Can Environment and
Economic Growth Be Compatible?
- MCED adopts a proposed Seoul Initiative on Sustainable Growth

Many countries in the Asian and Pacific area are faced with a daunting task: how they harmonize their economic growth, essential for overcoming poverty, with its subsequent, pressing environmental issues, but Korea may be a good example on the compatibility between environment and economic growth, Korea's top environment policymaker says.
Environment Minister Kwak Kyul-ho said, "Korea's hosting the upcoming MCED 2005 is significant in that our nation may demonstrate how to harmonize the two conflicting issues as a frontrunner which has suffered the similar process during its economic growth".
"Korea's hosting the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, 2005 (MCED 2005) is also significant in that MCED 2005, to be held in Seoul will be the first global environmental conference following the Kyoto Protocol on climate change that went into effect on February 16," the minister said.
Minister Kwak said MCED 2005 will become the first official forum to take up an initiative for achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth, or "Green Economic Growth" in the area.
"This conference is expected not only to provide a momentum for each country to make efforts in achieving Green Economic Growth, but also serve as an opportunity for our people to renew the importance of compatibility of the environment and economic development," he said.
As MCED 2005 will adopt the so-called Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth Korea will propose based on the lessons learned on restoration of environmental pollution, accompanied by its modernization, it is likely to raise Korea's position as an advanced environmentally-friendly nation in the Asian and Pacific area, the minister said in an interview with NewsWorld prior to MCED 2005.
President Roh Moo-hyun and Korean economy-related cabinet ministers have been invited to the opening ceremony of MCED 2005, which will attract not only environmental ministers but also development ministers, he said.
Advanced systems have been implemented to tackle environmental problems in the categories of air, water and soil, so it is up to the environment to determine how much it improves, the minister said. He admitted that the challenges are that balanced national development and economic factors take precedence in considering railways, roads and other land development projects.
With regard to the latest environmental issues related to such state projects as tunneling of Mt. Cheonseong, part of the bullet train project, Minister Kwak said, the Environmental Ministry finds it difficult to play its roles on an equal footing since the environmental impact assessment system is designed to minimize the environmental side-effects any project would have, not to rescind the relevant project. A revision on the environmental impact assessment system, which will go into effect next January, will stipulate that the feasibility of projects and desirability of their planned sites shall be examined in the environmental perspective, a major headway in ensuring sustainable development, he said. The following are the excerpts of the interview with the environmental minister.

Question: What is the significance of Korea's hosting MCED 2005?
MCED 2005, being organized by the United Nations, is a gathering of cabinet-level ministers from the Asian and Pacific area being held every five years since its inception in 1985, with the aim of working out visions and action plans for ensuring sustainable development in the area.
The Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, 2005, to be jointly organized by UNESCAP and the Korean government, will be held from March 24 through March 29 at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul. The first, second and third MCED meetings were held in Bangkok and the fourth one, in Kitakyushu, Japan, in September 2000.
The Asian and Pacific area is now faced with a dilemma in which it is under mounting pressure on environmental preservation in the wake of its rapid economic growth and it has to continue the pattern to improve the living of a considerable number of the poor there. A 2001 report showed that about 62 percent of the global population resided in the region, which accounts for 23 percent of the world's total land area, and the developing counties in Asia and the Pacific have made marked economic growths with yearly industrial production growth averaging about 40 percent during the period between 1995 and 2002, compared to the global average of 23 percent. But those who earn less than $1 for living expenses are estimated at 700 million, 65 percent of the world's population in poverty, according to figures released by the World Bank in 2005.
In this regard, it is significant for MCED 2005 to become the first official forum to take up an initiative for achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth, or Green Economic Growth in the area. This conference is expected to provide a momentum for each country to launch efforts for achieving Green Economic Growth in earnest.
The conference is expected to serve as an opportunity for our people to be renewed about the importance of compatibility between the environment and economic development.
As MCED 2005 is to adopt the so-called Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth Korea will propose based on the lessons learned on the restoration of environmental pollution, accompanied by its modernization, it is predicted to raise korea's position as an advanced environmentally friendly nation in the Asian and Pacific area.
Through several side events such as the Environmental Technology Forum scheduled to be held during MCED 2005, Seoul will be able to publicize its excellent environmental industry and technology and strengthen its foothold into the Asian environment market that has grown at a rapid pace of 15 percent per annum with the value of its market standing at $78 billion exclusive Japan,

Q: Would you explain our readers about Korea's preparations for hosting MCED 2005?
Since last April when the Korean government made public its intention to host MCED 2005, during the 60th UNESCAP Congress, it has engaged in many preparation activities by establishing an MCED 2005 task force under the Ministry of Environment last June, working out a master plan for preparing the conference and building up an inter-ministry support network.
The government is making preparations for holding Civil Society Forum, Private Sector Forum, Eminent Scientists Symposium and Environmental Technology Forum as the side events of MCED 2005 to collect diverse voices from several walks of society, including private organizations, industry and academic circles.
Relevant government authorities are working together to offer to the participants of the conference the best service ranging from delegations' airport entry, protocol, safety to medical treatment in a bid to make MCED 2005 a success.
The preparation committee at the Ministry of Environment has beefed up its publicity activities with the aim of attracting the largest number of delegates in the history of the conference and raising public awareness and concern in Korea and abroad.
The ministry has been conducting in-depth research in cooperation with relevant ministries on the proposed Seoul Initiative, so as to explore substantive implementation plans for the compatibility of environmental and economic development.

Q: Could you give the details of the agendas of MCED 2005?
The theme of MCED 2005 has been become "Achieving Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth" in consideration of the challenges of the Asian and Pacific region: How to tackle mounting pressure for environmental preservation, coupled with rapid economic growth and to overcome widespread poverty through continuous economic growth. The details of the agendas are as follows: First, Ministerial Declaration on the Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific. Second, the Regional Implementation Plan for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, 2006-2010. Thirdly, the Seoul Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth.
The ministerial declaration is to give broad directions for a virtuous cycle of environmental preservation and economic growth. The Regional Implementation Plan for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific is to specify the ministerial declaration and contain discussion results on the actions of policies of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) adopted during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).
MCED 2005 is to adopt the so-called Seoul Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Development, which would propose three tasks on Green Economic Growth, reflecting the lessons Korea learned on the restoration of environmental pollution entailed by the 40-year rapid economic development process воиг compatibility of environment and economy, promotion of environmental sustainability and regional partnership.
Besides, the conference will make an assessment of the state of the environment in the Asian and Pacific area and explore ways of addressing such regional challenges such as the yellow dust phenomenon in Northeastern Asia, desertification in Central Asia and the destruction of marine ecosystems in the Pacific area.

Q: Would you explain the main and side events of MCED 2005?
MCED 2005 will be composed of the ministerial conference, senior officials meeting for MCED 2005 and side events.
Starting with the opening ceremony in the morning of March 28, the ministerial conference for MCED 2005 will be held between March 28 and March 29. The ministers will participate in roundtable discussions with prominent figures, and the chief delegate of each country will speak on each issue before the ministerial conference adopts its declaration.
Senior officials meetings on MCED 2005 will be held from March 24 through March 26 with bureau chief-level officials participating, which will present and coordinate outcomes to be discussed during the ministerial conference.
A variety of side events of MCED 2005 will start from March 23 and proceed through March 27 before the opening of the ministerial conference . NGOs from 16 countries in Asia and the Pacific will participate in the Civil Society Forum, titled with "The Role of Civil Society in Sustainable Consumption and Production." Industrial representatives will attend the Private Sector Forum (Public-Private Partnership), to be held under the theme of corporate responsibility for environmental practices in Asia and the Pacific.
The Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED), headed by former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, will hold a presentation session with prominent figures participating. The Eminent Scientists Symposium, chaired by ex-UNEP Secretary General M. Tolba, and the Environmental Technology Forum, designed to introduce Korea's environment technology, are expected to be held during MCED 2005.

Q: How many countries will likely send delegates or how many delegates will participate in MCED 2005?
About 300 people, including the ministers of the environment and development from the 62 member countries of UNESCAP and ranking government delegates, are expected to participate in MCED 2005. Representatives from such international organizations as UNESCAP, UNEP, UNDP, ADB and OECD and NGOs will also be present. About 1,000 people, including representatives from civic organizations, industry and academic circles in Korea and abroad will likely attend the side events of the conference. Such prominent figures as UNESCAP Secretary General Kim Hak-su, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, ADB President Kuroda Haruhiko, ex-UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba, ex-Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro, IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri and Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar are expected to participate in the conference.

Q: What steps did the Korean government take to brace for force of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change?
The global community has entered a new phase in the wake of the force of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change that became effective on Feb. 16. The government came up with a package of government countermeasures on climate change last Feb. 23, the third one of its kind, in a bid to join global efforts to tackle global warming and help Korea cope with steps to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses.
The latest package calls for 15 government ministries to spend 21 trillion won for 2005-2007 to implement 90 detailed programs for three projects for building up infrastructures necessary to implement the pact and to adjust to climate change and the other for reducing greenhouse gases in each sector. First, as part of its efforts to set up infrastructure necessary to implement the agreement, the government plans to push 29 programs, including those on revamping a variety of data on reduction of greenhouse gasses and analysis systems, the development of hydrogen energy, new and renewable energy technology and the development of environment-friendly automobiles. Secondly, the government will work on 45 programs, including the management of energy demand and supply for reducing greenhouse gases, the improvement of energy utilization efficiency, energy management of building, shipment and transportation sectors, and the reduction of greenhouse gases in such sectors as environment, waste materials, farming and livestock and forest sectors. Thirdly, the remaining 16 programs will be related to the impact on health and ecosystem, caused by climate change and how to cope with the impact.
The government plans to draft its proposal on the negotiations of Korea's assigned amount of greenhouse gasses emissions, which will be launched under the Kyoto Protocol regime. Advanced countries, including the EU, raised the need for developing countries committing to targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions during unofficial discussions of the Conference of the Parties at the 10th session held last December. In particular, Korea is expected to be placed under pressure to commit a target equivalent to those of advanced countries because the nation ranks ninth with 452 million tons of carbon dioxide and is one of the OECD member countries.
The position of the Korean government is that the nation is opposed to the implementation rule of the Kyoto Protocol calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of a given year, in consideration of its socio-economic conditions, but it favors a new, more flexible and voluntary approach aimed at guaranteeing sustainable growth.
In this regard, on the domestic front, Korea plans to explore new ways of reducing greenhouse gasses emissions through its research and analysis so as not to hinder the nation's sustainable development. On the external front, Korea will seek to solicit cooperation on the issue from the international society during the meeting of environment ministers from Korea, Japan and China, MCED 2005, and the joint workshop on climate change in Asia and the Pacific slated for next month in Seoul by strengthening collaboration with such counties as Mexico, China and India.
The government plans to make its utmost to maintain sustainable development and contribute to a cause to the prevention of global warming by scrutinizing countermeasures in Korea and abroad to cope with the pact on climate change, which could have a great impact on the local socio-economic sector.

Q: What steps does your ministry take to improve air pollution conditions?
Seoul is found to have the worst air pollution levels among the 31 OECD member countries, and social costs stemming from the situation are estimated at about 10 trillion won. Figures made available in 2003 showed that the emission level of fine particulate matter in Seoul stood at 69ppb, compared to 20ppb in London and 53ppb in Mexico, while that of nitrogen oxide in Seoul measured 37 ppb, also higher than 25 ppb for London and 27 ppb for Mexico.
The government has come up with such comprehensive and preemptive measures as the Total Air Pollution Load (TAPL) management system, shifting from postmortem systems like the former emission standards system that turned out to be insufficient for tackling the ever-worsening air pollutants of the Seoul Metropolitan area.
The government legislated the Special Measures on Metropolitan Air Quality Improvement last December and its related regulations that went into action last Jan. 1.
The TAPL management system, departing from the emission standards system, entails a policy of capping the amounts of pollution at pollutant sources in each district.
The environment minister will draft a master plan for improving metropolitan air quality, which allocates the maximum air pollutant allowances to each city and province within the environmentally allowable capacity. Each provincial and municipal government is required to regulate the amounts of each air pollutant at each source at each region.
Under the TAPL management system, industrial air pollutant emitters will be allocated to a total volume of allowable emission exhaust. Industrial sites exceeding their allowable amounts will face penalties with surcharges, and they will have the allowable amounts for the following year reduced. Those who have kept the mount of emission discharge below the allowable level will be allowed to sell the excess amount under an emissions trading system.
As part of the steps to regulate the car exhausts of moving vehicles, which take a lion's share in the air pollutant emissions at the Seoul Metropolitan area, automakers will be encouraged to produce and supply low-emission cars, and public organizations will be required to buy a portion of their cars with low-emission ones. Emission standards for diesel-fueled cars will be strengthened, and diesel cars emitting car exhausts above allowable levels will be forced to be overhauled with low-emission engines or put out of commission.
Among the steps taken to regulate air pollutants in the Seoul Metropolitan area are the strengthening of the allowable emission standards of incinerators and a ban on supplying paints containing excessive levels of volatile organic substances in the area.
The Metropolitan Air Quality Management Office under the Ministry of Environment have been established to take charge of the newly assigned tasks related to the force of the Special Measures on Metropolitan Air Quality Improvement and the Special Act.
If the special measures on regulating air pollution emissions in the Seoul Metropolitan areas are implemented successfully, Seoul's air conditions are predicted to be improved similar to those of advanced countries, with air pollutant emissions dropping to half the current levels by 2014. As a result, the emission levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxide are expected to be reduced from 71ppb and 37 ppb in 2001 to 40ppb and 22 ppb in 2004, respectively. In that case, air conditions will be likely to be improved to the extent that people can see the sea off Incheon by naked eye, and social costs, brought on by the air pollution, could be halved.

Q: The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) System enters its third year. Would you elaborate on the implementation of the system and its future plan?
In 1992, the government introduced the Waste Deposit-Refund System under which manufacturers are required to deposit the cost of retrieving waste products and recycling them and later refund the money on recycled waste products. As the deposits are considered as a kind of a quasi-tax, and the recycling rate of waste products remain stagnant at the 40 percent level. The Waste Deposit-Refund System was replaced with the EPR System aimed at imposing more responsibility on producers in recycling waste products.
The ERP System was launched in January 2003 with the application of 15 products, including TV sets, computers and electronics items, metal cans and glass bottles. With the addition of florescent lamps in 2004 and audio devices and handsets in 2005, 18 items are currently subject to the ERP system. The ministry plans to expand the system to cover printers, copiers and facsimiles in 2006.
In 2003, the year when the ERP System was introduced, recycled waste products increased to 1,049,352 tons, up some 12 percent from 939,885 tons in 2002 under the Waste Deposit-Refund System.
The government has built up an infrastructure for recycling waste florescent lamps and plastic items, which lacked in recycling facilities. Refused plastic fuel facilities increased from two in 2003 to 17 last year. Facilities capable of recycling 40 million waste florescent lamps per year have been established in three spheres, and a facility with a capacity of recycling 25,000 tons of waste electronic items yearly has opened in the Seoul Metropolitan area.
The government has provided institutional support with the establishment of 11 recycling business cooperatives of each item. The government subsidies for building up public recycling facilities have risen from 6.4 billion won in 2002 to 17.1 billion won this year.
The government is seeking to revise a relevant law to correct problems raised during the three-year implementation of the ERP System. It also plans to draw up the long-term development plans on the system, reflecting opinions from industry and experts and cases of foreign countries. nw

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