South Korea to Cut Greenhouse Emissions 30% by 2020
South Korea, the Asia's fourth largest polluter, said it plans a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 even as a binding global accord on climate change appears unlikely at next month's summit in Copenhagen.
"South Korea's voluntary target will stimulate efforts by the global community despite the pessimistic outlook for the Copenhagen meeting," President Lee Myung Bak said in a statement today. The goal is set at the highest level recommended for emerging economies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the United Nations, according to the statement.
South Korea will limit the burden on manufacturers and reduce emissions by "non industries" such as transportation and building to keep curb carbon dioxide output below the level it may rise to by 2020 in the absence of preventive measures. The government will form a task force comprising bureaucrats, industry officials and experts to study possible curbs on industries and households, according to the statement.
The decision comes after a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders over the weekend conceded that a binding global accord is out of reach and aimed to strike a political deal pushing for a comprehensive agreement. South Korea had outlined in August three proposals: cutting emissions by as much as 4 percent by the end the next decade from 2005 levels; capping them at the 2005 output; or allowing an 8 percent increase by 2020.
The target "basically corresponds to 4 percent cut from 2005," Choi Seung Kook, secretary general of Green Korea United, non-profit environmental group, said by telephone. "Still, a forecast based on business as usual levels in 2020 is changeable and the target itself falls short of goals of other countries."
South Korea's annual emissions may rise to 813 million metric tons by 2020 in the absence of measures to curb carbon output, a committee under the presidential office said Aug. 4. That would be an increase of 37 percent from the 594.4 million tons produced in 2005.
The European Union has committed to reduce emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and would go to 30 percent if others match it. U.S. legislation still awaiting approval by the Senate calls for a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. China has pledged to cut emissions in proportion to economic growth, without giving specific goals.
'Should Have Waited'
"We should have waited before announcing the target" until other nations released their goals and a binding global accord was reached, said Lee Sang Youp, a research fellow at Korea Environment Institute.
The U.S. and almost 200 other nations will meet in Copenhagen next month to find a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol or to extend it. A global agreement is unlikely in the Danish capital, as negotiators hold back on pledges to slash emissions or pay financial aid to poor nations, officials said after talks in Barcelona on Nov. 6.
"Unless there is a big change in business conditions, the target would be equivalent to a 4 percent reduction from 2005," Woo Ki Jong, secretary general of the South Korean presidential committee on green growth, said by telephone today.
(Bloomberg Nov. 2009)