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OECD urges Korea to raise goal for emissions reduction

South Korea is backpedaling on its green growth pledge as the current administration’s emissions reduction goal is lower than that set by the former administration, the deputy secretary-general of the OECD said Wednesday.

“We can say (Korea’s current emissions target) is less ambitious than the previous one,” OECD Deputy Secretary-General Rintaro Tamaki told The Korea Herald in an interview after speaking at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity on Jejudo Island.
OECD Deputy Secretary-General Rintaro Tamaki (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
OECD Deputy Secretary-General Rintaro Tamaki (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
The Park Geun-hye government has been criticized for watering down Korea’s Green Growth Act set in motion by former President Lee Myung-bak, who in 2009 pledged to keep the country’s 2020 emissions at 30 percent below business-as-usual levels.

Last year, Korea submitted a new target to the United Nations to keep its 2030 emissions at 37 percent below business-as-usual levels, a move which delays the time by which the country begins achieving emission reductions.

“The 2030 target of Korea’s intended nationally-determined contribution is weaker (than its precedent) and has been judged ‘inadequate’ by the Climate Action Tracker,” Tamaki said.

“To remain a credible player in the green growth arena, Korea will need to implement coherent climate and energy policies and show tangible reductions in GHG emissions.”

Tamaki, who has been setting the strategic direction of the OECD’s policy on environment, development, green growth, financial affairs and taxes since 2011, further advised the Korean government to reexamine its actions such as its electricity subsidizing, plans to build 19 new coal-powered plants by 2023, and overall efforts to reduce energy demand.

The OECD executive also viewed it as a “very good time” for the introduction of new taxes on coal or emissions as well as a strengthened emissions trading system, as low oil prices could cushion the consequent burden.

“It may have been difficult to say maybe two to three years ago, but gasoline prices are now lower. The economy could endure the additional taxes, so don’t miss this good opportunity,” he said.

In the end, the shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy is an inevitable future, as portrayed by the landmark Paris agreement on climate change signed by 195 nations in December 2015, Tamaki said. The accord, for the first time commits nearly every country in the world to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by requiring some form of action from all countries, both rich and poor.

Though countries can voluntarily determine their contribution in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities, the deal nonetheless serves as a “great impetus” in worldwide efforts to build up a sustainable, low-carbon economy, he said.

By Sohn Ji-young(jys@heraldcorp.com)
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