Two days after Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide pledged to turn Japan carbon neutral by 2050, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea – head of one of the world’s most fossil fuel-reliant economies – today followed suit by declaring that his country would “actively respond” to the climate emergency “with the international community and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.” In doing so, the two leaders brought their countries in line with the growing number of economies – led in size by China and the EU – who have pledged to wean themselves off their dependency on fossil fuels by the half-way point of the 21st century.
Moon’s carbon neutral promise comes three months after he launched the Korean New Deal (K-New Deal), a $135bn investment programme in digital and (accounting for almost $62bn on the overall figure) green technologies. Known on its own as the Green New Deal, one of the objectives of South Korea’s environmental plan is to create 659,000 jobs by 2025.
Environmental campaigners welcomed Moon’s promise, although everyone recognises it is a tall order; around 40% of South Korea’s power is today coal-generated and there are seven coal power units currently under construction. Renewable energy only accounts for 6% of its electricity supply.
Suga, too, will have his work cut out to set Japan on the right path towards its carbon neutral future during his term in office as he will have to take on some powerful vested interests who have done very well from supplying resource-scarce Japan with imports of oil and gas.
In setting out his goal, he portrayed the need to shift away from fossil fuels to counter climate change as an opportunity rather than a burden.“Global warming measures are no longer obstacles for economic growth, but would lead to industrial and socio-economic reforms and a major growth,” he said. “We need to change our mindset.”