What comes after BaliThere were claps, but no cheers. The moment the agreements were made, the atmosphere in the conference hall was subdued, probably because the delegates from 190 countries were tired after the meeting, which had been prolonged a day. Thus ended, on Saturday, the 13th conference on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held on the island of Bali, Indonesia. All of the countries promised to participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2013.
But as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, it is not the end, but the beginning. The decisions made at the Bali conference focused on ways to conduct further negotiations by the end of 2009. Even deciding how to get there has been a painstaking process. In addition, once specific negotiations start, even more complications can be expected. There were no cheers at the Bali conference because everyone knew there won’t be much cause for celebration later on.
South Korea enjoyed its status as a developing country under the preceding international agreement on climate change. Because it was not a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1992 when the Convention on Climate Change was adopted, South Korea was not imposed the duties for industrialized nations under the Kyoto Protocol.
Ten years since then, the international community no longer considers Korea to be a developing country. It demands that our country pay its dues, befitting our developed status. Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions rank 10th in the world, and its per capita emissions are at the middle level among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
We cannot make excuses and stand back any longer. The government seems to accept that it must change its previous passive stance toward decreasing greenhouse gas emissions after 2013.
“The Fourth Comprehensive Measure for Climate Change” announced by Korea’s government on Dec. 17 also reflects this changed atmosphere.
This measure, scheduled to take effect through 2012, includes a commitment by the government to expand the proportion of new renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Also, the government said it would prepare national mid- to long-term targets by the end of next year.
But it is doubtful whether the measure came about after balanced deliberations about the pressure from the international community and domestic conditions. That’s because the public hearing for the measure was held Dec. 11, without the already limited number of domestic experts who went to Bali to participate in the conference. The measure came out before the results of the Bali conference were decided.
The reduction targets suggested by the United Nations and the European Union in Bali will be hard for Korea to attain, as is the case with the United States, Japan and Canada. Their suggestion was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent of the 1990 levels by 2020. And even if the minimum 25 percent target is applied, Korea will have to reduce its energy consumption by more than 60 percent of the present level. Our country should reduce its emissions by half or more, because its greenhouse gas emissions have doubled between 1990 and 2005.
Korea should establish feasible plans to reduce emissions, considering an expected increase in energy consumption for the time being. It should also prepare reduction targets and a schedule completely different from more advanced countries. But the targets should not be set too low. When all of the countries have presented reduction plans, Korea will inevitably be compared to other developing countries as well as the advanced countries.
Furthermore, advanced countries will obviously call for greater efforts from Korea to press developing countries which generate large amounts of emissions, such as China and India.
Korea must make further efforts to reduce its emissions. Our country should increase its investments in the development and distribution of energy-saving technology, as well as new renewable energy technologies. It should work to persuade the international community to follow the reduction targets it prepares.
In addition, efforts to find solutions overseas are needed. A representative example is the so-called clean development mechanism, in which a country actively makes inroads into greenhouse gas reduction projects of other countries to gain emission credits.
As decided at the Bali conference, we should prevent the damage of global warming from happening in developing countries and should also take interest in the projects that transfer clean energy technology from advanced countries to developing countries. If Korean businesses approach the issue with a well-designed strategy, it will be a good opportunity to offset the economic losses resulting from reductions to be made.
Countries across the world will try to minimize losses and maximize gains in negotiations over the next two years. In this fierce war of negotiations, Korea should be equipped equally with a broad perspective, calm judgment and solid negotiating power.
*The author is a staff writer of the JoongAng Ilbo, specializing in the environment.
by Kang Chan-soo