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S. Korea establishes first greenhouse gas policy

All Headlines 11:09 March 21, 2008

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea unveiled its first-ever government scheme on greenhouse gases on Friday, vowing to freeze the ozone-depleting emissions by 2012 to tackle global warming.

In a policy report to President Lee Myung-bak, Environment Minister Lee Maan-ee presented the ministry's initiative to contain emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, at 2005 levels, ministry officials said.

The unprecedented policy follows the United Nations climate change conference, held in Bali in December, where South Korea pledged to take concrete steps to curb the emissions and fight climate change along with about 130 other countries.

"The ministry has since formed an initiative to make it a national policy that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced," Shin Won-cheol, a publicity official at the ministry, said.

South Korea emitted 591 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2005, a level that the ministry seeks to maintain until 2012, Lee's last year in office. Officials said the freeze will actually be a reduction as the emissions have increased by an average 2.2 percent annually in recent years.

Among the clean-air plans, the ministry will take on non-industrial sectors that emitted 250 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2005 and seek to reduce the level by 20 percent over the next five years.

The ministry will require the use of more environment-friendly natural gas buses, instead of gasoline buses, increasing their number to 21,936 by 2010. In Seoul, about half of the city's 7,800 buses are natural gas ones, and the city government plans to replace the remaining gasoline buses by 2010.

Environmental groups, however, say the freeze plan is not enough. South Korea, the world's 13th largest economy, stands ninth in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and it has been behind other developed countries that have set their goals much higher, they say. The Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, a leading environmental organization based in Seoul, has called for a 20 percent reduction by 2020.

"When other countries set goals of 6 percent or 8 percent reductions, a freeze of the level, even though it is actually a small reduction, is hardly welcome," said Ahn Joon-gwan, a member of the environmental group.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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