On March 16th, the Democratic Party of Korea released a “Green New Deal” proposal in an effort to showcase their commitment to tackling climate change. This proposal bears significance on multiple levels: partly due to the upcoming election in South Korea, as well as the fact that this is the first time a major political party in Korea released a plan that directly addresses the severity of climate change. Green Environment Youth Korea (GEYK) offers some thoughts on the plan, as well as comment on its limitations and areas for improvements.

While meaningful for its initiative, the Democratic Party’s “Green New Deal” manifesto lacks a clear vision as to how the party will achieve the goals they claim to reach. It states that the Green New Deal will establish a mid and long-term roadmap to realize 2050 “carbon zero society,” without any evidenced measure to reach the goal. In order for the party to convince the voters of their commitment to this issue, it needs to release a further plan that illustrates several realistic yet innovative plans for the 2050 net-zero goal.

The core of the Green New Deal should be a shift to the new economic system, which will inevitably cause significant changes in various industries and jobs. In order for the Green New Deal to be successfully settled, the policy and institutional support must be considered. The proposal includes its plan to shift the government’s energy sources from fossil fuel to renewable energy. We believe several measures need to be taken in order to make sure this transition is just and fair for the workers.

First, workers in fossil fuel related industries must be fully trained for low-carbon industries to help them engage in new industries. It is necessary to establish and operate low-carbon industrial job training institutes at local governments, including the Ministry of Employment and Labor. After completion of the job training, follow-up management is necessary to minimize difficulties on job searching for workers and employers.

In addition, relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy have to encourage workers who have completed professional training at the relevant institution for re-employment into the low-carbon industry by practical training and job matching to the company. For new workers in the future, it is necessary to have specialized education for low-carbon industries in all curriculums, from formal school education (elementary, middle and high schools) to universities (including colleges). To this end, the Ministry of Education should legislate climate, energy and environment education as mandatory for formal education courses, so that systematic and continuous education can be carried out.

The proposal states the party will introduce carbon tax in the mid- to long-term to finance the Green New Deal. Over and over, it has been proven that such policies heavily dependent on market economy cannot be trusted as a solution to climate change. The belief that the market system can overcome the climate crisis has long been disproved. In order to reach the 2050 net-zero goal, the party will need to implement a sweeping change to the current regulations and go beyond mere suggestion of carbon tax proposal.

GEYK welcomes the proposal to stop public institutions from financing the coal industry. However, we hope the party will also enact a strong incentive structure for not only public institutions but also private sector to divest from coal. Reducing the fine dust concentration level of advanced countries (annual average of 10 µg/㎥) until 2040 is a much needed plan. As air quality increasingly worsens, health officials fear that thousands of Korean citizens will face premature deaths and other chronic diseases caused by air pollution. Tackling air pollution is not a separate issue from dealing with larger issues related to the warming planet.

The fact that one of the two major parties in South Korea has issued a Green New Deal proposal is definitely something to celebrate. However, we are afraid the proposal is far from what we need to guarantee a livable future for the future generations. The plan lacks an ambition and a bold plan to interrogate the status quo, barely addressing the hurdles caused by the corporate greed from major polluting industries. As youth fighting for a better future for all of us, GEYK demands the Democratic Party to see the climate crisis for what it is, and show voters the guts and dedication that it takes to deal with these problems.

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