Seoul, Europe confer on climate change
By Philip Iglauer
Action on climate change requires international cooperation like no other issue does, because the devastating effects resulting from the rising global temperatures don’t stop at national borders.
Ahead of a United Nations conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa in November, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Germany, with a Korean nonprofit group, organized a conference Wednesday on how best to address and, it is hoped, form common positions on the challenges posed by the effects of climate change.
“Experts visiting Korea like John Beddington are key to forming common positions on climate change,” said Dominic McAllister, head of Science & Innovation at the British Embassy in Seoul. “Beddington recently visited Kyoto for the Science & Technology in Society forum where he also met with Korean delegates.”
Many European countries ― along with China, Japan and South Korea ― have pushed commercial development of carbon-reducing technologies with a robust policy mix of direct government investment, tax breaks, loans, regulation and laws that cap or tax emissions.
For example, most member-states of the European Union have passed emission trading schemes, also called cap-and-trade auctions as a way to push polluting industries into becoming more energy efficient and less polluting.
However, aside from the unique example of New Zealand, no other country has passed nationwide laws on climate change.
President Lee Muyung-bak has promised to pass ETS legislation in Korea before the end of the year, but a revised bill at the National Assembly has yet to be sent to the floor for a vote.
Korea would be the first Asian country to make an emission trading scheme national law if the bill passes.
The aggressive entry of Britain into the field over the last few years shows the power of government inducements to redesign a nation’s energy economy away from traditional fuel.
The country’s “Green Deal,” as it is called, is currently being spearheaded by the conservative-led coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron.
In Britain, reducing carbon dioxide emissions was one of the few policies supported by political parties of both the right and left, which both accepted that climate change was a serious problem and saw clean technology investment as a growth opportunity rather than an onerous obligation.
Conference organizers said that is why the German and British embassies, and the Global Green Growth Institute, organized this conference.
Meetings like this one provide a forum for experts from Europe and Asia to share their experiences in reducing the pollution that causes global warming, they said.
In Korea, the government is pushing its “green growth” initiative to spur the private sector through a mix of investment, subsidies and other incentives to expand investment in green technology as a way of addressing the effects of pollution and climate change.
Korea has earmarked some $32 billion in government green technology investment for 2011. Incentives have fostered rapid entrepreneurial growth in new industries like solar and wind power, as well as in traditional fields like home building and food processing, with a focus on energy efficiency.