President Lee Myung-bak joined the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen held for 13 days from December 7 to December 19. He joined the conference on the 16th and delivered his keynote speech, entitled “Taking Action Together” on the 17th. He also made public Korea’s offer to host the 2012 climate talks in an attempt to promote the nation’s green growth strategy to the international community.
Heads of 193 countries, including the U.S.’ President Barack Obama, gathered at the Danish capital to produce an agreement on climate change. However, the conference ended with no legally-binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but instead with only the “Copenhagen Accord,” non-obligatory commitments that were not even ratified by participating nations. The current Kyoto Protocol is scheduled to expire in 2012, therefore the international community’s responsibility to come up with a legally-binding treaty is becoming increasingly critical. The Accord states that countries will try to reach a legally binding agreement on emission cuts at the next conference in Mexico in 2010.
At the conference, countries agreed to limit global warming to within two degrees C, however, it does not say how this will be accomplished. Countries also agreed to come up with a goal for both Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries to limit gas emissions. Annex 1 countries are countries with developed economies that had already agreed to reduce carbon emissions by five percent below their 1990 levels by 2012 under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Korea avoided being classed an Annex 1 country despite some pressure to be included in the group. With the history of being the world’s 16th largest greenhouse gas emitter in 2005, remaining as a non-Annex 1 country is perhaps Korea’s biggest accomplishment at the conference, according to Chung Rae-kwon, Korea’s ambassador on climate change. However, the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement said that Korea might have missed an opportunity to change its fundamental ways of living and doing business. Non-Annex 1 countries have been exempted from making cuts.
Countries also made clear their intention to set up a Copenhagen Green Planet Fund worth US$100 billion by 2020 in an effort to aid countries threatened by climate change. However, how the money will be collected was not clarified. Despite these efforts, the accord received criticism for being vague regarding targets for emission cuts. The Accord also failed to include a clause to rebuke countries that failed to meet reduction plans.
In his speech, President Lee urged a “me-first attitude” and ensured that the government will encourage businesses to become early movers in climate change. In addition, Lee announced Korea’s bid for the 2012 climate summit and stressed Korea’s hosting of the G20 Summit in 2010 would lead to the nation working closely with the U.N. regarding the selection of key issues. Korea’s bid is meaningful since it has set an example for developing countries with its “low carbon, green growth” programs. Seoul Korea recently made plan to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent from levels predicted for 2020, becoming the first to set up a reduction goal. Lee also mentioned in his speech that Korea annually invests two percent of its GDP into R&D for green technology and green infrastructure. He also expressed Korea’s strong desire to reduce carbon emissions and to seek new growth engines that will ensure development, create more jobs and result in a greener future.
The 2012 conference will be the 18th such conference and Korea is expected to compete with Qatar to host it. The winner will be announced at the next year’s conference in Mexico.