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[Herald Interview] Gangwon aims to go carbon neutral by 2040

Different regions need different plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Gov. Choi Moon-soon says

Gangwon Province Gov. Choi Moon-soon speaks during an online interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday. (Gangwon Provincial Office)
Gangwon Province Gov. Choi Moon-soon speaks during an online interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday. (Gangwon Provincial Office)
Gangwon Province will achieve carbon neurality in 2040 and lead South Korea into a more eco-friendly future, says Choi Moon-soon, the province’s governor.

Speaking on the sidelines of JeongSeon Forum 2021, which aims to develop solutions to achieve carbon neutrality and weather the climate crisis, Choi said that new technologies coupled with the province’s natural assets will help make the goal a reality.

“At this year’s forum, the issue of going carbon neutral is being discussed in more detail, including what different regions and businesses can do specifically and practically in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” Choi said Thursday.

“In particular, the forum will dig deeper into the technology of liquefied hydrogen and how used plastic bottles can be turned into clothes and the framework for automobiles.”

In regards to the three scenarios recently unveiled by the Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality for reducing carbon emissions by 2050, the Gangwon Province governor said each administration was too passive on setting the goal.

“Every administration was static in working toward carbon neutrality. That was because they were worried about having negative impacts on economic growth and businesses,” Choi told The Korea Herald in an online interview.

“The government should take more active measures. We, Gangwon Province, are asserting that liquefied hydrogen needs to be the future energy that can be applied to all industries.”

Earlier this year, Choi held a briefing on his province’s goal of going carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years earlier than the central government’s objective.

Saying that Gangwon Province has great advantages in achieving carbon neutrality, he pointed out that 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the region are produced from coal-fired thermal power plants and the cement industry.

“Our country already has the advanced technology that can collect carbon dioxide emissions from the chimneys and turn it into construction materials,” he said.

“Another (advantage) is that Gangwon Province has many forests, which absorb about 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Although the older forests need to be changed with younger forests, we believe that we can move toward carbon neutrality at the fastest pace.”

Asked if it would be better for local governments to come up with their own carbon reduction plans to better suit regional circumstances, Choi said that would be a very practical and useful method.

“For example, the industry structures of Ulsan and Gangwon Province are opposite. The industry characteristics are different by region, so the necessary budget, technology and efforts should differ,” Choi said.

“If the central government presents the big picture and supports each region, which should figure out individual and specific ways to achieve the goal, it would be much faster.”

In the case of Gangwon Province, he added that solar or wind power would not work as well because building such energy plants damages a lot of forests.

As Gangwon Province remains the only divided province on the Korean Peninsula, the governor expressed hope to bring the two Koreas closer with the upcoming Winter Youth Olympics in 2024. In early 2020, The northeastern province became the first area outside Europe to be named as host of the Winter Youth Games.

With the help of civic groups that offer aid to North Korea, Choi sent a formal proposal to Pyongyang in August to co-host the international youth sports event.

“There has not been much progress. Inter-Korean relations are not at their best for now,” he said.

“But we believe there is enough reason (for North Korea to participate in the event) as they took part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I think co-hosting the 2024 Youth Winter Games is the last mission I can do in the remainder of my term.”

Currently serving his third term as governor of Gangwon Province, Choi’s term will come to an end in June.

“Another goal is to hold the 2024 Games as a completely hydrogen Olympics with zero carbon. We believe the heating, cooking and transportation can be hydrogenated.”

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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