Take action on emissions

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Take action on emissions

The G8 summit ended as expected as a mere feast of words. The heads of state had thorough discussions on global warming, high oil prices and the food crisis, but came away short of finding satisfying solutions.

Global warming is a prime example. In the summit declaration released on Tuesday night, the G8 heads of state decided to set the target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050. They consider this as a step forward from last year’s G8 summit declaration, but the international community criticized it as only a show.

Experts argue that to prevent environmental calamities, the countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 90 percent. Some have urged each country to set emission targets by 2020, without waiting.

The conflict of interest between developed and emerging economies is also an obstacle. On Wednesday, the closing day, China and India participated in the major economic meeting and there were differences in opinion on the long-term target for greenhouse gas emission cuts such that the leaders could not come to an agreement. Emerging economies are eagerly asking developing countries that produce most of the greenhouse gas emissions to lead the cuts. On the other hand, developed countries are pointing fingers at China and India, with their rapid economic growth, to cut emissions by the same amount. On surging oil and food prices, both sides were busy asking each other to take responsibility, coming short of devising practical solutions.

Related to this, President Lee Myung-bak, who participated in the economic meeting, took it upon himself to build a bridge between developed and emerging economies. He proposed to both sides that they compromise to provide incentives to emerging economies so they would actively cut emissions. At the same time, he promised that South Korea would be an early mover in the international community in becoming a country emitting a low level of carbon dioxide.

The will to play a role commensurate to South Korea’s economic status as the 13th largest in the world is commendable, while skepticism about the G8 summit and claims that it should be reorganized abound. However, to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the industrial structure needs to be completely reorganized and many challenging tasks must be solved. To prevent the international community from criticizing South Korea that it is all words and no action, we must diligently start taking action as soon as possible.
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