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South Korea follows Japan with net-zero 2050 pledge

Re-elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in today declared he will follow-up on a campaign trail promise to eliminate carbon emissions by mid century. The announcement comes just two days after Japan’s new prime minister said he would accelerate his nation’s emissions target.

With Japan’s new prime minister on Monday committing the country to reach a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, South Korean premier Moon Jae-in today followed suit in a speech to the national legislature.

Korean non-profit Solutions for Our Climate reported on the speech made by President Moon to South Korea’s National Assembly, and carried an English-language translation of the speech provided by the local Yonhap News Agency.

Moon reportedly said “replacing coal power generation with renewable energy” would be central to the net-zero aim and revealed plans to “expand financial support to local renewable energy businesses” from a KRW8 trillion (US$7.04 billion) Green New Deal budget which would also renovate and replace buildings using a KRW2.4 trillion urban spaces and infrastructure fund. The government, said Moon, would deploy 116,000 electric and hydrogen vehicles and the green deal would allocate KRW4.3 trillion to a charging station network including rapid chargers.

Just transition

President Moon mentioned a separate Korea New Deal plan to finance a just transition to renewables by “strengthening the safety net and developing human resources.”

Solutions for Our Climate MD Joojin Kim said: “We welcome president Moon Jae-in’s declaration to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. South Korea is finally one step closer to aligning itself with the reduction pathway compatible with Paris Agreement goals. However, there is much to be done to make this declaration actually meaningful. The most urgent tasks are enhancing [Korea’s] 2030 emissions reduction target, presenting a clear roadmap to phase out coal by 2030, and putting a complete stop to coal financing.”

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The latest emissions reduction promise came just two days after newly-appointed Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga accelerated the deadline for his nation to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Under Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, Japan committed in 2016 to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% – measured against its 2010 emissions – by mid century, without setting a year to achieve net zero.

Suga on Monday pledged a zero-carbon economy by 2050 in a speech to parliament. Running the speech through an online translation tool revealed plans for accelerated R&D into “next-generation solar cells” as well as “carbon recycling.”

The policy statement by the new premier pledged regulatory reform, green investment and digitization to speed the energy transition, but added net-zero policy would include “advancing nuclear energy policy with safety as the top priority.” On coal, Suga said: “We will radically change the policy for coal-fired power generation that we have continued for many years.”

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Source: pv magazine