South Korean emissions trading moves closer

The long-anticipated introduction of a South Korean carbon cap-and-trade scheme has moved a step closer after the government began the process of introducing legislation to establish a mandatory domestic emissions trading scheme (ETS) for businesses.

The government has not yet announced any specifics of the scheme, such as when it would start, the cap for emissions, or how permits would be issued. However, it hopes to use its hefty majority to get the scheme through parliament by the end of the year.

The new bill, if approved, will oblige Korean companies to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions to the government.

It will also establish a new committee - chaired by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak - which will be tasked with reviewing and approving basic policy directions and strategic planning for the scheme.

Finally, the bill holds provisions for the establishment of a government fund which will encourage and finance projects to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. The bill is set for a parliamentary hearing on 18 September.

The scheme, which was originally flagged last year, is the latest in a line of environmental measures to be introduced in recent months.

Last month, Myung-bak promised to take renewable energy's share of Korea's electricity generation from the current level of two per cent to 11 per cent by 2030, and 20 per cent by 2050.

South Korea does not have a target under the original Kyoto protocol, but economic success of the country over the past two decades means that it is now ranked amongst the world's 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters, churning out 558.3 million tonnes of CO2 in 2005. As such, the government has signalled its support for a post-Kyoto deal, which would likely see the country have to adhere to binding emission targets.

In related news, Australian climate change minister Peggy Wong yesterday warned Australian businesses there was no chance of a low cap when its emissions trading scheme is introduced in 2010.

Some members of the business community have been lobbying strongly for the scheme to be watered down, insisting that it will damage an Australian economy that is largely dependent on carbon intensive fossil fuels.

However, Wong insisted that the government was committed to delivering a meaningful scheme with demanding emission caps. "It is simply not open to the Australian government to set up its domestic scheme to allow emissions above the national cap set through international negotiations while at the same time asking other countries to take on binding reduction targets," she said.

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