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S. Korea committed to 'voluntary' greenhouse gas reduction: official

All Headlines 11:12 December 17, 2009

By Lee Joon-seung

COPENHAGEN, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea supports a "voluntary" reduction of greenhouse gases for developing countries, a government official said at ongoing climate change talks in Copenhagen on Thursday.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said Seoul looks favorably on the recommendations made by an ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action that differentiates between advanced economies and developing nations.

"The recommendations made by the ad hoc group that have engaged in negotiations following the 2007 Bali Action plan, calls for the overall adherence to the Kyoto Protocol," the official stressed.

Maintaining the structure of the Kyoto pact reached in 1997 is vital for developing economies because they are not required to make mandatory cuts that could hurt economic growth.

Moves by developed economies to push for a single undertaking where both developing and developed countries have to make cuts caused an uproar and almost derailed the two-week long talks that kicked off on Dec. 7.

The South Korean government official said that recommendations made late last week call on developed countries to adopt legally binding actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while not imposing similar measures on developing economies.

Poorer countries only need to show that they are taking "clear actions" to cut back on emissions, and to register such cuts and win international recognition for such measures.

He said that while Seoul wants to maintain its non-Annex 1 status, it has taken steps to do its part to cut global warming. Under the Kyoto deal, South Korea is classified as a non-Annex 1 country, meaning that it is not required to make cuts.

The government said last month that it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from its forecast, or business as usual (BAU), level in 2020 compared to 2005.

If there are no sudden fluctuations in energy prices or economic growth, overall greenhouse gas output by the country could fall slightly to 569 million tons in 2020 from 594 million tons in 2005.

He said the BAU cuts represent a bold move, adding that out of all the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reduction schemes, Seoul chose the highest figure for non-Annex 1 countries.

Other South Korean officials in the Danish capital, meanwhile, said that time is running out for countries to reach a deal to come up with a blueprint after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

"Talks to reach some kind of understanding should have started last week, but objections from various parties made such a move impossible," a source said.

He said at the present pace, it may be effectively impossible to reach a deal by Friday when the talks are scheduled to end.

"The date may be extended one day, but even with the extra time it may be hard to reach a meaningful accord this time," he claimed. The working level official, however, said there is a remote chance that the leaders from over 100 countries arriving between Thursday and Friday may agree on a last minute breakthrough.

The official warned that even under such circumstances, however, any such deal may lack detail and could simply lead to calls for continued talks to iron out outstanding differences in 2010.


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