On Wednesday 7 July, the Executive Vice-President (EVP) of the European Commission Frans Timmermans concluded his three-day visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK). The visit has demonstrated the EU’s wish to grow the global momentum ahead of COP26, and explore deepened cooperation on the green transition with the ROK, encouraging it to live up to itsfull potential as a frontrunner in climate action together withthe EU. EVP Timmermans welcomes the recent ROKannouncements on the net zero goal by 2050 and an end to overseas coal financing and congratulates it on successfullyhosting the P4G (Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030) Summit in Seoul.
“The leadership shown by the Republic of Korea and itsefforts to accelerate its transition towards climate neutralitygive an important boost to the international momentum for climate action,” EVP Timmermans stated upon his arrival. “It comes at a crucial time, in an important year for climate action. I hope that the EU and the ROK can work together to ensure ambitious outcomes from the upcoming international climate and biodiversity negotiations, including through the upcoming G20 meetings in Italy,” he added.
During his visit to Seoul, EVP Timmermans held meetings with South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, Industry Minister Moon Sung-wook, Environment Minister Han Jeong-ae as well as Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations and the President and Chair of GGGI (Global Green Growth Institute) and Kong Young-woon, President of the Hyundai Motor Group.
Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Prime Minister Kim had in-depth discussions concerning their leading roles in promoting the global climate neutrality and reducing biodiversity loss through the European Green Deal and the Korean Green New Deal. They both confirmed their willingness to join forces towards climate action such as by providing support for developing nations in implementing their NDCs.
During his meetings with the South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and Industry Minister Moon Sung-wook, the Executive Vice-President underlined the variety of deepening bilateral cooperation on the green transition, from developing hydrogen technologies to opportunities for a just transition from coal to renewable energy. They also raised the need to prevent ‘carbon leakage,’ by companies that transfer production to places with less strict decarbonisation requirements.
In his bilateral talks with the Environment Minister Han Jeong-ae, both sides exchanged views on concrete actions to deliver shared goals, such as strengthening their respective emissions trading systems, developing and commercialising renewable energy and clean technologies necessary for the circular economy. They agreed on the need to share technologies and best practices to walk the path of climate neutrality by 2050.
Another highlight of the trip was the EVP’s engagement with business leaders and the civil society focused on climate action. On 6 July, Timmermans paid a visit to the Hyundai Environmental Technology R&D Centre, where the EVP met with Hyundai Motor Group President Kong Young-woon and Executive Vice-President Kim Sae-hoon to discuss the potential of hydrogen for the future economy and shareknowledge and developments in the ROK and the EU. TheExecutive Vice-President encouraged the use of renewable hydrogen as an energy carrier to replace fossil fuels and deepen cooperation between Korean and European businessesto this end.
Before his departure, the Executive Vice-President convened a roundtable discussion with South Korean civil society organisations pushing for climate action and green energy transition, and some of whom are supported by EU projects.
“The energy transition and the tackling of climate crisis is progressing in Korea. For the EU, Korea is a very important partner, as Korea has declared the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050 in a region, where not many countries have undertaken that commitment,” Timmermans said in his opening remarks. “It is a strategic partnership as we try to convince more countries to do the same. The reason why we insist on this so much is that we believe that if we do not act now, there is no way we can keep the rise of the temperature even below 2 degrees. I hope you can play an important role in increasing awareness and understanding of the wider population that we are in a crisis, not just climate change.”
Next key milestones to watch will be the outcomes of the Presidential Carbon Neutrality Commission, the submission of an enhanced NDC at COP26 and the implementing legislation promised to follow.
Press and Information Officer, EU Delegation to Korea
Communication Adviser to Frans Timmermans