The Korea Herald


Seoul raises emissions reduction target

Revised goal faces criticism from activists, businesses alike

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Oct. 8, 2021 - 15:47

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The government raised its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, the presidential carbon neutrality committee said Friday. The previous goal was to decrease the level of greenhouse gas emissions by 26.3 percent from 2018 output.

The country produced 727.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. The goal now is to reduce the figure to 436.6 million tons.

The move is a follow-up to the carbon neutrality act that was legislated last month, the committee said, and it considered the global movement to cut down harmful gas emissions.

The 2030 reduction goal is internationally dubbed as the “nationally determined contribution,” or NDC, which indicates each country’s efforts in cutting down greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

In order to come up with the calculations for the government’s new goal for the NDC, the committee said it applied maximized efforts in all sectors, including industry, building and transport.

The committee explained that the measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions included cutting down on the operation of coal-fired power plants, expanding eco-friendly and renewable energy and utilizing carbon capture.

Carbon capture is the technology of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activities to safely store them or reuse them by turning them into marketable materials such as cement.

“Carbon neutrality is not something that you do because you can. It’s something you have to do,” said Seoul National University’s environmental professor Yun Sun-jin, who is a co-chairperson of the committee.

“A sense of crisis over the seriousness of climate change is growing, but this issue is still not a high priority in society.”

Although the committee said the revised NDC goal shows the government’s strong will to move toward a net-zero carbon society, Friday’s announcement was met with criticism from both environmental groups and businesses.

Climate Strike Korea said the government’s new goal is far from enough to prevent global temperatures from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius, adding that the current plan cannot stop the climate crisis.

“The government’s plan to raise the level of greenhouse gas reduction goal is extremely insufficient to achieve the international climate goals,” said Kim Joo-jin, managing director at Solutions for Our Climate.

“The raised plan lags behind other developed countries’ goal of reducing their emissions by half in 2030.”

The Korea Enterprises Federation questioned the possibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in less than 10 years, saying that excessive NDC hikes that do not take the current situation into account are likely to weaken corporate competitiveness as well as cause serious side effects such as shrinking industries and job losses due to production cuts and overseas relocation.

The carbon neutrality committee said it will finalize the country’s 2030 NDC goal in its general meeting scheduled for Oct. 18.

The government will officially announce its final greenhouse gas reduction goal at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November and submit it to the UN in December.