Korea lags behind on green growth

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Korea lags behind on green growth

While the administration of former President Lee Myung-bak increased spending to promote green growth and sustainable development, Korea is far from achieving its goals in those areas, with greenhouse gas emissions having increased over the past five years and the distribution of renewable energy stagnate, a new government report showed yesterday.

According to Statistics Korea, the so-called green growth index, developed by the last government to measure the nation’s green growth and development, showed the country has taken a step back in evolving in an eco-friendly way.

The index has three categories: response to climate change, creation of new growth engines and improvement of life quality. Those three categories have a total 28 sub-indexes that measure specific parts of green growth.

For each category, the former administration set goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the past five years, 19 out of the 28 sub-indexes showed slight improvements, but four major sub-indexes demonstrated remarkable aggravation.

The amount of greenhouse gas emissions has increased significantly, the report said, one of the sub-indexes in which Korea ranked worst.

Carbon emissions rose 9.8 percent to 688 million tons in 2010, from 609 million tons a year earlier. In 2005, emissions volume stood at 568 million tons, indicating that the amount significantly expanded, although the government had been trying to cut emissions.

Emissions per gross domestic product also rose 3.4 percent in 2010.

The report said emissions have been growing in tandem with Korea’s economic growth. Korea’s per capita emissions were 11.4 tons in 2010, higher than the average 10.1 tons of other OECD countries, the report showed. Korea emits more greenhouse gases than Germany, Japan and the U.K., but less than the United States, Australia and Canada.

The percentage of renewable energy to total energy supplied increased 0.8 percentage points last year compared to 2007. The increase is considered positive by the government but signals a slower distribution of alternative energy than the last government intended. It rose by a mere 0.42 percentage points to 3.17 percent last year from 2011. In 2007, the percentage was 2.37 percent.

The country’s self-sufficiency in food production also dropped by about 10 percentage points, from 56.2 percent in 2009 to 45.3 percent last year.

Against this backdrop, the government’s spending on research and development (R&D) in green growth fields continued to increase, the report found. The proportion of spending on R&D in green growth to its total R&D spending increased from 12.3 percent in 2007 to 17.5 percent in 2010, although it has hovered around 16 percent in the past two years.

According to data by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Lee administration spent 5 trillion won (4.7 billion won) on green growth R&D in 2010, up from 4 trillion won in 2009.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [sh@joongang.co.kr]
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