Fellow Koreans, citizens of Changwon City and residents of Gyeongsangnam-do Province, I am glad to meet you all.
Today marks World Environment Day when all people around the world come together to show concern for the earth and revisit the preciousness of life.
Since 2006 when it declared itself an environmental capital, Changwon has steadily translated eco-friendly policies into action, including the early scrapping of old diesel-powered vehicles and the wide promotion of eco-friendly cars. In 2016, it was recognized as the best city for waste treatment and an exemplary city for forest cultivation. In 2017, it was honored with the grand prize at the Korea Energy Efficiency Awards and second prize from the Ministry of Environment for the restoration of ecologically friendly waterways. It is very meaningful, and I am very proud, that Korea’s World Environment Day ceremony is being held in Changwon with citizens who’ve helped turn the city into an environmental capital both in name and fact.
Changwon has now transitioned from Korea’s leading manufacturing city to a futuristic city where industries and the environment coexist. I am grateful to Changwon citizens and Gyeongsangnam-do residents for their efforts. I applaud them and send encouragement.
Koreans’ civic awareness regarding a clean environment remains among the highest in the world.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Korea has taken the lead globally, recycling 95 percent of its food waste. Koreans’ efforts to save electricity and water as well as to carry out waste separation and collection and to not use disposable supplies are at considerably high levels.
Such endeavors seem to be meager, but they are actually crucial practices. Just as small actions in everyday life have contaminated the earth, small daily practices can revive our planet.
Now the work needed to realize environmental policies that live up to the public’s actions and expectations are entrusted to the Government as its responsibility. It will do what it can to improve the quality of life to levels commensurate with the people’s civic consciousness and their environmental awareness.
“Air pollution” is the theme for this year’s World Environment Day. Fine dust is posing threats to public health and our everyday lives. Children and the elderly are unable to go outside as much as they want for fear of developing various ailments. Industries that require long hours of work outdoors and dust-free production processes have to be concerned about possible detriments to workers’ health and corporate productivity.
The people have the right to breathe clean air. Over the past two years, the Government has put more investment and effort into resolving the fine dust problem than it has for issues from other sectors.
It has brought the environmental standards for fine dust up to par with those of advanced countries. It has also included fine dust issues as social disasters and established a system for relevant ministries, agencies and local governments to check and forecast fine dust levels on a daily basis.
When high concentrations of fine dust occur, the Government is responding in earnest by taking emergency reduction measures, such as driving restrictions and administrative actions against facilities and construction sites that emit fine dust.
More than anything else, the Government will shift the focus of its policy paradigm from dealing with the aftermath of pollution to regularly preventing and managing the situation. In doing so, the Government expects to reduce fine dust emissions by more than 30 percent by 2022, compared to 2016.
Outdated coal-fired power plants are the main cause of fine dust. With the goal of phasing out dependence on coal-fired power generation, my Administration has completely suspended construction of new coal-fired power plants whereas the two previous administrations permitted the construction of a total of 22 units. On top of this, the plan to construct six coal-fired power plants by the former administration was modified by my Administration to build liquefied natural gas power plants instead.
My Administration has already shut down four of the ten coal-fired power plants designated as outdated, and the remaining six are scheduled to be closed by 2021. Given that fine dust problems are especially severe in the springtime, the Government began halting the operation of outdated coal-fired power plants during the spring of 2017, and operations at 52 out of Korea’s 60 coal-fired power plants were suspended this spring.
As a consequence, the total amount of fine dust emitted by coal-fired power plants up to last year was decreased by more than 25 percent compared to 2016 when such a policy was not implemented.
Fine dust in metropolitan areas mainly originates from means of transport, including diesel vehicles. A policy is now being promptly implemented to reduce the number of diesel cars on the road and replace them with eco-friendly ones.
Notably, the public sector was swift to replace diesel passenger vehicles starting in 2017, and continued efforts will be made to remove all diesel vehicles used by the public sector by 2030 at the latest.
The Government will provide support to help the public to use eco-friendly vehicles with ease. By 2021, it will scrap about one million aged diesel vehicles and swiftly replace them with environmentally friendly vehicles. The Government is also providing increased assistance to replace aged mid- to large-sized cargo trucks with new ones and convert small utility vans and trucks into LPG-powered ones.
Compared to 2016, the number of eco-friendly cars on the road has increased over six times to reach some 67,000 since the launch of my Administration. We will expand the re-charging/fueling infrastructure with a view to ensuring that the number of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles rises to 430,000 and 67,000, respectively, by 2022. In particular, hydrogen-powered buses are well known not only for zero emissions of fine dust but for their air purification effects. One bus traveling one kilometer has the effect of purifying 4.86 kg of air, and for a year, it can purify 420,000 kg, the amount that 76 adults inhale in one year.
The Government will see to it that the number of hydrogen-powered city buses rises to 2,000 by 2022 and that 802 police buses are gradually replaced with hydrogen-powered ones.
Here in Changwon and six other cities this year, a pilot program to promote hydrogen buses will be implemented. In particular, those that begin operating here today will run on already-established bus routes for the first time in the country.
The hydrogen fueling station that is also opening today is the nation's first urban station, and it can be dubbed a Korean package-type hydrogen station as 60 percent of its total parts were manufactured domestically. The Government will increase the number of hydrogen fueling stations to 310 nationwide by 2022.
One of Changwon's strategies is to establish itself as an eco-friendly city specializing in the hydrogen industry. The hydrogen buses and hydrogen fueling stations that commence operation today are the first fruit born from the city of Changwon and its citizens’ efforts to create a hydrogen industry ecosystem.
This is a truly crucial initiative not only for the city of Changwon but for us all. The whole nation is paying keen attention to this new challenge that Changwon is taking on. I truly hope that the day will come – at the earliest date possible –
when Changwon residents tout their use of eco-friendly vehicles and the resulting improved air quality.
In addition to the policies to phase out coal-fired power plants and increase the use of eco-friendly vehicles, the Government is preparing support measures to regulate emissions from areas that have lacked proper supervision to date: home boilers, small workplaces and ships. At the same time, it is has adopted strict standards to strengthen supervision and is applying the internet of things, drones and other new technologies to scientifically measure and monitor illegal fine dust emissions.
The Government laid the foundation to resolve fine dust problems by enacting the special act on fine dust. It also established the Special Commission on Fine Dust Pollution under the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and the National Council on Climate and Air Quality, which is led by Chairman Ban Ki-moon, former U.N. Secretary General. The Government is also seeking various forms of cooperation and joint responses with neighboring countries.
Above all, the recently submitted supplementary budget proposal contains fine dust-related funding designed to speed up implementation of corresponding policies. In all, 1.45 trillion won has been set aside for 61 projects to be pursued by the Ministry of Environment and other ministries and agencies.
Some 780 billion won have been assigned for reducing the primary emission sources by, among others, the early scrapping of outdated diesel powered vehicles, the provision of low-NOx burners for gas-powered air conditioners and the introduction of new road sweepers. Another 360 billion won has been earmarked to nurture new environmental industries to fundamentally reduce fine dust. These measures include increasing the supply of electric vehicles, offering financing to new renewable energy businesses, introducing low-floor buses and constructing eco-friendly ships for the public sector.
Important budget items allotted to protect the health of the people are also included. Some 220 billion won has been allocated to supply masks to those who work outside for an extended time, children, the elderly and low-income households and install air purifiers.
By taking this opportunity, I earnestly request cooperation from the National Assembly once more.
Fellow Koreans, Changwon citizens and Gyeongsangnam-do residents,
The efforts to revive the environment is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. The world’s environmental sector is growing by an annual average of 3.6 percent, and it is forecast to be worth US$1.33 trillion next year.
Major advanced countries are concentrating their national capacity on developing environment-related technology, building upon such core technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, ICT, robots and drones.
The Government will increase investment in environmental technology-related research and development. It will also provide strategic support for global expansion to businesses with a competitive edge in the technology related to reducing fine dust that is used in such products as hydrogen-powered and other eco-friendly vehicles.
We have world-class technologies, especially in regard to the hydrogen industry, as we have already commercialized hydrogen fuel-cell cars for the first time in the world. The Government has set a goal of gaining the world’s biggest market share for both hydrogen-powered vehicles and fuel cells by 2030.
It will be a very good opportunity for Changwon, a city that aims to become an eco-friendly city specializing in the hydrogen industry.
There was good news from Bangkok a few days ago regarding fine dust. At the 75th Session of the UN ESCAP, the Korea-led resolution “Strengthening Regional Cooperation to Tackle Air Pollution Challenges in Asia and the Pacific” was adopted with the full support of member states.
It is very fortunate that awareness is spreading: The fine dust issue must be resolved through the joint efforts of the international community.
Environmental issues, including fine dust, cannot be resolved through a single prescription. It is also difficult to solve such issues in a satisfactory manner over a short period of time. However, the Government is moving step by step along a path toward the solution while working together with the people.
Our action today will determine our children’s future. I hope that everyone will stand together to ensure that steps made today will help bring a blue sky and clean air to our children.