S Korea promises a “bold” climate policy after accusations of inaction



South Korea’s climate envoy has promised “bold” changes to Seoul’s policy, as one of Asia’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases is under pressure not to act more forcefully to combat climate change.

President Moon Jae-in in October committed that South Korea would achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, following similar EU moves, Japan i China.

But claims by the Moon administration have drawn criticism from environmentalists, who say South Korea has not put forward a robust plan to cut coal and boost renewable energy to the extent necessary to meet its obligations under the agreement. Paris climate change.

Yoo Yeon-chul, South Korea’s ambassador for climate change, said Seoul bureaucrats “were making intense efforts” to work out “ways and means” to achieve the goal.

“We will take bold action in the end,” he told the Financial Times.

Jeehye Park, director of the coal program for Solutions for Our Climate, a Seoul-based non-governmental organization, noted this coal-fired power plants were still being built in South Korea, meaning that the use of fossil fuel could not be eliminated until 2054.

Coal accounts for about 40% of South Korea’s electricity production and a quarter of domestic emissions.

The elimination of coal energy by the end of the decade would fulfill the manufacturing-dependent economy with the Paris climate deal and mean 18,000 fewer people would die prematurely from air pollution-related diseases, according to Climate Analytics, an international research group company.

“With the tenuous future of coal already predicted, moving forward with physically damaging projects, eliminating people’s health and expected lives seems ethically wrong,” Park said.

South Korea will host its first major multilateral climate conference, the P4G summit, this month. Before the event, Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States and one of the leading proponents of the climate, wrote to Moon, urging him to act more quickly.

According to South Korea’s climate plan, last updated in December, the country will reduce emissions by 24.4% from 2017 levels by 2030. But Gore noted research that showed that the cuts in at least 50 percent they were necessary for South Korea to remain consistent with a global 1.5C target in the Paris agreement.

The countries signed the Paris agreement committed to limiting global warming to “well below” 2C and, hopefully, to about 1.5C, compared to pre-industrial levels at the turn of the century.

“The economic risks of inaction are also accelerating,” warned Gore, who noted the imperative to reduce emissions “especially for trade-oriented economies like South Korea facing the prospect of border adjustments. of carbon “.

Yoo, who has been involved in South Korean climate policies and negotiations since the early 1990s, acknowledged that three decades of environmental policies have resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

He said an improved climate plan was being developed and would “most likely” be announced at COP26, the world climate conference to be held in Glasgow in November.

Yoo insisted that South Korea was committed to a “step-by-step” approach, deploying financial and technical assistance and capacity building to help companies in Asia’s fourth largest economy. switch to a cleaner economy.

He also pointed to that of the government registration stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which included funds for energy efficiency, renewable energy and hydrogen technologies, and Moon’s decision to end the financing of state-owned banks for coal projects abroad.

South Korea was the world’s eighth-largest carbon emitter last year, and the fourth-largest in Asia behind China, India and Japan, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group based in the United States.

“From now on, the story will be different,” Yoo said.

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