South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy, has pledged to set one of three targets for carbon emissions by 2020, voluntarily joining Kyoto signatories in moving towards a firm commitment to roll back climate change.
The government said on Tuesday it would choose a 2020 gas emission target this year from three options: an 8 percent increase from 2005 levels by 2020, unchanged from 2005, or 4 percent below 2005 levels.
The country is one of Asia’s richest nations and an industrial powerhouse. Emissions doubled between 1990 and 2005 and per-capita emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide based on 2005 levels were 11.1 tonnes, the same as some European nations and the 17th largest among OECD members.
“Compared with developed countries, the targets may look mild,” said Sang-hyup Kim, Secretary to the President for National Future and Vision at the Presidential Office.
“But these are utmost, sincere efforts, reflecting Korea’s capabilities.”
The government estimated each target to cost between 0.3 and 0.5 percent of GDP and will curb emissions by increased use of hybrid cars, renewable and nuclear energy consumption, energy efficiency with light-emitting diodes and smart grids.
Rich nations bound by the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions are under intense pressure from developing countries to ramp up their targets to cut emissions as part of a broader climate pact under negotiation.
Those talks culminate at the end of the year at a major UN gathering in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
Wealthy developing states such as South Korea, Singapore and Mexico have also come under pressure to announce emissions curbs.
South Korea’s targets are modest compared with developed countries such as the United States and the European Union.
Japan and the United States respectively aim to cut emissions by 15 and 17 percent by 2020 against 2005 levels, while the European Union and Britain are each aiming for reductions of 20 and 34 percent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
China and many developing nations want the rich to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of global warming such as droughts, floods and rising seas.