Following the overwhelming victory of President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party in April’s election, the nation is now moving towards its own “Green New Deal” at an accelerated rate. After leading the world in implementing an effective path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, government leaders are turning some of their attention towards renewable and sustainable energy, and are considering an aggressive proposal to take on that shift, pledging to end the country’s net carbon emissions by 2050.

A key part of this program is a commitment to job creation. That means a financial investment as well as regulatory measures that would ensure new jobs and industries are created while addressing environmental threats.

One former official compared the effort to the moves that made Korea into a technology powerhouse in the late 1990s following the financial and currency crisis of the time. Today’s urgency reflects the growing need to move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels as a means of slowing global warming.

Under the new proposal, crafted by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK)’s task force on the transition to a green economy, renewable energy sources will meet targets significantly higher than current plans – with renewable sources accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s installed generation capacity by 2034 – in a major move away from coal and nuclear power.

That will require a roadmap that moves quickly “in the direction of accelerating the transition to environment-friendly power generation, such as drastically curtailing coal-fired plants,” according to Yoo Seung-hoon, a professor at Seoul National University of Science & Technology and member of the DPK task force.

As a practical matter, the proposal recommends closing half of the nation’s 60 coal-fired power plants over the next decade, with many of those converted to natural gas in order to meet growing energy demands.

The DPK’s “Green New Deal” proposal focuses on the transition to renewable energy and more efficient resources combine the environmental elements with features of former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s depression-era economic “New Deal,” such as public works projects, financial reforms, and regulatory efforts that advance job creation.

As Rep. Kim Sung-whan, who heads the DPK’s task force, told a recent forum, “If there comes a global crisis which is a hundred or a thousand times bigger than the crisis of COVID-19, that would be the climate crisis.”