Go to contents

[Opinion] The Post-Kyoto Protocol

Posted December. 04, 2007 04:15,   


The 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began on the Indonesian island of Bali Monday. In the two-week meeting, some 10,000 attendees, including government delegates from 190 countries, NGO officials, industry lobbyists and reporters are expected to have a heated debate on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The conference is crucial because it will provide a framework for a new emissions reduction program that will replace the Kyoto Protocol that is set to expire in 2012.

Ivo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, who is presiding over the conference, said, “The science of climate change is clear. Now we need a political answer.” However, the prospects for the conference are not very bright. There are two main points of the debate. The first is whether to make emission reductions an obligation or not. The second is whether to require developing countries to reduce their emissions. Both are difficult issues because they involve conflicting national interests.

After refusing to ratify the Kyoto treaty in 1997, the U.S. made it clear that it opposes any form of emissions reduction quota. President Bush has also drawn a line, saying, “We should emit less, but not in a way that undermines economic growth.” China, which passed the U.S. to become the world’s largest emitter, and India, whose economy is growing at breakneck speed, claim that advanced countries should take more responsibility. Chinese Premier Won Jiabao said, “Rich countries should make a greater effort to cut emissions.”

Korea’s strategy as the world’s ninth largest emitter is to secure its national interests as much as possible in this kind of power game. Environment Minister Lee Gyu-yong said in a briefing Monday, “We will actively participate in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we cannot accept a mandatory emissions reduction like the Kyoto Protocol.” It supports China in arguing that advanced countries should shoulder greater responsibility for emissions reduction, while supporting the U.S. in claiming that emissions reduction should be left in the hands of the market. Korea is beginning to thread carefully in a long journey to a “post-Kyoto” deal.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com