Handling a new climate deal

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Handling a new climate deal

World leaders in Paris reached a landmark agreement on Saturday to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for a new United Nations charter on climate control to slow global warming through stricter universal commitments toward reducing carbon emissions. From 2020, countries will shift from coal power to renewable energy and curb emissions according to a voluntary timetable.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol that obliged emissions cuts to 38 developed nations, all countries are required to do their part in the latest deal and subject to evaluation every five years. Developed nations pledged more than $100 billion to help their developing counterparts transform their fossil fuel-driven economies.

The climate summit in Paris underscored the changes in global power from the late 1990s. Washington was skeptical of climate control and pulled out of the global pact in 2001. But since commercial production began in 2009 on shale gas fields, the United States has been able to reduce its share of coal-fueled power from 49 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2012. The United States decided that a transformation in the fossil fuel-dependent global order via a new climate framework was in its national interests. Climate control could also be useful for slowing the rise of China and India.

But the new pact has important implications for Korea, too. Seoul pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2030. The goal is ambitious for a heavy energy-spending country with significant manufacturing activity. But Seoul must live up to its commitment as the world’s 15th-largest economy and the world’s seventh-biggest carbon emitter.

The business sector immediately issued a statement raising concerns over the negative impact on the manufacturing sector. But unlike the Kyoto agreement, the Paris pact is universal. Korea’s energy spending has been declining, and greenhouse gas emissions have plateaued ever since it hit 700 million tons in 2013. About a third of emissions cuts would also be bought from overseas. There is no reason why we cannot accomplish this goal.

President Park Geun-hye vowed to expand Korea’s renewable energy market to 100 trillion won ($84 billion) by 2030, and make the sector a new growth engine for the economy and job creation. We must speed up the establishment of a system for carbon cuts, vitalize the emissions trade market and move away from heavy industries.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 14, Page 34

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