At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow, the U.K., South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2018 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. However, the annual average reduction commitment of South Korea stands at 4.17%, which is above that of Japan (3.56%), the U.S. (2.81%), and the E.U. (1.98%). Even President Moon said that this is an “extremely challenging task,” which requires South Korea to sharply reduce emissions in a short period of time in accordance with a new target raised by 14 percentage points compared to the previous one.
Critics point out that South Korea’s carbon neutrality target is unrealistic. In G20 Summit held in Rome on Saturday and Sunday, the main agenda of which was setting the deadline for net zero emissions, world leaders failed to come to terms. The U.S. and the U.K. pushed for 2050; China and Russia suggested the target date of 2060; and India targeted 2070. The summit was wrapped up by the leaders agreeing on a vague commitment to seek carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century.”
Reducing greenhouse gases and the timing of carbon neutrality are directly related to national interest. Countries where the manufacturing industry accounts for a large share may deal a heavy blow to economy by a challenging net-zero goal due to rising costs. This is why nations strive to come up with a viable plan by comprehensively taking into account industry and energy policies. In the international community, those that make commitments and fail to meet them are no longer deemed trustworthy.
At the G20 Summit, world leaders agreed to abide by the Paris agreement where they pledged to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and commit to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, emphasizing “1.5 degrees Celsius” as a main objective. Carbon neutrality is an irreversible trend. However, running towards the goal at the expense of South Korean business competitiveness by placing heavy burden on them is not a good idea. We might be taking a risk by trying to kill two birds—the phase-out of nuclear power and carbon neutrality—one stone, which might instead bring about the erosion of our business competitiveness.