Korea yesterday pledged a 30 percent cut in its projected carbon emissions by 2020.
Ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen next month, the Lee Myung-bak administration unveiled its goal, vowing to act aggressively and pre-emptively to fight global warming. The voluntary target-setting aims to give the nation an important role as a bridge between developed and emerging economies in international negotiations, the Blue House said.
“The cabinet meeting of today marks a historic moment,” President Lee was quoted as saying by his spokeswoman, Kim Eun-hye. “Deciding on the goal of greenhouse emissions cuts marks a paradigm shift in becoming an advanced country.”
In 2005, Korea emitted 591.1 million tons of carbon dioxide, the 16th most among world nations. If no actions are taken to curtail emissions, the country’s production of greenhouse gases is projected to grow 37 percent by 2020, said Kim Sang-hyup, the secretary to the president for national future and vision.
With yesterday’s target, the government aims to cut the 2020 “business as usual” projection from 813 million tons to around 569 million tons. The goal is roughly equivalent to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 4 percent by 2020 in comparison to 2005.
While advanced nations tend to make public commitments for an absolute amount of reduction from 2005 levels, Korea chose to base its target on the “business as usual” approach, Kim explained. Economic ministers said the method could possibly curb negative impacts on business.
According to Kim, the government has weighed three plans since August. Opinions of experts, the public and business community were collected over the months before the goal was set, he said, adding that the most aggressive target among the three was the one chosen by the cabinet.
“President Lee said today marks the birthday of Korea’s green growth,” Kim said. “We now have additional important tasks to complete. The specific goals of emission cuts for each industry and each company will be decided next year. What we announced today marks the broad outline. We will set forth the specifics next year.”
Although Korea is not among countries that are required to do so under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, it still announced the emission cut goal. The announcement also came as prospects dim that a new binding measure to limit carbon emissions would be hammered out at a global conference on climate change next month.
Korea’s voluntary move is expected to add pressure on developed nations to increase their efforts to fight global warming, senior Seoul officials said.
“From now on, we must think about how these emission cuts will bring greater benefits to the nation,” President Lee was quoted as saying. “Companies must think about higher energy efficiency,” he said, adding that the low-carbon policy will change the international community’s view toward Korea and Korean products.
According to the Blue House, the 30 percent target cut is the strongest recommended to developing economies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“It is the Lee administration’s determination to actively push forward green growth policy at home and aggressively participate in and contribute to global efforts to fight climate change,” the Blue House said in a statement. “The target-setting was a unilateral action, separate from the upcoming Copenhagen conference’s outcome and other countries’ carbon emission cuts.”
While setting forth an aggressive emission cut target, the government said it will do its best to minimize its burden on national industry. “To this end, we will concentrate on efforts to cut carbon emissions of non-industrial sectors such as construction and transportation,” Kim said.
A series of measures to reinforce energy-saving mechanisms for buildings and a low-carbon transportation system strategy were announced earlier this month by the Presidential Committee on Green Growth.
While promising to cooperate with the administration’s goal, the business community still expressed concerns.
“To achieve the goal, the people will face burdens directly and indirectly,” the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said yesterday. “It is important that the government provide an adequate explanation about the situation and win the consensus of the nation.”
Noting that Korea is heavily dependent upon the manufacturing industry in comparison to other advanced economies, the chamber urged the administration to develop measures to maintain the country’s international competitiveness.
Since the 1990s, Korea’s economic growth has been largely centered on manufacturing. The country’s carbon emissions nearly doubled between 1990 and 2005, marking the highest growth increase rate among the OECD member economies due to a heavy dependency on fossil fuels.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]