Dubai: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak won the 2011 Zayed Prize for the Environment by making green thinking the basis of South Korean's entire national strategy, refusing to make environmentalism a mere token effort, and insisting on the profound long-term economic benefit of low carbon thinking.
In 2008, Lee told his countrymen that "I want to put ‘Low carbon, Green growth' as the core of the Republic's new vision". It was Lee's total commitment to implementing this idea at a national level that drew his work to the attention of the Zayed Prize committee, eventually winning him the ultimate accolade of winning the prize this week.
The key to Lee's success in turning his plan into reality was to set up the high-level Presidential Committee of Green Growth, headed by Yoo Yeon-chul, Director General of International Cooperation Affairs at South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who spoke to Gulf News in South Korea in November.
"We see that any country's investment in green growth in the next five years, will decide that country's future for the next 100 years. We want to be world leaders in the new technologies that we will develop, and the whole world will need," he said.
Yoo made clear that the green growth policy is not just about promoting renewables, but also about improving the efficiency of use of energy. "The national strategy for green growth has three main objectives. First: Mitigation of climate change and energy independence, which means moving beyond fossil fuels, giving Korea energy independence and also reducing greenhouse emissions," he told Gulf News.
"Second is to create new engines for economic growth, including the development of green technology, which will need substantial investment in green sector, developing cutting edge convergence industries, and building a national carbon trading market and offering good tax incentives.
"The third objective is to raise the overall quality of life for people and enhance South Korea's contributions to the international community through strong advocacy for green growth. South Korea took advantage of its recent chairing of the G20 to push for international action on cutting carbon emissions," he said.
In order to fulfil the policy goals of the "Low Carbon, Green Growth" national strategy, the South Korean government has revived the five-year planning that it first used in the 1960s. These broke the three main objectives into 10 policy directions, which the government uses to set targets and measure the country's progress.
How Lee set measurable targets
Mitigation of climate change and energy independence
1) Effective mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.One of the most important tasks of the five year plan is to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Set up cost-effective strategies for buildings, transportation and industrial sectors.
- Make it mandatory for relevant economic players to report their greenhouse gas emissions.
- Forestation and sustainable forest management will be pursued to increase carbon absorption.
2) Reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the enhancement of energy independence.
- South Korea imports 97 per cent of its energy needs, and 84 per cent of the energy supply is from fossil-based resources. Both these numbers have to fall. South Korea will increase energy efficiency by managing energy demand in each sector, and reducing energy intensity.
- New and renewable energy supply will increase from 2.7 per cent in 2009 to 6.08 percent in 2020.
- To reduce CO2 emissions, South Korea will enlarge the use of nuclear energy from 26 per cent in 2009 to 32 per cent in 2020.
3) Strengthening the capacity to adapt to climate change.
Adverse impacts of climate change are apparent all over the world despite global efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.
South Korea will expand its climate change monitoring system, be it air, ship or satellite-based.
- Increase environment friendly food production to 18 per cent by 2020.
Creating new engines for economic growth
4) Development of green technologies.
- South Korea will work on developing technologies that will significantly contribute to cutting greenhouse gases, and thus gain a competitive edge in the global market.
- South Korea will launch intensive efforts to develop green technologies, looking for an eight per cent market share in each sector globally.
- South Korea will encourage the practical application and industrialisation of the new technologies.
5) The greening of existing industries and promotion of green industries.
Considering that 57 per cent of South Korean energy consumption is in the industrial sector, it is vital that South Korea finds a low carbon strategy for industry.
- Resource recycling throughout the entire manufacturing process will have to rise from 15 per cent in 2009 to 17.6 per cent in 2020.
- South Korea's major industries will aim to increase their green exports from 10 per cent in 2009 to 22 per cent in 2020.
- Green clusters will be formed to enhance cooperation between industry, academia and research institutes.
6) Advancement of industrial structure.
- South Korea's economic performance has been based on its manufacturing prowess, but it now has to move to new industries which are less energy intensive.
South Korea will energetically develop six new sectors: health care, education, finance and banking, contents industry, software and tourism.
7) Engineering a structure basis for the green economy.
South Korea will lay the basis for a more green economy by public assistance to green enterprises.
- South Korea will introduce a carbon emissions trading system
- Public assistance to the green industry sectors will rise from $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion) in 2009 to $6.4 billion in 2020.
- The tax system will be overhauled to encourage producers of green goods, and discourage emissions.
- Measures will be taken to improve energy efficiency in low income houses.
Improvement in the quality of life and enhanced international standing
8) Greening the land, water and building the green transportation infrastructure
Reducing carbon emissions from industry is not enough, and South Korea will need to enforce green thinking in urban planning, building and in transport.
- Green plans will be selected to build new carbon neutral cities and rehabilitate old cities
- Energy rating systems will be expanded and design guidelines will encourage green buildings.
- Green and mass transport will be increased. Passenger transport by rail will grow from 18 per cent in 2009 to 26 per cent in 2020.
9) Bringing the green revolution into our daily lives.
South Korea plans to actively foster civil society participation in green growth, and will campaign to achieve the social consensus required.
- Launch a green lifestyle index for citizens to increase the proportion of green households.
- Carbon footprint labelling and certifying for goods will be enacted.
- Local voluntary low-carbon smart-village initiatives will be encouraged.
10) Becoming a role model for the international community as a green growth leader.
South Korea will strive to be a role model for the green growth, promoting green growth internationally, and providing assistance to developing countries to help them raise green growth.
- South Korea will actively engage in international negotiations on climate change.
- South Korea will increase green overseas development aid from 11 per cent in 2007 to 30 per cent in 2020.