[LETTERS to the editor]Climbing down from the top

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[LETTERS to the editor]Climbing down from the top

The Bali Road Map was prepared at the 13th United Nations climate change summit in December last year, with an agreement that the negotiations on greenhouse gas emission reductions after 2013 should be concluded by the end of 2009. There is no reason for South Korea to hesitate in tackling the climate change issue.

Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 69.5 percent from 1990 to 2004, making it the top among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is expected that pressure will grow in Korea to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions after 2013.

Korea’s inefficient structure of energy consumption has largely contributed to its earning the dubious distinction as [one of the] world’s top greenhouse gas emitting nations.

Experts have pointed out that Koreans’ wasteful use of electricity is the key reason for its huge greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the environment by causing climate change, including global warming.

Korea has largely controlled electricity rates in order to stabilize power prices and to support the country’s economic growth.

Over the past 26 years, consumer prices went up by 207 percent, while the electricity rate was increased by 5.5 percent. The low-priced electricity policy, then, has prompted inefficient and wasteful consumption of valuable energy.

In order to prepare for the era of high oil prices and the obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government must push forward a wide range of policies to promote energy efficiency in all fields of our economy and industry.

But it is critical to raise electricity rates gradually in order to motivate power consumers to use electricity efficiently.

Too much control over the electricity rate for price stabilization despite the skyrocketing cost of generating electricity will distort the market and eventually create larger social costs after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change takes effect.

When energy prices including electricity rates perform their role to give an accurate signal to the market, we will be able to maximize efficiency in the distribution of resources and consumption of energy.

In the long term, we should increase our spending on energy research from the current less than 4 percent of the nation’s total research and development funding in order to develop new energy sources such as solar power and wind power.

Chung Sun-yang, Director, Policy Research Center, Korean Academy of Science and Technology

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