Hyundai shelves gas plant plan after outcry over 'greenwashing'

The Korean carmaker was criticised for its plan to build a LNG plant just two weeks after pledging to use only renewables. Hyundai says it is reviewing the plan and is 'fully committed' to its carbon neutrality goals.

Hyundai's electric model the Ioniq
Hyundai's electric model the Ioniq 5 is built at the company's Ulsan factory, where it had planned to build a 184-MW LNG plant. Image: ZEEK玩家誌/Flickr

Hyundai is reviewing a plan to build a gas-fired power plant following an outcry from trade unions and activists who criticised the Korean carmaker for announcing the plan soon after publicly committing to use only renewable energy to power its operations.

The u-turn on the plan to construct a 184-megawatt liquid natural gas (LNG) power facility to run its factory in Ulsan, South Korea, was revealed in a report by Korean publication Hankyung.com on Thursday.

Industry sources informed the website that Hyundai put the project on hold after opposition from a union group that claimed the gas facility would not bring employment opportunities for workers, and from activists who said the plant undermined the carmaker’s pledge to join RE100, a club of corporations committed to use only renewable energy.

Hyundai announced it had signed up to RE100 two weeks before unveiling the plan to build the gas plant, prompting accusations of greenwashing from non-governmental organisations.

The plant had been promoted by Hyundai as a way for the company to help Korea cut carbon emissions to meet climate goals, as natural gas is a lower-emissions fuel than coal.

Hyundai is fully committed to its carbon neutrality goal and global sustainability targets. We will review the plan and look to see if there are any viable alternative options.

Hyundai Motor Company spokesperson

Climate Group, the non-profit behind RE100, also said that it had no knowledge of the planned facility when Hyundai signed up, and would voice its opposition to the company.

A Hyundai spokesperson said in a statement: “Hyundai is fully committed to its carbon neutrality goal and global sustainability targets. We will review the plan and look to see if there are any viable alternative options.”

Hyundai pledged to be carbon neutral by 2045 in September last year, a commitment that NGOs said would be redundant if the plan to build the plant went ahead.

“Hyundai appears to have slammed the brakes on its reckless plan to build a new fossil gas plant to power its operations. This is a smart move,” said James Lorenz, executive director of Action Speaks Louder, a non-profit that scrutinises corporate climate commitments.

“The company now needs to draw a clear line under this episode, put polluting power on the scrapheap and restate its commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy,” he said.

Hyundai website

Hyundai has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2045. Image: Hyundai.com

Action Speaks Louder, along with other NGOs Friends of the Earth Korea and Youth4ClimateAction, had highlighted how LNG power plants exacerbate climate change through the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

They also said that the Ulsan plant would make it harder for Korea to achieve its domestic climate goals. The world’s seventh largest carbon emitter aims to cut 40 per cent of emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050.

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