MONICA KELLY WRITES — President Moon Jae-in announced last Wednesday that South Korea will be carbon neutral by 2050. This will be achieved through the Green New Deal – a multi-billion- dollar plan that will invest in energy technologies to create jobs and help curb greenhouse emissions. The hallmark plan will tackle both climate change and the economic downturn that COVID-19 has caused in the country.
Of note, South Korea is home to energy-intensive industries such as automobiles and steel, making it the world’s seventh-largest carbon emitter. Currently, the country relies on coal for 40% of its energy. President Moon Jae-in vows to change this by investing in green infrastructure, clean energy and electric vehicles. The Green New Deal will create a domestic market for Korean car manufacturers through its ambitious target of 1.13 million electric vehicles and 200,000 hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles by 2025. Through these investments, South Korea expects to create 319,000 jobs by 2022 and 659,000 by 2025.
And yet, critics have been quick to point to South Korea’s past pro-environment policy failures, stating that the president risks losing billions of dollars for a program that may be environmentally and economically unsustainable.
Perhaps it is fitting to say, “Never say never.” South Korea is the last major economy to replace its fossil-fuel reliance with a new climate change initiative. Its neighbor, Australia, recently proposed a carbon intensive “gas-led” COVID-19 recovery plan that will heavily rely on fossil fuels to stimulate the struggling economy. Still, hope remains high. The massive job-creation potential of the Green New Deal marks a much-needed shift from the “business as usual” approach in the developed world. South Korea, although late to get started, now stands out among countries around the globe for its ambitious green-led recovery.