This guest post is by Julian L. Wong and Dan Sanchez at the Center for American Progress.
South Korea may not be outdoing the United States’ clean energy commitments yet, but it has just announced intentions to adopt a 2020 emissions cap, the first developing (non-Annex I) country to do so. Reuters explains:
The government said it would choose a target this year from three options: an 8 percent increase from 2005 levels by 2020, unchanged from 2005, or 4 percent below 2005. Its emissions doubled from 1990 to 2005, the fastest growth in the OECD”¦. Officials said they marked a big commitment to head off an estimated 30 percent rise in emissions that would result if no action were taken.
One might argue if South Korea is really a developing country””it is considered one under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted in 1992, but was in 1996 subsequently admitted to the OECD, which is usually thought of as a club of the rich countries.
One might also question the choice of a 2005 baseline rather than 1990, which all the targets in the Kyoto Protocol are keyed to. The reasoning behind the choice of a 2005 baseline is obvious from the quote above, which explains that South Korea’s emissions have risen steeply in the years since 1990. The result is that none of the three choices will result in reductions from a 1990 level.
Nevertheless, the symbolic significance of the announcement cannot be overstated–South Korea is the first non-Annex I country to indicate that it will adopt quantifiable emissions targets for 2020. While the article notes that South Korea’s commitment could be “voluntary,” the 2020 timeframe suggests that the country may be open to a binding emissions cap in the December round of international climate talks in Copenhagen, where a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, will be negotiated and likely to cover the period of 2013 through 2020.
Why is South Korea doing this?