A Comparative Analysis Of Two Green New Deals: Europe & South Korea

Smog over Seoul. Credit: pexels.com

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global crisis. The establishment of ‘Green New Deals’ shows how many governments around the world attempt to recover from the economic downturn created by the pandemic while mitigating and adapting to the looming climate crisis. But what does the different Green New Deals actually propose?

Europe and South Korea are two major global players who have launched comprehensive Green New Deal policies. Both offer solid frameworks for a green economic transition, including both environmental and social issues. However, the two Green New Deals differ in certain aspects, both showcasing different positive complementary aspects.

The European Green Deal (EGD) was presented in December 2019, and the Korean New Deal (KND) was established in July 2020 as a response to the pandemic. The EGD and KNB have several similarities.

Both deals establish extensive frameworks for large-scale green investment programs. They aim to take urgent climate action, achieve net-zero emissions, and mobilize industry and the private sector. EGD and KNB aim to reduce carbon emissions from the energy, construction, and transportation sectors by incentivizing clean technologies such as hydrogen and renewables. However, neither EGB nor KNB attempts to go beyond the Paris Agreements pledges.

Establishing a solid legislative framework to enforce countries, regions, and businesses to adhere to the Green New Deals is crucial. To make sure Europe fulfills net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 as stated in EGD, it proposes a European Climate Law and several near-term deadlines for climate action. For example, by stating that EU’s GHG emissions will be reduced by 50-55% by 2030, compared to 1990-levels. KNB states that South Korea will achieve net-zero emissions but does not provide any legal framework to enforce it nor any near-term deadlines to achieve its goals.

The EGD embraces more inclusive environmental goals than the KNB. Preserving biodiversity is a crucial part of a sustainable future and heavily emphasized in the EGD, while the KNB does not mention biodiversity.

Besides helping farmers get increased access to renewable energy, the KNB does not mention the importance of focusing on the food or agricultural sector to reduce its environmental footprint. The EGD includes several farming guidelines, such as using more sustainable practices like agroecology and forestry, organic farming, and precision agriculture. Food is another important aspect of EGD, which emphasizes the need for promoting more low-carbon foods.

A circular economy is vital for a sustainable future with green growth. In the EGD, an important aspect is to decouple economic growth from resource use by establishing a circular economy as its core agenda. KNB embraces resource-circulation-policies; however, it does not clearly state the circular economy’s targets, which should be embraced to ensure sustainable production and consumption.

Cutting fossil fuel subsidies is a further critical aspect of moving to a decarbonized economy since it takes away incentives to produce and consume fossil fuel and can make the switch towards cleaner technologies faster. In the EGD, the removal of fossil fuel subsidies is mentioned in both paragraphs 2.1.5 and 2.2.2. Furthermore, the Just Transition Mechanism of the EGD will ensure that regions and sectors in Europe that depend on fossil fuels will be considered by including a Just Transition Fund to leave no one behind. The KND does not incorporate any mechanism for reducing fossil fuel subsidies, but it does, just like EGD, ensure that regions that will face difficulties due to reduced use of coal power will be supported by adjusting to the renewable energy sector. However, KNB does not mention any special allocated fund to deal with a just transition.

The EGD covers more environmental aspects than KND. However, the KND includes a comprehensive digitalization plan for South Korea’s economy, which will help the country adapt to the digital age, become more pandemic-resilient, and reduce the need for excessive transportation in the future. The lack of including measures of creating a digitalized economy serves as a severe limitation for EGD. A digitalized economy ensures that a country or region embraces the modern aspects of the current economy and can help make the economy greener by reducing unnecessary transportation and resource usage.


Individual incentives to citizens are important for both Europe and South Korea to reach their New Deals commitments. However, neither EGD nor KND has set any guidelines on how to create community-wide engagement. The New Deals are comprehensive and will reduce important barriers while creating incentives. But for full mobilization, the New Deals require further and widespread citizen engagement.