Rush to carbon neutralityThe global push for carbon neutrality by 2050 has failed. The G20 summit in Rome ended Sunday without being able to specify a deadline for zero emissions. Major developed nations, including host Italy, proposed 2050, but Russia, China and India strongly opposed. As a result, members of the G20 ambiguously pledged to reach net zero carbon emission “by or around mid-century.”
Nevertheless, the liberal Moon Jae-in administration is aggressively pursuing the goals. In the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, President Moon vowed a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target of 40 percent cuts in emissions, up 13.7 percent from the original target set by the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Commission in Korea. “That’s a very challenging task,” he said. Ignoring opinions and advice from top scientists on the commission, Moon arbitrarily lifted the target to 40 percent.
Given the climate crisis unfolding before our eyes, no one can find fault with the government’s push for a drastic reduction in emissions. Leaders of other countries may have cheered when the South Korean president presented an unparalleled reduction goal. But the government must take reality into account before rushing to cut emissions.
First of all, our scientists and entrepreneurs express deep concerns about the speed and implementation strategy of the government to achieve carbon neutrality. Corporate leaders are worried about the impact on our manufacturing-based industries of the over-the-top targets the government ambitiously set. Scientists also point out that it is contradictory for the government to champion carbon neutrality by excluding the use of nuclear reactors in its strategy even when South Korea has top-caliber reactor technology, arguably the most environment-friendly means of generating power without emissions. According to a recent report by the Green Technology Center under the National Research Council of Science and Technology, Korea’s climate technology is in the 80 percent level of the United States, compared to the European Union (96 percent) and Japan (90 percent).
Major Western countries have started to face the new realities. After backpedaling from its nuclear phase-out policy, France announced a plan to invest 1 billion euros ($1.16 billion) in promoting nuclear power projects. The UK also is considering a strategy to reduce carbon emissions by increasing the share of nuclear plants based on small modular reactors (SMRs). Japan has included nuclear power as one of its four energy sources in its road to carbon neutrality even after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown.
Good intentions cannot solve problems. A plan to achieve a goal without practical strategies is nothing but an irresponsible act.