South Korea’s $35 Billion Green Plan Skirts Zero-Carbon Target


South Korea revealed a 42.7 trillion won ($35 billion) plan to ramp up its commitment to renewable energy and environmentally friendly infrastructure, but came short of setting a time frame to phase out carbon emissions.

President Moon Jae-in announced a framework on Tuesday to expand energy efficiency, boost low-carbon power sources and foster green industries amid an effort to triple renewable power output by 2025. Still, the plan dashes hopes of environmentalists who had anticipated that a 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal proposed by Moon’s party would make it into the broader final policy.

The green power plans are part of Moon’s broader 160 trillion won “New Deal” program, also announced Tuesday, one of his biggest economic initiatives since coming to power in 2017.

Asian nations have struggled to commit to lowering dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, despite mounting international pressure to transition to cleaner energy sources as warnings over the pace of global warming grow more dire. China, Japan and South Korea were absent from a commitment at the United Nations climate meeting in December to aim for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While South Korea says it seeks to bring carbon dioxide emissions to net zero, it doesn’t give any timelines,” Jang Daul, an advocacy specialist at Greenpeace East Asia based in Seoul, said by phone. “The investment is massive, yet it’s more or less keeping its existing renewables target and lacks all the details about how much greenhouse gas the projects are expected to decrease.”

South Korea seeks to increase solar and wind capacity to 42.7 gigawatts by 2025, compared with 12.7 gigawatts in 2019, Moon said in a statement Tuesday. The government is already targeting about 54.2 gigawatts of capacity by 2030.

The government will invest 9.2 trillion won by 2025 on numerous renewable energy projects, including wind farms and subsidies for household solar, according to Moon. It will also spend 13.1 trillion won over the next five years on mobility projects, including for 1.13 million electric vehicles such as taxis, buses and trucks, he added.

Asian nations have also come under fire for doing too little to combat the spread of coal-fired power. Korea Electric Power Corp., the nation’s state-owned utility, was called out by investors for deciding to fund a coal-fired power plant in Indonesia. Last week, Japan was criticized for leaving the door open to invest in overseas-coal fired power plants after a high-profile review to its export policies.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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