President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday Korea should continue to pursue "green growth," a policy that seeks economic growth through environment-friendly technologies and industries, stressing that the era of fossil fuels is drawing to an end.
"Green growth is a task that not only South Korea, but the entire world is faced with. It is a task that will last more than fifty and even a hundred years," Lee said during an annual policy briefing by the Presidential Committee on Green Growth, according to senior presidential aide Kim Sang-hyeop.
"Perhaps, 40 to 50 years from now, the era of fossil fuel will be brought to an end and an era of new energy will open up," he was quoted as saying.
Lee said U.S. President Barack Obama also stressed the need for green technologies in his State of the Union speech earlier this week. In the annual speech to Congress, Obama called for setting a clean energy standard, saying it would create a market for innovation and he will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany.
"Korea's green growth is drawing great attention (from the international community)," Lee said. "We have as many responsibilities."
Green growth has been one of President Lee's trademark policies. It calls for lessening South Korea's dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and other technologies that increase energy efficiency.
Lee believes the strategy will provide Korea with fresh growth engines for its economy and help the country -- one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters -- reduce its emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases amid growing calls to curb global warming.
The committee reported to Lee a set of major policy goals for this year, including establishing a "Green Technology Center" to oversee the country's green growth drive, and enacting legislation on carbon trading, which encourages companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing them to trade the rights to release such gases.
A task force comprising the top researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the Korea Institute of Energy Research has been working on the establishment, it said.
The committee said South Korea has made major progress in its efforts to catch up with developed countries with advanced green technologies thanks in large part to the sharp increase in the country's investment in research and development.
The R&D budget rose to 3 trillion won this year from 2 trillion won in 2009.
Korea's "green technology" levels in 27 key areas are now 77.7 percent those of advanced nations, compared with 50.9 percent in 2009, the committee said. The number of areas where Korea has technology levels at least 80 percent of those of advanced nations also rose to five from just one in 2009, it said.
The committee also reported to the president it will seek to host the secretariat of the Green Climate Fund, a multi-billion-dollar fund designed to help poorer nations make their economies greener and adapt to climate change. The fund's establishment was agreed at December's global climate change conference.
In an effort to encourage research and development activity of green technology start-up firms, the committee said it will raise the ceiling of the government's financial support to cover up to 90 percent of their R&D spending, compared with the current 75 percent.