[Viewpoint] Long johns not answer to climate debate

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[Viewpoint] Long johns not answer to climate debate

A passer-by criticized a beggar on the street because he was asking for money even though he had healthy limbs. The beggar responded, “Do I have to cut off my arms and legs to get a penny?”

I am reminded of this story whenever I hear that advanced and developing countries are holding meetings on global warming.

It seems as if advanced countries say they will only give money to developing countries if they cut off their arms and legs, and developing countries retort that they cannot cut off their limbs just to get a penny.

It was the same situation at the recent 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The first draft a few advanced countries, including the United States, secretly drew up together was an official document containing their true thoughts.

It revealed that they thought developing countries should cut their amount of carbon dioxide emissions to half the levels of 1990 by 2050, just as the advanced countries would.

They also said they will offer annual financial support of $10 billion for three years starting in 2010 if the developing countries agree to the plan.

From the position of developing countries, this is an absurd proposition.

The emission of carbon dioxide is inevitable if these countries are to break away from poverty, because energy - the source of development - comes from fossil fuels.

The industrialization of advanced countries also contributed to the process of environmental destruction. Advanced countries, however, try hard to ignore the fact that they are the main culprits of global warming. Instead, they force developing countries to stop using greenhouse gases and cutting down tropical rain forests.

The official document presented in Denmark stated that the advanced countries would give developing countries $10 billion each year if they cut off their limbs in this way.

The amount is certainly equal to a penny.

The plea from developing countries that they would rather not receive the money is understandable.

Furthermore, China, the representative of developing countries, has become a member of the “Group of Two.”

The world no longer runs in the direction the United States wishes it to. As long as China shouts out “no,” it is difficult to reach an agreement. That is why the failure of this conference was anticipated.

Nevertheless, most observers evaluate the recent conference as a “half-success.”

Some look forward to the issue being settled at the next conference in Mexico, at the end of next year. The evaluation, though, is wrong, and the expectation that it will all come to a head in 2010 is foolish.

The recent conference was a total failure. An agreement should have been reached, because the negotiation deadline was set as this year at the Bali conference in 2007.

However, the conference ended with a nonbinding “will keep in mind” conclusion.

The Mexico conference next year will not be easy, either.

There is a high chance of failure, because an agreement deadline has not been set.

The protocol simply states that the next host country should take the necessary procedures for a successful conference.

There is nothing about a 2010 agreement deadline.

If an agreement is not reached again next year, the next step will be negotiations between the two parties. This has always been the way of advanced countries.

If things do not go their way at multiparty negotiations, they lean on two-party negotiations. This will be the case not only for trade, but for climate, too.

They will certainly employ the border tax, a system where taxation is applied to products that do not meet their greenhouse gas reduction standards.

Europe publicly announced that automobiles imported from 2012 must emit 120 grams (4.23 ounces) or less of carbon dioxide when driving one kilometer (0.62 mile).

In other words, it will use the climate issue as a method of protective trade. It wanted to go back to protectionism to create more jobs anyway, so it is probably thankful for the climate problem. In this case, our strategy has to change, too.

The greenhouse gas reduction policy should focus on the manufacturing industry, because the target of two-party negotiations and protectionism is the manufacturing industry.

However, the Korean government is focusing the policy on families, large buildings and traffic. The president gets angry when the indoor temperature is over 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The energy goal management system presented by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy also puts the focus on large buildings.

This is wrong. It may be difficult, but the direction needs to be turned to reducing greenhouse gases in the manufacturing industry. A policy for families and buildings has the problem of effectiveness, too. When it is cold indoors, people hide a heater under the table. It takes a huge amount of money to check such small things.

I do not think this is the right time to put on a show of holding cabinet councils wearing long johns. Rather, it is the time to pull up our shirt sleeves and seriously think hard about developing a method to reduce industrial carbon dioxide emissions in a way that minimizes economic losses but avoids the green trade wall.

*The writer is a senior economic news reporter and editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-wook
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