Letter from Al Gore to His Excellency Moon Jae-in President of the Republic of Korea on public financing of coal projects

March 10, 2020

His Excellency Moon Jae-in
President of the Republic of Korea
Cheong Wa Dae
Seoul, Republic of Korea
cc: Minister of Environment Cho Myung-rae

Dear Mr. President:

The hosting of the upcoming Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G) Summit this June offers Korea, with its rich history, technological leadership, and strong democratic tradition, the opportunity to take on a much greater leadership role in addressing the climate crisis.

I am writing to ask for your consideration of an extremely important policy change that would immeasurably add to your and your nation’s ability to seize this opportunity.

Despite efforts to support sustainable growth, including your impressive commitment to double your contributions to the Green Climate Fund, Korea regrettably remains among the top financiers of new coal power projects across Asia. The United Nations and the world’s leading climate scientists have warned that expansion of new coal power in Asia, adding major new sources of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we need to be driving these emissions down, would undermine global progress on climate action. Korea’s own 7,000 MW of coal power projects currently under construction, if operated, would emit sixty million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

It is my understanding that Korean government-owned entities, including the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Export-Import Bank of Korea, Korea Development Bank, and Korea Trade Insurance Corporation are currently considering investment in the 2,000 MW Jawa 9 & 10 coal power project in Indonesia and the 1,200 MW Vung Ang 2 project in Vietnam. I have also learned that an affiliate of Korea Electric Power Corporation has plans to build a 1,000 MW coal power plant in Sual, Philippines.

As a friend of Korea, I believe that continuing this public financing for such projects would greatly disappoint global leaders and raise many questions among the international community about Korea’s commitment to solve the climate crisis. Investments in high-emissions projects in one of the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis would be at odds with Korea’s role as the host country of the upcoming P4G Summit.

In spite of the challenges of facilitating an energy transition, it would nevertheless be wise (and would be praised worldwide) for Korea to take concrete steps away from a fossil fuel-centered economy toward clean energy solutions like renewable energy.

Unfortunately, some previously renowned global companies like GE and Siemens are now experiencing significant financial difficulties, including job losses, because they mistakenly delayed their abandonment of polluting and outdated coal power technology. Korean energy companies like Doosan Heavy may likely follow in their footsteps if they are allowed to make the same mistake and do not embrace current energy trends and lead the development of the renewable energy technologies of the future.

I am confident that your government’s decision to transition away from fossil fuels toward renewables will pay back and strengthen Korea’s position in the global economy. Korea’s ability to innovate and deliver smart technology solutions will certainly lead to the creation of new industries and clean energy jobs. I assure you that making these decisions of strategic foresight today will bring about an even more prosperous future for Korea.

Furthermore, Korea’s declaration of a moratorium on public coal financing would set a positive example to other major overseas coal financiers such as China and Japan. The P4G Summit thus represents a key leadership opportunity for Korea that could generate a significant impact on emissions in the greater Asian region.

It would also be heard around the world as a thunderbolt of the kind of bold leadership and fresh, clear thinking for which you are known.

I sincerely hope the Korean government will end public coal finance and withdraw from planned coal power investments as a contribution to the P4G Summit and the larger international effort against the climate crisis. I believe such an announcement would be recognized both in Korea and abroad and applauded by generations to come.

Thank you for your courtesy in considering this historically important opportunity.


Al Gore