SEOUL, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- South Korea's carbon dioxide emissions increased 2.9 percent -- totaling 620 million tons -- in 2007, the government announced Monday, Xinhua reports.
That represents the highest growth rate since 2002 and is nearly three times faster than the growth rate in 2006. It is also a 103-percent increase from 1990 greenhouse gas emission totals.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea's emissions are the fastest growing of all industrialized states.
Seoul attributes the sharp rise to increases in fossil fuel output because of a fall in nuclear power generation as well as energy consumption in the country's steel and petrochemical sectors.
Yet South Korea regards carbon dioxide reduction not as a burden but a "business model," the country's climate-change ambassador, Rae-Kwon Chung, told Der Spiegel during the Copenhagen climate-change conference.
Rae-Kwon, who has been active in climate negotiations since they began internationally in 1991, is sometimes referred to as the "godfather" of the green growth movement, which contends that countries can boost wealth by reducing emissions.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times during the Copenhagen talks, Rae-Kwon said world leaders need to capture the "opportunity" of renewable energy technology. To do so, he said, they need to rethink some fundamentals of daily life: tax structures, transportation patterns and, most importantly, to accept that cheaper energy is better for economic growth.
"They're walking the walk" in South Korea, Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has worked closely with Chung on climate issues, told the Times. Schmidt said Chung "has had a very big impact in how South Korea views their role" on emission limits, domestically and internationally.
Recent announcements may confirm Schmidt's observations.
Last week South Korea said it plans to officially register by the end of January its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from the projected emission level in 2020 compared with 2005.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced Dec. 17 that $10 million would be used to establish a Global Green Growth Institute, bringing economists and top researchers together to develop new ideas.
And South Korea said Monday it would launch a carbon emissions trading scheme aimed at reducing the country's emissions 1 percent to 2 percent of 2005 to 2007 averages, reports Xinhua.
The Korea Stock Exchange would serve as a platform for the three-year pilot program, starting as early as late 2010, said the Ministry of Environment. A total of 641 organizations will participate, including South Korea's 14 local governments and 446 public organizations.