Japan and South Korea, two of the world’s most fossil fuel-reliant countries, have both vowed to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The significant new commitments to address climate change were announced by the respective nation’s leaders last week. In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in said his country would achieve the goal by putting a stop to its reliance on coal and shifting to renewable energy and infrastructure under the Green New Deal.
Moon’s Green New Deal, totally separate from the US’ proposed policy of the same name, will see the government fund electric vehicles, stop financing overseas coal plants, expand solar panels and wind turbines, and introduce a carbon tax.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, was vague on specific details or concrete steps.
According to the Guardian, during his first speech to parliament following his election last month, Suga said renewables and preexisting safe nuclear energy would be prioritized and that responding to climate change would no longer be a “constraint on economic growth.”
"We will aim to realize a decarbonized society,” Suga said.
South Korea vows to go carbon neutral by 2050 to fight climate emergency https://t.co/lmFCSQbDUl— The Guardian (@guardian) October 28, 2020
Climate activists and leaders across the world have welcomed the new announcements from both nations.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said South Korea’s pledge is “a very positive step in the right direction.” At the same time, Joojin Kim, the managing director of South Korean organization Solutions for Our Climate, said, “South Korea is finally one step closer to aligning itself with the reduction pathway compatible with Paris climate agreement goals,” according to the Guardian.
Kim also highlighted, however, that South Korea would need to immediately halt the construction of coal power plants to reach its goal.
Seven coal power units are currently under construction in South Korea.
"There is much to be done to make this declaration actually meaningful,” Kim said. “The most urgent tasks are enhancing its 2030 emissions reduction target, presenting a clear roadmap to phase out coal by 2030, and putting a complete stop to coal financing.”
The nation relies on coal for around 40% of all electricity.
In Japan, critics have also raised concerns about Suga’s reliance on existing nuclear power plants for energy moving forward.
"In a truly safe and sustainable future, there is no room for nuclear power generation,” Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement, according to Euro News. “If we are to achieve net-zero by 2050, we must massively increase Japan’s renewable energy capacity, with a target of 50% renewable electricity by 2030. Anything less, and Japan risks falling short of net zero, and more importantly, risks driving the world above 1.5 degrees Celsuis as per the Paris agreement.”
Japan is currently the world’s fifth-largest carbon emitter.