Earlier this week the U.S. officially withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. Not only does it make the U.S the first country to formally do so, it is now the largest country, by economy and total emissions output, to not have a carbon neutrality pledge. However, the decision is not final.
The European Union and many of its surrounding countries have been the trailblazer in carbon neutrality pledges with a wide range of political agreements, policies, and even putting in place strict laws to bring down emissions in their respective countries. This year several other major economies have joined in setting pledges as well.
China announces goals for peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. While China has established itself as a global leader in the development and deployment of new energies, its emissions continues to grow significantly – making up nearly 30% of the global share. The new plan lacks few details, but the government has highlighted that a green strategy in a post-COVID world is important for global economic recovery.
Japan pledges to be carbon neutral by 2050. Newly appointed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga increased the countries original pledge to reduce emissions by 80% to net-zero earlier this month. Like most pledges, the details remain vague, but Japan is already on the forefront of the hydrogen economy, in particular net-zero hydrogen imports, which will be essential to decarbonize its economy.
South Korea shuns coal in 2050 carbon neutral pledge. For a country that still relies on coal for about 40% of its electricity production, South Korea will likely make an aggressive pivot in the next decade to put the country on track to reach its goals. Given the high use of coal in electricity generation, the country will prioritize that sector first while others, such as transportation and industrial, will likely come soon after.
The U.S. is not the only major emitter that has yet to announce plans for carbon neutrality. Russia and India both remain undecided in their positions, but many speculate India will soon follow the rest of Asia especially with the recent additions of Japan and South Korea.
It’s also too premature to declare victory now. A pledge is just that, a pledge. Realizing true carbon neutrality will require billions of dollars in investments in the near-term deployment of new energies, but also extensive R&D for breakthrough technologies for hard-to-decarbonize sectors in the long-term as well. The next decade will be crucial for any country that has set its sights on a net-zero society by 2050 – making sure to tick the right boxes on technology development and deployment and ensuring it all counts at the end of the day.