[Outlook]Green love

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[Outlook]Green love

Since the dawn of the new year the Lee Myung-bak administration has sent out “green” love letters. As soon as the president presented an outline for low-carbon, green growth in his New Year’s speech, the administration unveiled a blueprint for the green New Deal, a plan to spend 50 trillion won ($36.13 billion) to create 960,000 jobs by 2012. Central government agencies also presented their plans to carry out the measure. Local governments that need to secure their budgets and public corporations that need to cater to government ministries are also joining the green movement.

Even if you are not impressed by an admirer in the beginning, if you get one love letter after another, you soon change your mind. That’s how humans are and that’s also the rule of courtship.

However, the love letters that the government is sending out nearly every day aren’t very impressive. The government writes the letters sincerely but has yet to win over people’s hearts. The government has set up a grand and practical agenda to prevent global warming while it achieves economic growth. Why aren’t people more enthusiastic?

First of all, the scope of green growth is unclear. All investments into social infrastructure, including building dams, are labeled as green New Deal projects. Nearly all high-technology research plans are called green technology projects. Local governments even call street cleaning a green New Deal scheme. These plans have green packaging but inside there’s a mixture of green, gray and black substances.

The method for delivering the message is also problematic. The president, the prime minister, ministers, mayors and provincial governors take turns crying out for “green.” While the people are not yet familiar with the concept of green growth, people in authority are conducting an all-out campaign. A successful message should massage the senses and persuade effectively. However, the letters that the government recently sent out are more like administrative memos than love letters.

In fact, green growth is the spirit of our time. Traditionally, liberals pursued green while conservatives opted for growth. Green and growth couldn’t be integrated, chemically and physically, but the increase in greenhouse gases, exhaustion of resources and the development of environment technology have ignited a new spirit.

Conservatives cannot ignore the environment and liberals cannot neglect efficiency. Since the mid-1970s, countries like Germany, Britain and the Netherlands have built industrial and economic infrastructure that took into account green and growth at the same time. In Korea, former Climate Change Ambassador Chung Rae-kwon circulated the term for the first time several years ago.

It is appropriate that the Lee administration, which pursues pragmatism, has adopted the concept. President Lee sensed an urgent need for green growth during the G-8 summit meeting last summer in Japan.

Lee must have felt that reducing greenhouse gases and fostering green industries were urgent issues indeed, and he mentioned green growth for the first time in his speech commemorating Liberation Day last year.

After that he spent a couple of months drawing up a blueprint for green growth.

If a large number of jobs can be created while pre-emptively responding to an international crisis in which regulations to protect the environment serve as trade barriers, just as the president plans, few will oppose his plan.

However, many people doubt that his blueprint resembles green growth in the truest sense.

If the government labels nearly all civic projects “green,” the green New Deal will become nothing more than a political motto and cause tensions between different political fractions.

If so, the power and influence of the green growth movement will eventually weaken and Korea might fail to fully sign up to the global movement to save the planet.

As a result Korean could be derailed on its journey to becoming an advanced country.

We should rather think that the plan that has been publicized now is a rough sketch for a distant future. If problems arise, the plan can be revised at the design stage. Thinking about the meaning of the green New Deal can be a starting point. The word “green” means sustainable growth, “new” refers to new methods and “deal” means sharing. With this in mind, a detailed strategy map must be drawn up that includes new projects that create sustainable jobs in the green growth industry.

Based on this map, the government can persuade people that this green project is vital for Korea.

If instead the authorities want to simply dominate and control people, the future of green growth is gloomy.

The writer is social affairs news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Kyu-youn
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