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Jobs come first in South Korea’s ambitious ‘Green New Deal’ climate plan

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SEOUL (Reuters) – The first stages of a South Korean government “Green New Deal” aiming to retool one of the world’s most fossil fuel-reliant economies is focused instead on protecting jobs as the country seeks to stimulate a virus-ravaged economy, activists say.

First proposed by President Moon Jae-in’s ruling party ahead of the April parliamentary election, the Green New Deal set ambitious goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, an end to financing of overseas coal plants, and the introduction of a carbon tax.

But activists say that government plans announced since then do not directly address Moon’s pledge to reach net-zero emissions, or to end to coal financing.

An initial parliamentary proposal calls for an investment of 12.9 trillion won ($10.5 billion) over the next two years, with the focus on the creation of 133,000 jobs.

The plan includes remodelling public buildings, creating urban forests, recycling, establishing a foundation for new and renewable energy, and creating low-carbon energy industrial complexes to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Those proposals look “like a repackaging of already existing plans and policies,” Kim Joo-jin, managing director of Solutions For Our Climate (SFOC), a Seoul-based non-profit organisation, said in a statement.

“There is quite a large gap between international praise of Korea’s Green New Deal and the reality on the ground,” he said.

Lee So-young, who was elected to parliament this year on a platform of environmental reform, acknowledged the concerns but said lawmakers are seeking to draft more detailed laws that will not only not boost the economy after the coronavirus crisis, but also transform the economy and society in more sustainable ways.

The jobs-heavy proposals are a first, short-term phase designed to help shore up the economy after the coronavirus crisis, she told Reuters.”Green New Deal legislation is not simply a matter of injecting funding in certain projects, but rather addressing what kind of procedure, governance and regulations we will use to remodel the entire society by 2050 to prevent climate change,” Lee said.

Difficult transitions

Lee vowed that in the long run, the New Green Deal won’t simply be old policies that have been “green washed.”

A more long-term plan will need to be drafted to regulate and end financing for coal plants, impose phased carbon taxes, increase “energy welfare” for people suffering from the effects of climate change, and to reduce overall air pollution, she said.

In 2017, the last year for which data was available, South Korea was the 7th largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Coal power is the bedrock of South Korea’s electricity supply, accounting for about 40% of the country’s total energy mix, with renewable power accounting for less than 6%.

With the economic woes that are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, Moon’s administration has continued to subsidize and bail out companies like Doosan Heavy, which builds power stations in South Korea and overseas.

But the wide victory margins for Moon’s party in the April parliamentary election, and an appetite for progress on climate, reinforces that view that voters in Asia’s developed economies and regions now equate environmental performance with government competence, said Melissa Brown, director of Asia Energy Policy Studies at the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“Voters want their children to have clean air and water,” she said. “They associate environmental problems with corruption and lazy politicians.”

Reporting and photo: Reuters

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Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist

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Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives

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Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience

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CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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