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Speaking at Chungnam Province’s 2021 Coal Phase-out Conference, Simon Smith, the British Ambassador to South Korea, encouraged the Korean government to take a lead from Korea’s provinces and cities and join the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) ahead of COP26.

UK ambassador to South Korea invites the Korean government to join the PPCA

Under the leadership of Governor Yang, Chungnam has been playing a pioneering role in energy transition and it is my great honour to have this opportunity to deliver these congratulatory remarks.

Distinguished participants, in less than 2 months, world leaders – including we hope, President Moon – will gather in Glasgow at COP26 for a truly decisive climate summit.

As scientists have now made absolutely clear we can no longer delay action.

The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that the world has already seen 1.1°C of warming, based on human activity, in the last 150 years.

And as the IPCC report emphasises, if we do not see real progress this decade, we can expect to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming within the next 20 years, making it impossible to achieve the ambition set out in the Paris Agreement, to limit warming to 1.5°C.

And if we fail to take effective action this decade, we will be proceeding on a path which scientists and economists tell us, will inflict serious damage upon our planet’s ecosystems, land-use models, cities, economies and ultimately, the livelihoods of all of us.

In the last 12 months we have seen evidence that countries are taking the assertive action that we are told is required of us.

The UK commitment to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 has helped generate a momentum in which we’ve seen announcements by the US to reduce emissions by 50-52% by 2030, the EU by 55% and Japan by 46%.

In Korea we must applaud the very recent passage of legislation, which locks-in Korea’s commitment to achieve 2050 Net Zero, and to put that on the statute book.

We must also acknowledge the legislated commitment, including within this law, to reduce emissions by “at least 35%”.

At the same time we are urging the Korean Government, who are currently considering the NDC to be announced at Glasgow, to listen to the recommendations of scientists, who have made clear that all developed nations must halve their emissions by 2030, in order to keep 1.5 within reach.

So, I hope the reference to “at least” 35% can be enhanced so that it comes out to much closer to 50%. I hope a bold and ambitious commitment at, or around 50%, will demonstrate without any element of uncertainty, that Korea is bringing global leadership to averting the most critical crisis of our times.

On behalf of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA)’s Co-chairs – the United Kingdom and Canada – and on behalf of the COP26 Presidency, it is my great pleasure to applaud the leadership of Chungnam, Seoul, Gyeonggi, Incheon, Jeju, Daegu, Gangwon and Jeonnam in tackling the climate crisis.

Together as PPCA members, representing more than 66% of Korean citizens and over 80% of installed coal capacity, these Provinces and Cities have signalled their desire for Korea to take a radical departure from the use of thermal coal power.

And since Chungnam joined the PPCA in 2018 as the Alliance’s first Asian member, the province has acted to reduce emissions, improve air quality and protect the health of its citizens, by bringing forward the closure of 14 coal units to 2026.

And in addition, Chungnam is ensuring a “just transition”, supporting affected workers and the wider community, and playing its full part in Korea’s 2050 Net Zero vision.

As the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Commission has made clear through its initial published Net Zero scenario analysis, there must be a radical departure from the use of fossil fuels – and specifically an unequivocal end to coal and gas – in order to achieve the 2050 Net Zero.

It is my hope that ahead of COP26, the Korean Government, taking a lead from Korea’s Provinces and Cities, joins the UK and 40 other nations, in national membership of the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

As you can see from the statement on the slide behind me, signed by the Governors and Mayor of Chungnam, Incheon, Gangwon and Jeonnam, there is desire for an ambitious national commitment to end coal usage.

It is that commitment that so many of you participating in this conference today have shown, for bold vision and quick action. This commitment, is emphasised in this conference title – “Proactive Response to Climate Crisis”. It is pre-emptive and proactive action that we need to see sustained by all nations coming to COP26 in November and beyond.

So that we can really nail this down. So that we can ensure the goal of stopping the rise in global temperature at 1.5°C is kept within reach. So that we can show that by the middle of the 21st century that we have stopped the 20th century processes that have put our planet in such acute danger. And that we have achieved a fundamental change in the way in which we consume the planet’s resources and ensure a sustainable, healthy and successful livelihood for people and countries right across the world, now and in the future.

So distinguished participants, many of you here have worked immensely hard to keep that vision of a successful and equitable energy transition within reach. Let’s keep working! Thank you.

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