It will be impossible for emerging industrial powers such as China and South Korea ever to comply with the U.N. Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, South Korea's environment minister said on Thursday.
SEOUL — It will be impossible for emerging industrial powers such as China and South Korea ever to comply with the U.N. Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, South Korea's environment minister said on Thursday.
After years of delays, the U.N. plan to fight global warming went into force last month, but key countries such as the United States and Australia have refused to join the 1997 pact because they said it unfairly excluded developing countries.
Minister Kwak Kyul-ho is hosting a five-day environment conference in Seoul bringing ministers from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss environmentally sustainable economic growth.
The U.N. pact legally binds 39 developed countries to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012, but excludes from mandatory cuts big developing countries responsible for sizeable emissions of the heat-trapping gases.
"No matter what the cut required would be, it is impossible to follow the Kyoto Protocol measures that are based on the 1990 levels even if those countries wanted to," Kwak told Reuters in an interview, listing South Korea, China, India and Brazil.
Despite criticism from opponents of the Kyoto pact, there is no blueprint to include large developing countries, which are considered some of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases.
Kwak said such countries had come a long way since 1990 in terms of economic development, and it would be unrealistic ever to expect them to be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions based on that year's levels, Kwak said.
South Korea is the ninth largest emitter of carbon dioxide, he said, the most significant of the six global warming gases covered under the U.N. pact.
He said Seoul's commitment to take part in cutting greenhouse gas emissions was firm, but called on the international community to devise a more realistic standard to curtail global warming.
"We must look for greenhouse gas reduction measures that all countries can take part in," Kwak said.
"Expensive Price to Pay"
He said Seoul, a bustling metropolis that is home to more than 10 million people, had been both a success and a failure in merging environmental concerns with rapid economic development.
Kwak said the shape of the hugely modernised city, still undergoing transformation to an even greater concentration of high-rise structures, offered a fitting setting for an international conference to study how to tackle preservation of the environment as a vital part of development.
"The lessons we have learned in healing environmental destruction is that it should not be post-development response but prevention," he said.
"South Korea has paid a very expensive price of destruction and pollution in the process of development," said Kwak, a technocrat who spent his entire career on merging environmental concerns with pressing development issues.
South Korea, the world's 11th largest economy, still relies heavily on manufacturing industries and international trade.
Senior officials from more than 62 member countries of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) are taking part in the conference which opened on Thursday.
The agenda includes a look at strategically viable "green growth" measures and ways of aiding the recovery of countries devastated by December's Asian tsunami.
(Additional reporting by Lee Suwan)