Seoul implements emissions scheme despite competitiveness concerns

3 May 2012

South Korean officials have voted overwhelmingly in favour of implementing a national emissions trading scheme, despite facing fierce opposition from industry. Major conglomerates in the country - which depends heavily on exports of manufactured goods - had said they feared the scheme would compromise their competitiveness in the global marketplace.

But with 148 of the 151 lawmakers voting in favour of the scheme it appears legislators did not feel the economy would suffer. Moreover, the run-up to the vote was not accompanied by the acrimonious public debates seen in the US and Australia when similar schemes were proposed, suggesting the South Korean public supports the initiative.

Supporters of the scheme say that by capping carbon across the economy - from steelmakers to shipbuilders to power generators - industry will become more sustainable and profitable.

"This is to develop green industry technologies and technology to reduce energy consumption, and develop those as one industry...ultimately we want to organise markets for green business ahead of other countries," Yang Soogil, chairman of the country's Presidential Committee on Green Growth, told Reuters.

Officials say they will establish or designate an exchange to ensure the market is stable and priced according to the market. Companies exceeding allowable emissions limits would be subject to a penalty equal to three times the market value of the credits, but not exceeding 100,000 won (US$88.5) per ton of emission.

According to the US-based Environmental Defense Fund, the scheme would cover some 60 percent of South Korea's greenhouse gas emissions. This, they say, would put it on track to achieve its pledge of reducing emissions by 30 percent from projected levels by 2020.

According to Bloomberg, South Korea is the world's eighth-largest carbon emitter "the fastest-growing producer of greenhouse gases among industrialised democracies."

ICTSD Reporting; "South Korea approves carbon trading scheme," REUTERS, 2 May 2012; South Korea approves emissions trading scheme," AFP, 3 May 2012; "South Korean Parliament Approves Carbon Trading System," BLOOMBERG; 2 May 2012.

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