By Zach Coleman, FT Asia world news editor
Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, may have looked like he was bulking up ahead of Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Seoul this week when he sported a sweater under his suit jacket.
In fact, Lee and his cabinet – who joined him adding some layers of protection – were trying to lead by example as they committed the country to cut its carbon emissions in a symbolically under-heated meeting room during a cold snap.
How Seoul will reduce emissions by four per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 has not yet been spelled out. But the track record of other leaders using sartorial gestures to promote energy conservation has been mixed.
Months after becoming US president, Jimmy Carter donned a cardigan to underscore that the energy crisis was the “moral equivalent of war”. Carter hoped to summon public solidarity to conserve energy and reduce oil imports through steps such as reducing wintertime heating and driving more efficent cars.
But in the heyday of the Pontiac TransAm, his plea for sacrifice didn’t resonate with the American public (how would Hummer owners react now?). Oil imports continued to climb and Carter was eventually sent packing by the sunnier optimism of Ronald Reagan. Read more