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KIM Hyon-Jin

Getting Ready for the Post-Kyoto Protocol

KIM Hyon-Jin

Apr. 12, 2006

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Talks on post-Kyoto Protocol will begin in earnest this year with the Kyoto Protocol itself expiring in 2012. The focus of discussion will be on whether or not to draw more countries into a binding greenhouse gas-cutting scheme. That is, the post-Kyoto Protocol talks are designed to include countries that weren't included in the Kyoto Protocol such as the US, Korea and developing countries: the US is the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gas. Korea is one of the first countries to be obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the post-Kyoto protocol negotiations. Korea, Mexico and Turkey are the only member countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development not covered by the protocol. As a matter of fact, Korea is identified as the world's tenth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, and she is also the number one emitter among the OECD countries.

It seems pretty clear that it will be hard for Korea to avoid the post-Kyoto obligations and yet Koreans don't seem to share a sense of urgency. Maybe this may have something to do with the fact that Korea is not under immediate obligation to cut emissions. Even if it faced this obligation, it won't be before five to ten years from now. Besides, the threat of US withdrawal from the protocol raises doubt as to whether the talks on the post-Kyoto protocol will proceed smoothly.

However, it is in fact trying hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, in the position of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, it is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through technological breakthroughs even while it does not agree to the protocol as it is now. Under that position, the Bush administration is pouring a huge amount of money to develop advanced form of energy with coal, solar energy, hydrogen fuel, and carbon dioxide fixation technologies.

The US companies are taking actions. That doesn't mean that that energy-guzzling American companies are suddenly turning environmentally friendly. No, not yet. It may only be their survival strategy. Remember Charles Darwin's famous dictum that only the fittest survive? The US companies realize that unless they were prepared for regulatory changes, they would face soaring costs a few years later. This is at least one reason why more and more companies are making use of this greenhouse gas reduction issue to create new business opportunities.

One such company is General Electric of the US. It supports the Kyoto Protocol, doubling its investment in environmentally-friendly businesses such as clean technology.

The EU and Japan are even more aggressive. They will start reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2008. The emission trading market in the EU is expected to reach about 27 trillion Won in 2006. New businesses that support reduction of greenhouse gas by private companies are expanding sharply. Japan has launched a national campaign named "Team Minus 6 Percent" to attain the goal set by the Kyoto Protocol.

Greenhouse gas reductions will, in the long run, drastically change the pattern of energy consumption. In the past century, the oil-producing countries dominated the world as energy power. In the 21st century, energy powers will be countries that have sustainable technologies for producing clean energy. Whether it is achieved through regulations or technological prowess, clean energy is going to be the waves of the future.

It means that Korea should take advance steps to secure competitive edge in the global energy sector. Without such initiative, it won't simply be an energy power in this century.

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