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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 11)

All News 09:18 October 11, 2021

Drastic emissions reduction
Time to step up efforts for carbon neutrality

The Moon Jae-in administration has drastically ramped up the country's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030 to 40 percent from 26.3 percent of levels emitted in 2018. The move is part of the country's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

On Friday, the government presented the higher reduction goal, or nationally determined contributions (NDC), during a meeting of the presidential committee on carbon neutrality and related ministries. It plans to announce the new target at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, the U.K., after finalizing it in a Cabinet meeting this month. The administration will then seek to submit the enhanced figure to the U.N. in December.

We positively estimate the measure which reflects the Moon government's strong determination to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are producing global warming. The 40 percent target is higher than the minimum 35 percent set by the Carbon Neutrality Act passed by the National Assembly, Aug. 31.

The heightened goal calls for South Korea to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from 727 million tons in 2018 to 436 tons by 2030. This means the country needs to cut a further 100 tons from its previous target of 536 tons. In other words, we have to curtail emissions by an annual average of 4.17 percent. It is an ambitious target to help fight climate change.

Now the question is how to realize this goal in such a short period. Critics and industrialists argue that the expanded target is unfeasible. They point out that local industries are unable to meet the target, given their heavy reliance on manufacturing and low level of carbon reduction technology. They also raise concerns about some side-effects such as lower economic growth and job losses.

However, it is wrong to call for a cut in the reduction target. The business sector should be better prepared for the international trend of moving toward carton neutrality through stricter environmental regulations. The country cannot achieve sustainable growth if it remains a "climate villain." That's why environmental groups demand the target be raised to 50 percent so that Korea can do more to help limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

The government should step up cooperation with industries to meet the strengthened reduction goal. To that end, it needs to work out more concrete and comprehensive measures to decrease carbon emissions. It must significantly reduce thermal power generation using coal and other fossil fuels to speed up our energy transition to renewables, although it is inevitable to hike electricity rates. The administration should also consider introducing a carbon tax to cover costs for net zero. Most of all, it is urgent to build a national consensus on a stepped-up fight against climate change.

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