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Comparing the Carbon Neutral Strategies of Four East Asian Countries: A Mix of Cooperation and Competition
REEI 2022/04/14

China, Japan, and South Korea announced its carbon neutrality targets in late 2020, providing a new round of national commitments to support a global target of 1.5 °C temperature increase scenario by the end of 21st century. Comparably, the economic development progress, the nature of Mongolia’s energy dependence on coal, and the significance of export-oriented mining industry, however, make its climate mitigating effort less ambitious. By examining the backgrounds, policy measurements, and impacts of carbon neutral strategies, this policy brief showcases these three important points. First, there is potential for the four nations to cooperate in various areas such as technological exchanges, trading opportunities, and financial supports. This cooperation may help the countries achieve their climate neutrality targets more cost-effectively and develop quicker decarbonization pathways, particularly in Mongolia. Second, the four neighbors may have different approaches to seek their targets due to their disparities in political system, policy capacities, economic situations, and energy profiles. Therefore, it is worthy of closely observing and analyzing each country's approaches to achieve their climate targets. This presents a valuable opportunity to learn and reflect on relevant and critical inputs surrounding the international climate cooperation. Third, a potential new era of global climate governance may accelerate the climate actions and shorten the period of achieving carbon neutrality for China, Japan and South Korea. The European Union’s pioneering commitment to 2050 carbon neutral target in 2019, the updated climate commitments by some big economies including the U.S. at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021, and the collective climate commitments by G7 countries in Cornwall, U.K. in June 2021 imply an upcoming era of climate competition, in which the most developed economies will take more active actions to cut carbon emission and put added pressure on other large emitters. Under this new era of climate competition that may be facilitated by bilateral and multilateral trading policies and schemes, the peer pressure between the three neighbors and the built-up pressure from international community towards these three countries, particularly China, will play a role in determining future climate actions in the region.

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