South Korea’s ambition to implement a Green New Deal was already affirmed after the National Assembly elections mid-April. This Green Deal will be realized as a core strategy during the COVID-19 recovery as reported on May 29, 2020. It entails, among others, public investments into expanding renewable energy generation and greening the transport sector in order to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and generate new jobs. One focus is on accelerating the development of hydrogen generation facilities in the country to provide thousands of cars and buses with low-carbon fuel. Another emphasis is on green public procurement of eco-friendly vehicles. While only 28% of vehicles procured annually by public sector organizations are eco-friendly today, it was announced that this share will increase to 80% in 2021. The ultimate target of the administration is to increase the total share of eco-friendly cars in the public sector’s vehicle fleet to 90% by 2030.
Direct public investments and public procurement are both effective instruments for a green recovery if public budgets flow into sectors already being considered green and low emitting. Alternatively, a green recovery can be targeted if goods and services procured by the public sector are required to comply with strong environmental performance to signal green priorities to private industries—for example, by tying the procurement decision to the life-cycle carbon emissions of a desired good.
Considering South Korea’s efforts to make its transport sector more sustainable by investing in hydrogen technology, it appears strategically sound to also invest in expanding renewable energy generation. Since hydrogen generation is energy-intensive, it can only be considered a sustainable and low-carbon fuel solution for South Korea’s transport sector if the country’s energy mix is becoming low carbon too.