[Press release] World’s largest campaign to shut polluting coal power launched in S. Korea on UN Blue Skies day

  • DATE : 2020.09.07 16:29
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[Press Release] 

World’s largest campaign to shut polluting coal power launched in S. Korea on UN Blue Skies day

Civic groups argue nothing is more critical to clean air and blue skies than shutting down coal plants.

South Korea, Seoul, 7 September, 2020 _ To mark the very first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, an unprecedented coalition of 15 civic groups has launched Korea Beyond Coal - aligning S. Korean organisations with a powerful global movement which has shut down hundreds of coal plants worldwide. 

The coalition argues that nothing is more critical on “Blue Skies Day” - which was proposed by the Korean Government to the UN in 2019 - than shutting down polluting coal plants.

Inspired by the “Beyond Coal” campaign, which has successfully shut down over 300 coal plants in the U.S. alone for the past decade, the 15 civic, environmental, and youth groups will demand the government phase out coal power by 2030. 

“Without the complete retirement of coal power, it’s impossible for the country to meet the Paris climate goals,” said Park Jee-hye, Director of Solution For Our Climate, during a launching event in Seoul. “The government must understand that if this international day has any meaning, immediate action is needed to keep our skies blue and avoid catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.”

The UN-designated day was first proposed by South Korea during the UN summit last year, with the aim of raising public awareness at all levels that clean air is important for health, productivity, the economy and environment.

However, while coal power is the single largest source of CO2 emissions, South Korea has a total of 60 coal plants in operation with 7 under construction. About 40 percent of the total electricity generation comes from coal, with 5 percent from renewable sources. 

Park stressed the proposal of the blue skies day and its celebration highlights the hypocrisy of the government, which is failing to act despite clearly understanding the gravity of the situation.

The campaign organizers include Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), Green Korea United, Solutions For Our Climate, KoSIF, Youth4ClimateAction Korea, as well as local groups who have led campaigns against coal plants in their regions. Additional civic and environmental groups from across the country are expected to join.

The launch ceremony was joined by locals from different regions across Korea, who shared their personal stories on the impacts from coal plants, including a fisherman, farmer and mother. 

The campaign groups demand the country achieve a complete coal phase-out by 2030 to fulfill its part in the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

“The government has pledged to rapidly phase out coal plants, but under the current plan, they are doing nothing but maintaining the status quo by operating coal plants for three more decades,” said Lee Ji-eon, a campaigner from KFEM. “They should set a deadline for a complete coal phase-out and legislate a law that bans coal power.”

“Rapid energy transition is also a financially wise decision as renewable power is increasingly cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, including coal, in South Korea as well,” he added. 

The Korea Beyond Coal campaign is expected to play a pivotal role in demanding the government and corporations take immediate and necessary steps for a coal phase-out by organizing joint actions of different civic and environmental groups. 

“This national campaign will be a game-changer in Korea as coal has been long perceived as a regional issue, affecting mainly locals living near coal-fired power stations due to air pollution,” said Hwang In-chul, campaigner from Green Korea United. “It will be developed into a nationwide coal campaign like the successful Beyond Coal campaigns in other countries.”   

Due to the current pandemic situation, the groups will first focus on their campaign activities through online channels, and later, start their direct engagement with policymakers, as the government is expected to announce the 9th Basic Long term Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand and submit its revised NDCs by the end of the year.