Cut domestic emissions first
As I prepared for my climate change and global environment class, I reviewed the budget of the Korean government. Only 7 trillion won ($) was allocated for the budget related to the environment, and within that amount, the budget for the atmospheric environment was insignificant.
The size of the budget suggests that Korea still takes environmental issues lightly. Recently, the ultrafine particle level has been rapidly rising, and the emergency pollution reduction measures have been put in place several times in the capital region.
First of all, we need to focus on internal and external factors that influence the ultrafine particle level. The ultrafine particles from China are very serious. When warnings for high ultrafine particle concentration are in effect, the effect from China is especially high.
However, domestic factors are not negligible. Emission from diesel cars contributes to ultrafine particle concentration. And ultrafine particles from diesel-fueled vehicles are more harmful to humans. Studies on the harms of the nano-emissions of diesel vehicles prove the impact on human bodies.
The government is working to prepare a plan to reduce various pollutants that create ultrafine particles, especially NOx. The most effective measures need to be studied and implemented.
As a way to discourage driving cars to lower the fine particle emissions, the city of Seoul enforced an alternate-day driving system and free mass transit. It is no time to play the blame game. There is no short-term solution for the ultrafine particles. Since there are many causes, there can be various solutions. We need to implement short-term measures and make long-term plans. Through diplomacy with China, we need to monitor the environment and make sure Korea does not suffer. Now, the ultrafine particles issue is a disaster. The government, industries, local governments and citizens need to work together.
Sunwoo Young, Professor of environmental engineering at Konkuk University