including the use of new and renewable energy and the rationalization of energy consumption by buildings, which were already being implemented by the municipal government. Citizens had to participate in a wide variety of measures themselves in areas such as energy conservation, the purchase of environment-friendly products, and the use of green transportation.
The mayor of Seoul regularly reviewed the progress while actively adopting the opinions presented by both city administration divisions and citizens through various meetings with them. The director of the Environmental Protection Headquarters also significantly contributed by taking charge of the task force team, identifying problems and presenting solutions.
The second factor was the active cooperation of district offices. Each of the 25 district offices set up a task force team that promoted citizens’ aggressive participation in the program by meeting apartment complex maintenance managers, commercial building managers, and officials of women’s associations, in small communities on the ground.
Education was provided to member citizens so that they could be proud of their choice as green citizens. Resident centers, the administrative units at the bottom, helped citizens who were not comfortable with computers, to apply for memberships.
Finally, the active participation by schools was another important factor. The necessity of the concept to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to create a sustainable environment was emphasized to students who would inherit the environment and the climate. Convinced, they wanted to join forces to improve the situation.
Pamphlets were sent to their homes discussing the necessity to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Eco education was offered during extracurricular hours. This emphasized the necessity and effectiveness of the Eco Mileage System being implemented in the city of Seoul, calling for their aggressive participation.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Climate Change & Air Quality Management Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Hosung Kim
Title:   Team manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2115-7794/82-2-2115-7799
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Seoul City Hall Seosomun Building 11st Floor Deoksugung-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Postal Code:   100-738
City:   Seoul
State/Province:   Seoul

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