The United Nations says the global financial crisis may have a silver lining: prompting more governments to boost their spending on environmental friendly initiatives such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. Angela Cropper, the deputy executive director of the UN Environment Program, said on Thursday she welcomed the fact that several Asian countries including South Korea and Japan have announced a green component to their multibillion dollar stimulus packages.
"We think it is the right kind of response," Cropper told a UN-sponsored event in Bangkok aimed at finding innovative ways to help countries adapt to climate change.
"It is giving a clear signal and statement that business as usual is not the way of the future," she said. "It is trying to create the climate in which business and industry can tap into these new investments that might be made able."
The move by two of Asia's major economies comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's promise to invest $150 billion over the next decade to create green jobs, particularly in the automotive industry and to improve the electricity grid so people can drive plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Earlier this month, South Korea said it will invest 50 trillion won ($38.1 billion) over the next four years on environmental projects in a "Green New Deal" to spur slumping economic growth and create nearly a million jobs.
Energy conservation, recycling, carbon reduction, flood prevention, development around the country's four main rivers and maintaining forest resources are among projects to be pursued under the plan, approved at a Cabinet meeting.
The spending is projected to create 960,000 new jobs, with 140,000 of those realized this year.
"President Lee Myung-bak is convinced that Korean growth has to be low carbon and green for the future because of the climate issue and energy security," the country's Climate Change Ambassador Rae-Kwon Chung said on the sidelines of the conference. "We have turned the climate crisis into a business opportunity," he said. "We can no longer look at climate as just a pain, a burden. We have to turn it around and look at it as a new economic opportunity."
The United Nations said Japan has announced that it aims to expand the 'green business' market and create up to 1 million new jobs, with measures including zero-interest rate loans for environmentally friendly companies.