[Viewpoint] Green policies must have substance

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[Viewpoint] Green policies must have substance

As President Lee Myung-bak rode a bicycle, outfitted in a green jacket and proclaiming the need to nurture our environmental industries, Britain’s Financial Times mocked our country’s green growth policy, saying it essentially includes building concrete embankments.

Meanwhile, environmental organizations say that the president’s goal of developing the four major rivers in Korea would be disastrous to the environment and should not be pursued.

There’s a lot of talk these days about Korea’s green growth policy.

In a speech to celebrate Liberation Day on Aug. 15 last year, the president underscored that green growth was a new paradigm for the country’s development that would fuel growth and create new jobs.

The administration formed a green growth committee under the supervision of the president, outlining 10 major goals.

A green growth policy is surely a task for the entire world amid global warming, and interest and support are desperately needed. And, as the entire world faces difficulties due to the economic slowdown, we definitely need to look to this to be a new growth engine.

According to Ministry of Environment statistics, the global market for environment-focused efforts such as recycling will grow to $855 billion, and the size of trade in carbon rights is predicted to reach $150 billion.

The figures clearly show that the field deserves our attention.

As seen over and over again in the past, when a new administration takes office it presents its own new policies, and ministries come up with various measures to implement them.

When the measures are revealed, it turns out that the package is colorful but the content is only a copy of old policies. The previous administration prioritized government reform as a top priority, and each ministry put an officer in charge of reform and civil workers spent a long time drawing a road map to accomplish that goal.

But the organizations and road maps disappeared when the new administration took office.

Now, as the president shouts for green growth, government agencies and public agencies are jumping on the bandwagon. They are creating plenty of new organizations and efforts labeled with the word “green.”

The real question is whether there is any substance behind them.

The practice of considering something green if it has the word in its name must be stopped.

If existing policies simply carry the green banner but don’t call for real changes, they will not earn support from the people and the original goals will be forgotten. Thus, a narrower focus is needed.

A policy should, therefore, try to reduce carbon emissions or save energy rather than just “help the environment.”

Environmental laws and regulations, such as those covering the handling of waste, also must be re-examined.

As most laws and regulations related to the environment are applied to everyone in the same way, they can become excessive.

They become a burden on companies that handle waste and recycle materials that contribute to the green industry. That runs against the purpose of creating the laws in the first place, and complaints from companies pour in.

The government says it will increase a fund focused on fostering the recycling industry to 100 billion won ($78.9 million). But it sounds like empty words to the companies that are tied down by regulations.

Besides, the government presented a policy to lift restrictions on some of the greenbelt areas and build apartment buildings there. Such contradictory policies must be re-examined as well.

For a green growth policy to become successful, the civil workers involved must have a deep understanding of what is trying to be accomplished. And they must have the will to carry it out. Those are more important than anything else.

Although the president touts his green policy whenever he gets a chance, he must do more than create more regulations. If that’s all he does, the damage is passed down to the people who trust the government and follow its policies.

*The writer is vice chairman of Deloitte Anjin LLC. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Pyun Ho-bum
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