With both South Korea and Japan announcing large-scale government support for green development projects, I wonder if millions of jobs really can be created by the efforts. For example, South Korea says it will spend $38 billion on waste to energy power plants, support for 'Green Homes', transportation infrastructure for rail and bicycles, cleaning up polluted river systems, and investments in energy storage technologies used for electric vehicles (They are also planning 10 new nuclear reactors).
I like that the Korean government is considering building bicycle-only roads spanning 3,114 kilometers across the country over the next 10 years, "while launching an international bicycle competition mimicking the Tour de France as part of efforts to promote eco-friendly industries."
According to Kyodo's inimitable prose, Japan' Prime Minister Taro Aso this week "instructed" Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito to compile a "bold" and "easy-to-understand" program aimed at propping up the economy by promoting measures to curb global warming:
Under the envisioned program — essentially a Japanese version of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's Green New Deal — the Environment Ministry aims to expand the environment-related business market.
Aso demands 'bold' green business program to boost economy
"We want to take the initiative and build a leading low-carbon society while stepping out of recession before anyone else in the world," Ichiro Sumikura, an environment ministry official, told Reuters.
Garry Golden, clever blogger over at The Energy Roadmap, notes that $38 billion is not a lot of money:
The long view implications of this story go far beyond any actual investments that may or may not turn Korea's attention towards 'cleantech' industries. These projects might already have been planned long before the recent global economic slowdown. And $38 billion is not a lot of money for a 'New Deal'.
The real story is the media spin on 'green' and underlying values statement that shows widespread support within Korea for cleantech and eco-friendly ventures. The ripple effect of modern notions of environmentalism (able to address impacts of large scale industrialism, not traditional forms of agricultural living) could begin to challenge the notion of 'growth at any cost' that dominates economic policies around the world in all nations, but especially in emerging economies.
Values are very important when it comes to 'cleantech' policies, and there is no evidence that 'environmentalism' as it is viewed in American and European life is a current global phenomenon. There are still several billion people in the world who see 'quality of life' factors as related to jobs, education, home ownership and upward mobility, not planetary health.
Stay tuned, this could get interesting. Do we actually have new ideas for a green economy, or are we just going to let governments spend tax money on the same old style projects?