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Carbon neutrality law will serve as basis for reducing emissions: Environment Minister

Korea set to become 14th worldwide to legislate carbon neutrality law, if enacted

Environment Minister Han Jeoung-ae speaks during a heat wave emergency meeting at Government Complex Sejong on Aug. 2. (Yonhap)
Environment Minister Han Jeoung-ae speaks during a heat wave emergency meeting at Government Complex Sejong on Aug. 2. (Yonhap)
Korea will become the 14th country in the world to legislate a carbon neutrality act, if it is so enacted by the National Assembly, and lay the foundations for future measures, Environment Minister Han Jeoung-ae said Tuesday.

“The carbon neutrality act will serve as a basis for putting carbon neutrality at the center in regards to planning the national budget and coming up with new policies,” Han told reporters.

Last week, the National Assembly‘s Environment and Labor Committee endorsed the carbon neutrality bill that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 35 percent or more from 2018 levels.

The 2030 reduction goal is internationally dubbed as the nationally determined contribution, or NDC, which indicates each country’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The bill is expected to be enacted during Wednesday’s plenary session without much trouble, as it is backed by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, which currently holds more than half of the 300 seats in the National Assembly.

“The vision of going carbon neutral by 2050 is a long-term goal and we have to come up with specific action plans and an implementation system,” Han said.

“The 2030 objective will be an important milestone to push for necessary policies. That is why the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35 percent was included in the law.”

The Environment Ministry said the carbon neutrality act shows the National Assembly’s will to start social discussions with the aimed reduction at the minimum level of 35 percent.

It added that the law will allow drafting new key policies such as an assessment system for climate change impact, a greenhouse gas reduction cognitive budget system, climate response fund and expansion of energy conversion and absorption sources.

The carbon neutrality act, however, is facing harsh criticism from civic groups and business sectors.

“Carbon neutrality in 2050 is a means, not a goal. Instead of achieving carbon neutrality in any particular year, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the future determines the increase in global temperature,” Green Korea said in a statement.

The civic group added that the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030 is too low, and it shows the Environment and Labor Committee’s idle perception of the climate crisis.

The Korea Enterprises Federation pointed out a problem with stating a specific number in the act.

“The greenhouse gas reduction goal for 2030 should be included in carbon neutrality scenarios or greenhouse gas reduction road maps after enough discussion takes place among the stakeholders,” the KEF said.

Yoo Hwan-ik of the Federation of Korean Industries also expressed concerns over the bill’s threat to bring down the competitiveness of the country’s major industries.

“Given our manufacturing-oriented industrial structure, legislating the lower limit of the (emission) reduction target at a time when industrial consensus for 2030 NDC has not been finalized is likely to negatively affect discussions on setting reasonable targets,” he said.

According to the ministry, the Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality will seek to come up with its objective for Korea’s 2030 NDC by early September.

Once the first draft is prepared to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent or more on the basis of the carbon neutrality act, the committee will receive feedback and hold discussions with various sectors through October.

The government plans to publicly announce its final goal for Korea’s 2030 NDC at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, to be held in the UK in November.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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