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Full text of President Moon Jae-in's statement on South Korea's 2050 carbon neutrality vision

All News 20:04 December 10, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- The following is an unofficial translation of President Moon Jae-in's declaration of South Korea's 2050 carbon neutrality vision. It was provided by his office, Cheong Wa Dae.

Fellow Koreans,

Throughout this year, everyone has struggled really hard. I extend my sympathy to all of those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and patients who are battling the virus at this moment. My heartfelt respect goes out to everyone who has joined forces for epidemic prevention and control while enduring inconveniences and disadvantages. I also extend my gratitude to the countless unsung heroes who are quietly working hard, committed to protecting their neighbors and relatives.

Fellow Koreans,

Many scientists have long warned that a climate crisis and ensuing new infectious diseases would come to threaten humanity.

However, these warnings have failed to touch us deeply as we've gone about our busy daily lives. We have felt regret when viewing images of calving glaciers or stranded polar bears, but we have regarded the crisis as something in the distant future. Nevertheless, imperceptibly, the climate crisis has drawn very near to our day-to-day lives. Over the past decade, record-breaking extreme weather events – so-called "once-in-a-century occurrences" – have swept the Korean Peninsula every year: a 100-year torrential rain, a 100-year high temperature and a 100-year drought as well as heat waves, typhoons and the worst fine dust ever.

By 2050 – when this year's newborn babies turn 30 – day-to-day routines on the Korean Peninsula will once again be different from now. Summers will grow longer while winters will shorten. Such extreme climate events as heat waves and tropical nights will intensify. If these are coupled with outbreaks of pests and diseases, yields of rice and other crops will likely decrease sharply. Raising livestock will also become more difficult. Korean firs on Hallasan Mountain and lilies of the valley on Sobaeksan Mountain, which are unique to the Peninsula, may remain only in photos. We may no longer hear even the croaking of green frogs.

Korea is in a relatively good situation. If we look abroad, we can find abnormal global weather conditions already causing humanity a lot of pain in many parts of the world. The climate crisis – just as COVID-19 has done – will hurt the most vulnerable areas, groups and people first and will end up inflicting pain on all of our lives.

Fellow Koreans,

The gloomy future that I envisioned is not a foregone conclusion but something that will become reality if humanity continues to live like this without changing. Just as our today came about by what we did yesterday, we can change our tomorrow depending on what we do today.

Our people already started taking steps to preserve the environment 30 years ago. In 1990, daily per capita household waste amounted to 2.3kg, but it began to decrease from 1995 once disposal fees based on volume were fully adopted. As of now, it hovers consistently around 1kg. Over the past two decades, our recycling rate has seen a sharp increase, which has helped significantly lower the amount of garbage buried or incinerated. The people are already participating in saving the earth through their everyday practices, including cutting back on food waste and the use of disposable products as well as separating garbage for recycling.

To date, the Government has made efforts to cope with climate change in cooperation with the people, and these endeavors have led to various achievements. Greenhouse gas emissions, which have been on a steady rise in line with industrial development, began to decline for the first time last year and are expected to fall further this year. The Korean Government has boldly reduced our reliance on coal for power generation, for instance, by completely suspending construction of new coal power plants and working to shut down ten aged plants earlier than scheduled. On top of this, we have also strived to expand utilization of renewable energy, reduce pollution from old diesel cars and supply eco-friendly vehicles.

Local businesses are also actively investing in such areas as solar power generation, electric cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles – leading industries that represent decarbonization – and taking the lead in the global market. They also boast the largest market share in electric car batteries and energy storage systems.

Nonetheless, one deep concern is the fact that climate change is accelerating. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which was unanimously adopted at the 48th General Assembly of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held in Korea in 2018, warned that global warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would put the lives of numerous human beings at risk due to rising sea levels, extreme weather and other changes. The crisis is already approaching before our eyes. This is why each country is scrambling to declare "2050 Carbon Neutrality" as their goal.

Countries around the world and multinational companies are cooperating to achieve common goals for humanity while speeding up innovations to secure competitiveness befitting a new era. Starting with the European Union, major countries have already made it a fait accompli to introduce a carbon border tax. There is a growing movement to limit transactions and investments primarily to eco-friendly companies, and international economic regulations and the trade environment are rapidly changing. Such challenges are never easy for Korea as we are heavily dependent on manufacturing and have many high energy-consuming industries such as steel and petrochemicals.

However, nothing is impossible given the potential of our people: they have overcome the ravages of war and accomplished economic growth by continuously developing light, heavy, chemical and ICT industries, starting from an agriculture-based society. We have excellent low-carbon technologies related to batteries and hydrogen, and we are taking the lead in digital technology and the ability to innovate. Whereas our country began to industrialize as many as 200 years later than others, we are starting to pursue "carbon neutrality" on a relatively equal starting line; this is an opportunity for Korea to emerge as a pacesetter.

The Green New Deal unveiled in July is our first bold step toward a carbon neutral society by 2050. Taking it a step further, we have put together the "2050 Republic of Korea Carbon Neutrality Vision" that will help simultaneously achieve carbon neutrality and economic growth while improving the quality of life. Our goal is to actively innovate and lead the international community by seizing the global climate crisis response as an opportunity for inclusive, sustainable growth. It is also about creating a healthy and prosperous future for our children.

First, the Government will make a strong push for carbon neutrality in all areas of industry, the economy and society. Principal energy sources will be shifted mainly to renewable energy, and we will foster three new energy industries: renewable energy, hydrogen and energy IT.

Second, we will strive to create a low-carbon industry ecosystem. Promising companies in new low-carbon industries will receive assistance so that they can secure a commanding position in the global market ahead of others. An ecosystem for innovation will be formed by establishing a platform where entities from large companies to startups can work together. We will expand the reuse and recycling of raw materials, products and wastes to promote a circular economy that helps minimize energy consumption.

Third, the Government will pursue a just transition so that no class or region is marginalized. We will help generate jobs and profits for local residents through strategies tailored to different areas and by fostering locally led green industries.

The Government's responsibilities are heavy. We will make bold investments so that my Administration can lay the groundwork to achieve the three aforementioned objectives. We will expand technological development and significantly strengthen R&D assistance.

To achieve the 2050 carbon neutrality goal, technological advancement is paramount. We have to reduce energy transition costs through technological advancement. The Government will provide firm support so that our signature technologies can lead the world and become future growth engines. We will establish carbon neutral-friendly fiscal programs and actively promote green financing and funds so that the people can enthusiastically participate in the Green New Deal.

We will host the second P4G Summit in Seoul next May. Together with the international community, we will take the initiative to achieve carbon neutrality. During my term in office, a solid foundation for a carbon neutral society will be established.

Fellow Koreans,

Carbon neutrality is a difficult but unavoidable task. However, if it is difficult for us, it must be so for other countries. If other countries can do it, so can we. We are at the forefront of global efforts while surmounting the COVID-19 pandemic. Korea's response to COVID-19 has become a global standard, and the country's economic recovery is the world's fastest.

I believe that the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Vision will be able to set yet another example for the world when it is accompanied by small actions taken by each and every citizen. We can save the earth and change our lives and those of our neighbors and children by taking tiny steps on a daily basis. Before it is too late, let's start right now.

Thank you.

(END)

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