Korea’s “green growth” story reveals possibilities, challenges for Asia

Posted on 16 October 2013

Many Asian countries have integrated the concept of green growth into their national visions or strategies to cope with rising energy demand, delegates at the Daegu 2013 Congress were told on 16 October.

South Korea’s “green economy” offers an example for the rest of Asia of how to reduce the region’s dependence on coal. Korea adopted an intensive push of “black growth” from the early 1960s to early 1990s. However, the nation implemented a policy of “green growth” in an effort to lessen its greenhouse gas emissions and become more energy efficient, said Young Soogil, Co-chair & Director of UNSDSN – Korea Forum. He cited the example of Ulsan. Once a polluted industrial hub, effective green policy planning turned it into clean city in the past decade. “The message is don’t give up hope on Asia’s future,” he said.

Despite the successes of Korea’s development story, recent events have revealed that obstacles remain to a green growth strategy. The country has struggled to meet its green targets due to unforeseen circumstances, and remains vulnerable to energy insecurity due to its reliance on energy imports.

President Park Geun-hye told the Congress on 16 October that she would pursue a “smart energy economy.” The rest of Asia will need to tackle rising energy demands in a sustainable way. As the region becomes more affluent, millions of people in China and India will buy more cars, raising pressure to find cleaner sources of energy while fueling demand for oil.

At the same time, Asian oil companies are buying more assets in the Middle East, North America, and the Caspian region, said Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA). “In the next 20 years, more than two-thirds of the growth in global energy demand will come from Asia,” he said. Additionally, 600 million of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who have no electricity access live in China, India, and Southeast Asia, a fact that will guide energy policy in the coming decades. “Green growth is a very good model,” but the challenge is that coal remains the most cost-effective solution for many of these countries, Birol said.


This news story is based on the session Regional Crossroads, “Showcase for Asian green growth”, at the 2013 World Energy Congress.