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Cablegate: Korea's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Scenarios Spark

Published: Mon 31 Aug 2009 09:01 AM
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DE RUEHUL #1393/01 2430901
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R 310901Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5523
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE 0009
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SEOUL 001393
SENSITIVE
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STATE FOR OES/PCI AND OES/EGC
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STATE PASS TO EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP AND CEQ
DOE FOR INTERNATIONAL, NE, FE, AND EERE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENRG PREL KGHG KS
SUBJECT: KOREA'S GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS REDUCTION SCENARIOS SPARK
SPIRITED DEBATE
1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified and is not/not
intended for Internet distribution.
2. (SBU) Summary: On August 4, the Korean government announced
three "scenarios" for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The
scenarios range from an eight percent increase over the 2005
emissions baseline to a four percent reduction. An August 18 public
forum on the scenarios revealed deep divisions among stakeholders
about how fast and how far Korea should move to reduce its
emissions. The government hopes the debate will ultimately
culminate in public support for its climate change and energy
policies and expects to adopt one of the emissions reductions
targets by year's end. Moreover, by announcing its three emissions
reduction scenarios, the government is demonstrating to the
international community that it can match with concrete actions
earlier statements about Korea playing a "bridging role" between
developed and developing countries in climate change negotiations
ahead of next December UNFCCC Conference in Copenhagen. End
summary.
Government Announces Greenhouse Gas Emissions "Scenarios"
--------------------------------- -----------------------
3. (SBU) The Korean Presidential Committee on Green Growth and the
Prime Minister's Office on August 4 announced three potential
greenhouse gas mid-term reduction targets. The three potential
targets and the measures required to meet them are to be the subject
of a "national consensus building process" - the government intends
to conduct public hearings and consultations with various
stakeholders including the business community and civil society
groups, as well as carry out public surveys, before deciding later
in the year which of the three target scenarios it will adopt.
Korea's announcement is significant in that it is the first
non-Annex 1 country under the Kyoto Protocol to publicly announce
even a range of specific mid-term targets.
4. (SBU) Target Scenario One calls for holding emissions to within
an eight percent increase over 2005 levels, which also represents a
21 percent reduction from the "business as usual" (BAU) curve.
Under this scenario, modest greenhouse gas emissions will be allowed
until the "peak year" of 2020. The target would be achieved through
implementation of measures with short-term costs, but potential
long-term benefits. Under Target Scenario 2, Korea would return to
its 2005 baseline emissions levels (a 27 percent reduction from the
BAU curve), with a peak emissions year of 2015. The target would be
achieved through implementation of measures similar to those under
Target Scenario One, but with some additional moderate-cost
measures. Target Scenario Three is the most ambitious, calling for
a reduction in emissions to four percent below 2005 levels with the
peak year occurring in 2012. This would be achieved through
"implementation of aggressive measures with high mitigation cost."
Stakeholders Voice Opposing Positions
-------------------------------------
5. (SBU) At a public discussion organized August 18 by the Climate
Change Center of the Korea Green Foundation (one of Korea's leading
environmental NGOs), the NGO community expressed dissatisfaction
that even the highest emissions reductions target did not go far
enough, while the business community complained that the lowest
reduction target went too far. Members of the general public
appeared to be evenly divided in their questions and comments. A
Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) representative said
it was premature to announce targets because many of the
technologies that will contribute most to emissions reductions, such
as carbon sequestration and storage, advancements in renewable
energy, and hydrogen cell vehicles are still in the developmental
stages. Other business representatives also said the targets should
be voluntary and not compulsory. When the government representative
stated that Korea should be in the forefront on the international
scene and play a bridging role between developed and developing
countries, industry representatives responded that Korea would gain
nothing by moving faster than other developing countries because the
United States and European Union were focused on China and India and
not on small players like Korea.
Industry Says Government Going Too Far Too Fast
---------------------------------- ------------
6. (SBU) On August 20, ESTH Officer met with Sonia Hong, Secretary
General for the Korea Business Council for Sustainable Development
(KBCSD). A part of the regional Asian network of the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development, KBCSD is a network
grouping of 26 of Korea's largest companies affiliated with KCCI,
and also serves as the secretariat for the Presidential Committee on
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Green Growth. Hong echoed the sentiments voiced by industry
representatives at the August 18 public hearing. She said Korean
industries have developed into truly global competitors only in very
recent years. In addition, Korea is just now beginning to emerge
from the global economic downturn. She said Korean industries need
more time to fully modernize before undertaking costly measures to
implement arbitrary greenhouse gas emissions targets. She applauded
government decisions to invest in new and renewable energy
technologies and suggested that once these technologies are
developed and deployed, Korean industries would be more comfortable
with the idea of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental NGOs Feel Left Out, Unempowered
---------------------------------------------
7. (SBU) In July, ESTH Officer gave a presentation on U.S. energy
policies to approximately 50 NGO representatives in Busan. In the
discussions that followed, the NGOs were unanimous in their approval
of President Lee's direction with regard to climate change.
However, they were also unanimous in their opposition to several
specific aspects of the President Lee's Low Carbon Green Growth
initiative, announced earlier this year and which initially did not
include mention of emissions reduction targets. They complained
that the "Green New Deal" (a jobs creation program for constructing
environmental infrastructure) is more geared to helping ailing
Korean construction companies than to protecting the environment.
They complained that the cap-and-trade program included in the draft
Basic Law on Climate Change (currently before the National Assembly)
contains no details on targets or how the program would be
implemented. They also complained that NGOs were not consulted in
the drafting of the Basic Law. When ESTH Officer noted that NGOs
are represented on the Presidential Committee for Green Growth,
which drafted parts of the Basic Plan, the Busan NGO contingent
replied that only pro-government NGOs were selected to participate
on the Committee. They also opined that despite its public
pronouncements on low carbon and green growth, the government would
ultimately give in to business and industry pressure.
Spirited Debate
---------------
8. (SBU) At the Incheon City-sponsored Global Environmental Forum
on August 12, a National Assembly member embarrassed the Vice
Minister for Trade and Energy of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy
in front of an international audience during the question-and-answer
session following a panel discussion on renewable energy. Taking
the microphone as an audience member, the MP said Korea should aim
for a 10 to 15 percent reduction in emissions, that the four percent
target was "nothing," and that accepting an eight percent increase
would be "shameful." The Vice Minister, taken aback, replied that
questions from the audience should relate directly to the panel
discussion and that this was not the proper place to discuss
domestic issues.
Government Caught in the Middle
-------------------------------
9. (SBU) In a phone conversation on August 18, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade Director for Climate Change and Environment Kim
Hyo-eun told ESTH Officer the government's putting forward three
possible emissions reductions targets was intended to spur public
debate. She said that plan has succeeded all too well, and
acknowledged that the government indeed has found itself caught in
the middle between those who feel it is moving too fast and those
who feel it is not moving fast enough to tackle climate change.
However, she felt that the public supports President Lee's general
approach to combating climate change, and would eventually come
around to supporting bolder emissions targets.
10. (SBU) Kim said the government had another purpose in making the
announcement: The ROK is trying to play a constructive role in the
international negotiations leading up to the UNFCCC Conference in
December, she explained. It is coordinating its positions with the
United States and actively participating in President Obama's Major
Economies Forum. By announcing the mid-term target scenarios, she
said, Korea is demonstrating in concrete terms that it can take a
leadership role in international negotiations on climate change by
being a model for other developing nations under Kyoto to step up to
the plate.
11. (SBU) Comment: Although the emissions reduction targets under
the three scenarios are modest, the Lee Myung-bak Administration
appears committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Besides its
announcement of the emissions target scenarios, it is investing
heavily in the development of new and renewable energy technologies,
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"smart energy" systems, improved energy consumption efficiencies, as
well as in public awareness and education. The initiatives,
however, have all originated as pronouncements from the
administration. Its participation in the August 18 NGO event and
its own planned public hearings on the three emissions reductions
scenarios are intended to generate more open debate and more
participation by stakeholders with the hope of garnering the public
support necessary to succeed. If the ROK can commit to meaningful
greenhouse gas emissions reductions with broad public support, it
can truly be a model for other developing countries.
TOKOLA
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