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In a statement released today, four major South Korean subnational governments have called on the Korean government to commit to rapidly shifting away from coal to clean power and join the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). Their plea adds momentum to an ambitious coal phase-out commitment from the country ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26 in November.

British Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Simon Smith introduces the statement at the International Conference on Coal Phase-out & Response to the Climate Crisis

Signatories of the proposal for the government include provinces of Chungnam, Gangwon and Jeollanam, as well as Incheon Metropolitan City, who have joined the Alliance over the course of the last four years. As PPCA members, they have pledged to use all the policy levers they have available to accelerate the energy transition and advocate for an ambitious coal phase-out commitment at the national level. Today, for the first time they have publicly called on the Korean government to “join the PPCA and switch to eco-friendly energy as soon as possible to respond to climate change and achieve carbon neutrality”.

The statement is significant, as the signatories are home to about 80% of the country’s total coal capacity. Operating 46 coal power plants (out of the total 60), they are both the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and bear the greatest cost of the associated air pollution. As local governments in Korea do not have direct control over power plants that operate within their boundaries, influencing policymaking at the national level is their best tool to transition away from coal to more environmentally friendly energy sources and thus help prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, increase competitiveness and protect the health of their residents.

With its 60 coal power plants, South Korea is the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the OECD. In line with the most recent climate science, the OECD countries must immediately stop construction of any new coal power plants and phase out coal power generation by 2030. Such a commitment from South Korea ahead of COP26 would boost global efforts to ‘consign coal to history’ at the summit. It would also mean that Korea could become the first country in Asia to join the PPCA, which would cement its role as the leading nation in Asia on green growth and climate action and support its candidacy to host COP28.

Today’s statement from Korean subnational governments was released at the ‘International Conference on Coal Phase-out & Response to the Climate Crisis’, organised by Chungnam province. The event brought together Korean policymakers, companies, experts and residents, as well as representatives of international organisations and other governments to pave the way for an ambitious coal phase-out commitment at the national level, as a mean to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Korean policymakers have gone a long way towards developing a ‘2050 Carbon Neutrality Scenario’ and a new 2030 climate target, aiming to finalise both ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26 in November. As stated by the subnational governments, phasing out coal is an essential condition to achieving the new, more ambitious climate targets.

At the conference, Chungnam Governor Yang has also announced that to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the province will develop a 2050 Carbon Neutrality Strategy. Coal phase-out policies, including to reduce the lifespan and start early retirement of coal units, will be its cornerstone.

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