Don’t hurt the local economy

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Don’t hurt the local economy

The government’s decision to set a higher carbon reduction goal unreasonably disrespected industrial reality.

In the new goal, Seoul will work to reduce 37 percent of estimated greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, much higher than the previous outline of cuts in a range from 14.7 percent to 31.3 percent. The proposal was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which can be legally binding when approved in November. The government assured that the impact on the industrial sector won’t be big, setting the cut target to 12 percent for manufacturers. Instead the government will try to cut emissions in power and the transportation division.

Either way, the new measures will take a toll on the economy. The business sector, which has been campaigning against the harsh self-imposed target on carbon emissions, is enraged that the government has gotten even tougher.

The government argues it must keep the promise to the international community made by the previous administration. The move also may have been inevitable to sustain the country’s “green” image.

But agility is needed during trying times. The economy is in dire straits. It may be headed for Japan-like prolonged stagnation. The outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome aggravated the strain. Why the government had to stifle corporate sentiment in the economy’s current state is questionable.

We cannot blindly follow advanced countries like European nations and the United States. Our economy is still driven by traditional manufacturing activities. European nations have already shifted to lower-carbon models. Because their companies excel in eco-friendly technology, they can benefit from tougher carbon regulations.

The United States also suddenly became eager on the carbon agenda after the shale gas boom dramatically helped lower consumption and emission. Some even suspect Washington may be pushing the greenhouse agenda to pressure China. In last month’s telephone conversation with his Korean counterpart, President Barack Obama asked Seoul to actively join the carbon campaign. Shifting to a low-carbon society requires immense investment and resources. Reforms in various sectors will be inevitable. Keeping a promise to the international community is important, but saving the local economy should come first.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 1, Page 30

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