Oil refiners fear losing W800 trillion amid carbon neutral transition

Asia's Tech News Daily

Oil refiners fear losing W800 trillion amid carbon neutral transition

Korea Enterprises Federation (KEF) Executive Vice Chairman Lee Dong-geun speaks during a discussion hosted by the KEF on the government’s carbon neutrality goal at the Press Center in central Seoul, Friday. Courtesy of KEF

By Yi Whan-woo

The country’s oil refiners could suffer up to 800 trillion won ($680.2 billion) in losses by 2050 over the government’s recently finalized roadmap to slash greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.5 times more than it planned earlier, according to Korea Enterprises Federation (KEF).

Citing a Korea Petroleum Association representative who attended its discussion session last week, the KEF said Sunday that the 800 trillion won in damages will include 100 trillion in sunk costs, as the refineries already have invested heavily in fossil-fuel facilities and will not be able to make up forthcoming losses.

The speculation came after President Moon Jae-in said that the country will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from the country’s peak in 2018, up from the previous goal of 26.3 percent, during an announcement about the 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) target, Oct. 18.

The NDC is a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and bring them to net zero by 2050.

The roadmap prompted complaints from the KEF and other major business lobby groups arguing that the government is pushing too hard without considering the difficulties faced by energy-intensive industries in their transition to carbon neutrality.

“The drastic carbon-cutting cutting is feared to affect the entire manufacturing industry and factory operations nationwide,” the KEF representative was quoted as saying.

KEF Executive Vice Chairman Lee Dong-geun claimed that the government’s carbon neutrality goal “lacks details for business support regarding the tremendous costs caused by firms’ shift toward net-zero emissions.”

“Such an unstable policy and unrealistic goal will weaken the global competiveness of the companies, reduce production, push partner companies to move outside of Korea and result in a declined employment rate,” Lee said. “The government should actively listen to business people to rewrite its carbon neutrality scenario and come up with practical measures.”

Friday’s discussion also brought up a possible negative impact on other energy-intensive industries.

An executive from the Korea Iron and Steel Organization noted that the steel industry is pushing to develop alternative steelmaking technology as part of its own goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent by the end of 2050.

“But meeting the government’s goal by 2030 is simply impossible timewise,” the executive said.

A representative from the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association said that mid-cap auto part makers are concerned about being able to operate their factories through 2025, as they are not ready for electric vehicles, while at the same time, the market related to combustion engine cars is decreasing in its size.

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