The government has taken the right course by deciding recently to adhere to the original goal of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from business-as-usual levels in 2020.
With gas emissions increasing sharply in recent years, calls have mounted for lowering the target suggested by the former government of President Lee Myung-bak in 2009. But the Cabinet approved a new road map drawn up by the Environment Ministry, which maintains the 30 percent reduction target but contains more detailed measures to achieve this goal in several sectors, including transportation, construction and industry.
Weakening its commitment to helping stem global warming may have damaged Korea’s credibility in the international community. As a country that seeks a bridging role between developed and developing nations, Korea should keep its promises regarding global initiatives, including efforts to deal with climate change.
Though drastic deregulation is needed to reinvigorate the economy, regulatory steps aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions should not necessarily be shunned. These may be regarded as good regulations that would serve the long-term interests of corporations.
The Environment Ministry’s plan sets specific targets for gas emission reductions at 34.3 percent in the transportation sector, 26.9 percent in construction, 26.7 percent in energy generation and 18.5 percent in industry.
Local automakers have raised concerns about a planned scheme, in which subsidies are paid to fuel-efficient cars while liability amounts are charged on low-mileage vehicles. They argue that the measure, which is to be put in practice next year, would only benefit imported cars, noting key auto-producing countries such as the U.S., Japan and Germany have not introduced a similar system.
What is missing from their argument is that 7 in every 10 passenger cars registered in Korea are medium- or luxury-sized, while the corresponding figures remain below 30 percent in most advanced countries. Local automakers should focus on improving the fuel efficiency of their cars, which would eventually strengthen their international competitiveness.