South Korea’s Democratic Party won a landslide victory in national elections this week. The big win gives the liberal party a popular mandate to enact a Green New Deal like that in the European Union, a key part of its election platform.
The new climate and sustainability policy, when officially enacted, would be the first of its kind in East Asia. It would likely include a pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, a carbon tax, an end to investment in coal, investment in renewable energy sources, including hydrogen fuel. As of now, South Korea is the world’s seventh largest emitter of carbon dioxide, largely due to its robust manufacturing sector developing consumer technology goods, cars, ships, and steel. The country itself is also a significant investment in coal worldwide.
The new policy has grown out of rising concern among the South Korean public about climate change. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found 86% of South Koreans believe that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to society, despite the nation’s fraught and precarious relationship with North Korea and its nuclear development. And despite the global pandemic, the election achieved the highest turnout among South Korean voters in nearly 30 years.
As nations around the world recover from COVID-19, they will have many options for stimulating their economies. South Korea, well ahead of the curve compared to many countries in its COVID-19 response efforts, also appears to lead the way in touting renewable energy investments as a way to lead us back to thriving, secure economies.
How can your government – local, state, or national – further leverage renewable energy and other green solutions to help our economies recover from this global crisis?