|2010.01.15 10:51||2010.01.15 10:51 | Green Society|
Korea's Green Growth = Extraordinary “Green Wash”
Green Growth based on Nuclear Power and the Construction Industry
The world has been deceived by the Korean government's new vision for ‘Green Growth’. On 15 August 2008, President Lee Myung-bak proclaimed “Low Carbon Green Growth” as “a new national development paradigm that creates new growth engines and jobs with green technology and clean energy”. However, this Green Growth policy currently touted in Korea is no more than an economic development vision as the basis of this national administrative ‘Green policy’ is going backward overall. Large scale civil engineering projects and constructions, such as nuclear power plants, are driving the Korean environment into a catastrophe.
A quote from President Lee Myung-bak, “Green Growth is the way to go” became a popular catch-phrase. The international community is also keeping an eye on the Green Growth policy in Korea. The president emphasized green technology and industry and pledged to increase energy independence and the supply of new and renewable energies, with 1 billion KRW will be invested annually to promote climate friendly businesses by 2012. The government announced the Green New Deal and the 4 Major Rivers Restoration projects, which will be done over the next 4 years with an investment of 5 billion KRW which will go towards, the Green SOC (Social Overhead Capital), low-carbon / high-efficiency technologies, eco-friendly green life and etc., with the creation of 960 thousand jobs.
However, is Korea really moving in the right direction for a greener society? Will the 4 Major Rivers Restoration Project, a tremendous civil engineering scaled project, truly takes the lead within the Green New Deal? The analysis below of the Korean ‘Green Growth’ policy will show why we believe the world has been deceived by the Korean government's Green Growth Show.
10 Reasons Why it is more Gray Growth vs. Green Growth
1. Shamefully low GHG reduction target: -4% by 2020 from the 2005 levels
The Korean government announced the mid-term green house gas reduction target at 4% below 2005 levels (30% of the 2020 BAU levels) on 17 November 2009. The action was somewhat belated but necessary since it is a pre-requisite for climate change. Unfortunately, the 4% reduction target is disappointing and does not meet its historical responsibility for climate change and the country’s capability for further reduction. Korea is ranked 9th in green house gas emission and 22nd in historical emissions. Knowing that 38 countries are currently committed to green house gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, Korea should have set higher targets according to its historical emission. The reason why Korea's reduction target was set so low is that the government exaggerated the BAU emission projection thus minimizing the reduction capability. Estimating the emissions projection, The Presidential Committee on Green Growth drew up an Energy Consumption Plan that project the oil price to be at 60 USD per barrel in 2020 and overestimated the average annual increasing rate of emission at 2.1% though the rate of increase has decreased recently.
Through this process, Korean industries insisted that it is not possible to reduce GHG by 4% of 2005 levels and in doing so it would hinder the Korean economy. It showed their irresponsible and unethical attitudes toward the climate change crisis. The government considered a target option of an 11% reduction of 2005 levels but it was not even discussed with the public as they were concerned about resistance coming from the industrial circles. The meager reduction target set by the Korean government is a result of incomplete preparation by the Presidential Committee on Green Growth and lobbying by the big industries. Korean environmental organizations believe that the Korean government should reduce GHG by 25% by 2020 from the 2005 emission levels and a truly reasonable reduction target should be re-discussed in view of its historical responsibility and in an open discussion with the international community.
2. Supply-centered energy policy: energy consumption is projected to increase by 32% by 2030
Korea's total energy consumption in 2006 was 226 million TOE, which was 2.1% of the world’s total energy consumption and was ranked 10th in the world(est. 2006, Source BP Statistics 2007). In 2005, Korea was ranked fourth in oil imports, second in coal imports and eighth in natural gas imports. Moreover, Korea, with its extremely high overseas energy dependency of 97%, is very vulnerable to energy crisis.
Nevertheless, the government's supply-focused energy policy has not changed. In Basic National Energy Plan 2030, the government predicts an increase in annual energy demand by 1.1% and total energy consumption is projected to be 399.4 million TOE, an increase of 32% over 2006 levels. Accordingly, energy demand per capita is predicted to increase from 4.83 TOE, which was in 2006, to 5.84 TOE in 2020 and 6.18 TOE in 2030. This demonstrates that the government designed energy plan focuses on supply rather than on demand management as envisaged under Green Growth.
By 2030, fossil fuels will account for only 61 percent of total energy consumption, down from the current 83 percent, while the use of nuclear power will increase to 27.8% from 14.9% in 2007 and the use of renewable energy will increase to 11% from 2.4% in 2007. This shows that the Korean government’s core plan of National Energy Plan 2030 is to expand the nuclear power.
The National Energy Plan of the Green Growth era should target at decreasing energy consumption. Economic growth does not necessarily mean a proportional increase in energy consumption. Some of the European countries such as Germany are the good examples to show a decrease in energy consumption after reaching a certain level of economic growth. Using less energy can create higher added value. Korea should consider 2015~2020 as the peak demand and start to decrease its energy consumption by targeting at the level or less than the level of 2006. Furthermore, Korea should find solutions to decrease energy consumption and to increase energy efficiency by reorganizing high energy consuming industrial structures and transports, building energy efficient structures and using urban planning policy.
3. Hazardous Green Growth: Relying on expansion of nuclear power by building 12 new plants by 2022.
Nuclear renaissance is booming in Korea. The government predicts an annual increase of 2.1% in energy demand (368.5billion KWh in 2008 - 500.1billion KWh in 2022) in the 4th Basic Plan of Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand. Thus government plans to establish 12 nuclear power stations, 7 coal-fired plants and 11 LNG-fired plants. According to this plan, nuclear power plants are expected to account for 33 % of Korea's total power generation facility and 48% of power generation capacity. By 2022, 32 nuclear power plants in total will be operational and account for 32,920MW of power. The Korean government emphasizes that strengthening the role of nuclear power is inevitable to act against high oil price and to ensure GHG emission reduction. In the end, the nuclear power becomes the energy supporting Green Growth policy.
Hence, by 2012 the government will start to search for the sites for new nuclear power plants and promote and inform the positive aspects of nuclear plants. Besides, the government targets to secure the fundamental technology and develop Korean-modeled nuclear plants by 2015 and finally enhance the competitiveness of nuclear power plants in exports. In short, the Green Growth vision of the government suggests nuclear power as a clean energy.
However, uranium is also a limited resource like fossil fuels. A study, assuming that number of nuclear plants will not change, showed that uranium reserves can not last more than 50 years. Operating the fast breeder reactors to reprocess the used nuclear fuel costs high and accompanies a very high risk. Nuclear power is not a low carbon energy source considering the life cycle of uranium including mining, refining and dismantling. So far no country has found solutions to overcome the risks and manage the high-level radioactive wastes. With these unsolved problems, the nuclear power has not been recognized as a clean energy at the climate change conferences so far, nevertheless, there is a never-ending lobbying from the nuclear industry.
Historically, the word ‘green’ is very close to ‘anti-nuclear’. Korean environmental movement started from an anti-nuclear movement. The Korean government has committed a grave mistake by putting nuclear power into ‘clean energy’ and such a blunder happens rarely in the world. Moreover, the government is doing everything to promote and expand the nuclear power. It is utterly opposed to ‘Green Growth’. The government should stop its nuclear power favoring policies, focus on energy demand management, increase energy efficiency and diversify energy resources with renewable energy, LNG, and so on, to ensure an energy supply security.
4. A Hopeless renewable energy target: “11% by 2030 and FIT to RPS by 2012”
Usage of renewable energy as a primary source of energy has been increasing very slowly. However, renewable energy accounts for a mere 2.37% of total energy generation. The government in its National Energy Basic Plan plans to increase the renewable energy usage to 11% by 2030. This level is still very unsatisfactory target when compared to the average targets of other OECD countries. The renewable energy usage in OECD countries currently accounts for 6.4% of the primary energy and 15.3% of the electrical energy whereas Korea still lags a lot behind at 0.6% and 1.0% respectively. (Refer - OECD/IEA, 2008, [Renewable Information] Statistics except waste).
Policy for renewable energy penetration is also going backwards. The government declared to decrease the FIT subsidy with a poor excuse of lack of budget and localization skill and planned to bring the regulation RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) in 2012. RPS is a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources. The RPS generally places an obligation on electricity supply companies to produce a specified fraction of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Distributed energy system of renewable energy was established with mainly small scale businesses under the FIT mechanism but RPS will help maintain the existing centralized energy supply system with the public enterprises. The need of the hour is to plan a strategy to industrialize renewable energy and to develop policy and systems to maintain and complement the FIT mechanism.
5. “The 4 Rivers Project” covering over rivers with concrete: water pollution and ecosystem degradation
The government planned to invest 22.2 trillion KRW, 8% of its annual budget, in project which will cause tremendous environmental destruction. To fund this destructible project, the government has cut public service budgets set for social welfare, railroad construction and so on. Moreover, an 4 month environmental impact assessment was undertaken along with a 3 month cultural heritage research throughout all the regions around the 4 rivers, which found that many of the heritage sites will be submerged.
The Lee Myung-bak government is not enforcing these construction projects for nature, the people of the nation and the future generation but instead it is for its supporters - civil engineering and building contractors. While the Democratic party-led government in Japan declared “From Concrete To People” to remove its stigma as a country of construction, the Korean government is getting bogged down in its old trend of destroying nature. Therefore, when the grand canal, under the name of the 4 River Restoration Project, is completed, the 4 major rivers which are the repository of Korean history, cultural heritages and ecosystems will face fatal threats.
6. Vehicle and road friendly transportation system: railroad budget cuts because of the 4 River Project
In Korea, about 16.6% of green house gas emission is from transportation. The following figures show emission from each transportation: land: 78,480,000 CO2ton(77.7%), marine: 12,860,000 CO2ton(12.7%), air: 8,970,000 CO2ton(8.9%) and rail: 670,000 CO2ton(0.7%). Land transportation represented by motor vehicles covers about 80% of total transportation emissions. Thus, it is urgent to convert the current system into a new transportation system focused on railway and public transport. An 1% increase in passenger or freight rail transport per annum has an energy saving effect of 559.5 billion KRW and CO2 emission reduction effect of 30.9 billion KRW(Source: Korea Environment Institute). However, about 50% of transportation infrastructure investment was concentrated on building roads while the investment in railroads was less than the half. Road-concentrated infrastructure investment has neglected railroad infrastructure. Excessive overlapping investments in road infrastructure and the increase of motor vehicles, air pollution and green house gas emission are the urgent problems to be solved in the era of high oil prices and climate change.
Under the ‘Low Carbon Green Growth’ policy, the government claimed to increase rail transport, however, appropriate investment or budget plan have not been followed. The SOC budget for road and railroad infrastructure was cut because of huge investment in the 4 Rivers Project; 1.6666 trillion KRW allocated for roads and 687.3 billion KRW for rail roads was cut from the 2009 budget. If the government has intention to invest in the transportation railway sector, they should not cut the budget. They suggest even or odd car bans, gas to hybrid vehicle conversion and supply of electric vehicles as countermeasures for high oil price and climate change in the transportation sector. But the R&D budget for a Green Car transport system increased from 63.1 billion KRW to 88.5 billion KRW. It explains that the government still supports roads and a vehicle friendly system in its transportation policy. The government should recognize railway to be the best transportation and prepare for a concentrated railway transport system.
7. Overseas food supply base development projects : A new colony which is exploiting natural resources
The agricultural base of Korea has been collapsing. Following the previous government, the current government of Korea is moving to scale up the promotion of agriculture and agribusinesses to enhance the competitiveness of the Korean agricultural sector. Agriculture in Korea should not target export markets but instead focus on increasing self-sufficiency. Korea's food self-sufficiency rate decreased from 43.1% in 1990 to 27% in 2005, ranking 124th among 175 countries and 25th among 30 OECD countries. However, with the exclusion of rice the number drops to below 5% and especially the self-sufficiency rate of feed grains and wheat is very low. It is time for Korea to get serious about food security.
Green policy for agriculture should support organic and rotational farming, local food systems, and small size farmer growing multiple crops in small quantities. Furthermore, it should include climate change adaptation programs to minimize the loss and damage from climate change and protect the farmers.
The current Green Growth policy in the agricultural sector states that its main goal is to build food supply bases overseas such as in Manchuria and the Littoral Province in Russia ,in view of ‘food security’ and ‘low carbon green growth’. It says that the crops grown in other countries can be used to produce a great amount of bio-fuel and the rice fields in Korea can be converted into the lands used to grow medicinal plants, flowers and all kinds of organic crops for export. It is just a short-sighted policy going in a completely wrong direction from the right answer to the era of the global food security crisis and food as a political weapon.
FAO interpreted the recent global farmland rush as a form of neo-colonialism as it will worsen the food security in those countries targeted to be their food bases. The policy to expand farmland abroad is not acceptable because it encourages the destruction of the agricultural base within the target countries and plunders their agricultural resources. Sustainable agricultural policies should start from the restoration of the domestic agricultural industry, where small organic farmers are under the threat of bankruptcy
8. Water privatization - Water becomes a commodity for profit, not a human right
Water privatization has been attempted and sped up under the Lee Myung-bak government. The ‘Framework Law on Green Growth’ includes a stipulation of the ‘Water Industry Support Act’ whose enactment was delayed because of public opposition. The Ministry of Environment has promoted the ‘Water Industry Support Act’ that allows private corporations to take over the supply of public water, a task the local governments currently have. The Act stipulates that local governments are allowed to establish ‘corporations’ jointly with domestic and international corporations, whereby they can own more than 51% of the stocks and liberalize water price. Named as a ‘contracted-out’ or ‘advancement’ project, its underlying reason is to entrust corporations with public water supply and finally to drive forward water privatization.
Article 49, Clause 3 of the ‘Framework Law on Green Growth’ stipulates that “the government should promote and support water industries, which develop technology related to water production and supply, water pollution prevention and management and sewage sludge transfer, management and reuse and related services.” However in reality, the ‘Framework Law on Green Growth’ is helping private corporations pursue their profits in the name of public water facilities and is setting the direction towards water privatization. The direction of this policy seems biased as one of the board members of Kolon Co., Ltd., a corporation in the domestic water industry, is also a member of the Presidential Committee on Green Growth.
Water is a fundamental human right. Water is public property since a safe water supply is a basic human right. However, if water turns into a means for private corporations' means of making a profit its availability as a public property surely can be damaged. If public water supply to meet basic human need is discriminated based on one’s economic ability to pay for it, this is a ‘violence’ and ‘violation of human rights’ rather than ‘Green Growth’.
9. Violent urban redevelopment: Yongsan Tragedy sacrificed 5 civilian victims
On January 20th, 2009, an unbelievable tragedy happened in the middle of Seoul. A police SWAT team raided a dilapidated four-story building in central Seoul to evict dozens of civilians opposing redevelopment of the area. 5 civilians and 1 police officer were killed in the blaze that occurred during the raid. This tragedy happened because of the greed of urban redevelopment and the irresponsible reaction of the government. In Korea, landlords and developers make excessive profits throughout the process of redevelopment. Meanwhile, tenants are evicted without reasonable compensations they thus resist forced eviction with their life. Local gangs hired by the developers then come and threaten the residents with violence, while the government and police sit without action showing their silent support. This tragedy that happened in Yongsan can happen anywhere in the country.
The government accused the tenants of being squatters and inflicted heavy punishment on the protesters. There is no respect of human rights in the process. Irene Khan, the secretary general of the international human rights group, Amnesty International ,urged the government to try the police officers involved in this tragedy by international standard laws when she was visited Korea in November. Moreover, she recommended designing of guidelines for forced removals and withdrawals in redevelopment sites to prevent more tragedy. In addition, the UN Committee of Economics, Social and Cultural Rights also mentioned the ‘Yongsan Tragedy’ and pointed out the problems of the forced violent eviction and urged them to find solutions. The Korean human rights situation can only be measured after the tragedy is settled.
10. Business friendly development: deregulation of greenbelts and urban development of national parks
The current government's Low Carbon Green Growth policy focuses on deregulation to promote industry. The main policies include the deregulation of factory sites and greenbelt restrictions with the Seoul region lighten environmental restrictions to concentrate more on growth and development.
As soon as the Lee Myung-bak government took office, its 16 ministries and offices competitively declared their deregulation plans and extensively and rapidly carried out changes in the law that created more lenient environmental restriction. For example, the restriction of factories to be located 20km away from metropolitan water conservation zone has been deregulated to below 10km of local water conservation zones, and the distance of 15km away from forebays to within 7km of forebays. Therefore, from at least a half to almost 2 thirds of previous water conservation zones will be allowed to be developed. In September 2009, the government announced a ‘Restricted Development Zones Adjustment and Management Plan’ which shall lifts restriction on 308㎢ greenbelt land by 2020, an area which is 16 times bigger than the new city Bundang. The Seoul capital region is at 143.6㎢covering46.5% of the total newly deregulated land. With this deregulation, environmental problems such as water pollution, traffic jams, etc. will worsen. In October 2008, new restriction deregulations of protected areas were declared based on ‘the precondition of nature protection’.
The Ministry of Environment’s deregulation policies are expanding into national parks. Allowing development projects in protected natural ecosystem areas, such as national parks, are expected to cause negative influence on biodiversity. Since RAMSAR 2008, the government has kept working on wetland reclamation and has not kept their promise to expand the protected areas. The Korean government will hold the IUCN convention in 2010 but it is spending and money only on its advertisement without complying with international environmental policies.
The important way to go to the real ‘Green Way’ for the future of Korean society
If the government moves towards ‘Green growth’, environmental organization should welcome its policy. However, as mentioned earlier, ‘Low Carbon Green Growth’ in Korea is going towards Gray Growth with nuclear power and large scale civil engineering construction projects. They are based on the projects that will destroy life, such as the 4 River Projects, building food base abroad, violent urban redevelopment, deregulation of greenbelts and urban development within national parks. The endless desire for growth is just green-washing.
‘Green’ should embrace life, for example, respect for life plus passionate and warm care for justice. How many species are being destroyed by the 4 Rivers Project? Is it really green to neglect people killed by Yongsan Tragedy? Where has all the justice gone?
One of Korean popular journalist sadly asked, “why all the bulldozers are in rivers and streams if we go for Green Growth?” If we are concern about the different lives under the water, we should stop the large scale embankment construction and dredging work. Lee's government and its green growth policy ignores ‘the new harmony of environment and human beings’ and ‘social equity’. Korean society has always pursued growth and development. Now, it is up to the Korean citizens to ensure a much needed and a just transition. Even though the Korean citizens chose the current government, recent opinion polls show that more than 70% of the people are opposed to the “Four River Project”. Consequently, the critical public opinion has aroused against the faults and the errors of the government's flawed policy of ‘Green Growth’.
The Korean government’s ‘Green Growth’ is estimated as a successful model by international community. For example, UNEP stated that Korea is leading the world in the field, however, they need to get enough knowledge and understanding of what is really happening in Korea before they pay that compliment. If not, when the Green Growth policy of Korea is proved to be green-washing, the UNEP will also can ruin its own reliability. UNEP should not accept Lee Myung-bak's civil engineering based policies as Green Growth. In this respect, the Korean environmental organizations will try to do their best to inform the world of the ugly facts of the Korean government's Green Growth policy.
It is time to ask ourselves again what direction to go in pursuit of life. Korean environmental organizations do not only lead opposition movements against the governmental projects causing environmental degradation but also start deep discussions of green philosophy within the Korean society. We know it would be a long and wearisome movement but it will decide the future destiny of Korea.
COP15 Korea NGOs Network
Action for Energy Justice, Buan Peoples Power Plant for Renewable Energy, Buddhist Environment Solidarity, Citizens' Movement for Environmental Justice, Green Korea United, Eco-Horizon Institute, Energy & Climate Policy Institute, Energy Peace Foundation, Environment and Pollution Research Group, Federation of Korean Trade Unions, International Center for Labor Solidarity, Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, (Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions, Korea Federation of Public Services & Transportation Workers' Union, Korea Power Plant Industry Union), Korea Christian Environment Movement Solidarity for Integrity of Creation, Korea Democratic Labor Party, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, Korea Labor & Social Network on Energy, Korea Peasants League, Korea Women Peasant Association, Korea YMCA
Contact : Lee, YuJin (Green Korea United) firstname.lastname@example.org
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