Huge Fight Against Environmental
Pollution, Climate Change
The Ministry of Environment all-out to improve the environment for humanity
Environmental pollution and climate change have been an issue confronted by governments around the world and Korea is no exception. The Ministry of Environment has been working to address the problems, which, if left alone, will wreak havoc on the earth. The ministry took measures to reduce the discharge of greenhouse gases and other moves to keep the environment clean and to fight climate change.
The following is a written interview with Chun Byung-seong, deputy minister of the Overall Strategy Office of the Ministry of Environment on the key environmental issues his office is facing:
Question: What are the key tasks that the Overall Strategy Office of the Ministry of Environment has to carry out this year?
Answer: The new governments's vision for environmental policies is to make Korea an advanced nation in terms of the harmonious growth of the environment, economy and society. To achieve such a vision, the Strategy Office will push policies related to environmental change, the growth of the environmental industry and the fight against environmental diseases.
To boost the measures against climate change, the office will prepare targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and strategies for the negotiation for the post-Kyoto system conference slated for 2013. The office will also work to increase the number of CNG buses and hybrid cars to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and launch a pan-national campaign to make greenhouse gas reduction part of the daily life in the country.
The strategy office will also set up a fund for the growth of the environment industry as a new growth engine to support the industry's facility investment and advancement overseas.
The office will also set up a special ordering system for environmental facility projects to create a solid domestic base and help the industry make inroads into such countries as China and Vietnam, among others, through a selection and prioritization process using a regional advancement strategy, which the office will prepare.
Finally, to boost the capability to fight against environmental diseases, the office will strengthen the watch system based on a survey to monitor the effects of environmental diseases including the health condition of residents of the Taean coastal area affected by the oil spill last November.
The office will make the management system of chemical materials an advanced one like that of the European Union and strengthen the standards for construction materials and polluted materials discharge. The office will also strengthen the preventive measures against diseases related to environmental degradation.
Q: What is the status of Korean enterprises to prepare for REACH and what are the plans for the future?
A: REACH is a system requiring reports on chemical materials produced and imported by the European Union in quantities of more than 1 ton per year to the Office of European Chemical Materials by producers of toxic materials, including those chemical materials used in cars and ships. For our exporters to be able to continue to export they have to pre-register the exports of those materials during the required period (June 1-December 1, 2008). The Ministry of Environment in cooperation with the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy conducted a survey of 3,000 chemical materials manufacturers in the country to find out how they have been coping with REACH in May. We found out that more than 500 firms are required to pre-register. Of the companies, 317 (64.4 percent) have not been able to meet the requirements due to complexity and vastness of the system.
The Environment Ministry has been providing services to those firms since 2006 by operating a support center and making visits to the companies having difficulties coping with the requirements. In addition, the ministry held a week long REACH event during the last week of May to stress the importance of pre-registration and implementation of the system.
The ministry has been monitoring the situation continuously through a mutual cooperation system with related government agencies and other organizations in order that exports to the EU should not reduced due the lack of pre-registration by companies required to do so. The ministry will find out what the problems are for those companies and strengthen its support and monitor the situation so that the companies will meet the requirements.
Q: How have domestic companies been coping with climate change and what are the plans for the future?
A: With the first phase of the Kyoto climate protocol obligation period starting this year for the reduction of greenhouse gases, the companies have been moving rapidly to cope with the new requirements.
For example, British Petroleum, DuPont and other global businesses set their own targets for greenhouse gas reduction and are expanding investments in the area of renewable energy sources and other related areas.
Measures to cope with climate change are required of domestic companies, especially auto and chip exporters as their survival depends on how well they adjust.
But it has been found that domestic companies still have a lot to do to cope with the requirements. The ministry's survey early in the year found that only 6 percent of the companies that are required to honor the climate change treaty have been taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with only 7.6 percent prepared with a plan to follow it and the remaining 86.4 percent with no plan at all.
Accordingly, the government will first make an inventory of corporate greenhouse gas emitters, train professionals and set up a control system for greenhouse gas emissions at job sites. But, most importantly, businesses themselves should understand the situation and set up strategies using this situation as an opportunity, not as a crisis, and implement those strategies to their advantage.
Q: What is the direction of the development of environmental technologies and what are the strategies for them?
A: Our country first began the development of environmental technologies in the name of G-7 in 1992 and from 2001 to 2010, a total of 1 trillion won will have been invested in next-generation environmental technology development projects.
The technologies for post-treatment in Korea amount to from 70 to 80 percent of those in advanced countries. Meanwhile, technologies for the revival of ecological systems and the prevention of environmental degradation are estimated at only 50 to 60 percent of the level seen in advanced countries. The government intends to make a heavy investment in R&D activities for technologies considered hopeful as an export item as part of its environmental and industrial technology export strategy in a bid to boost the share of our environmental technologies in the global environmental technology market.
Under the vision, the government will expand its investment budget for investments in environmental technology R&D activities by 2012. The government will at the same time push the large environmental R&D program including the "Eco-Star"business team, which will make investments in the environmental areas that have high marketability and a greater possibility of success.The government will also make huge investments in the fusion environmental technologies connected with IT and BT with ET as a base.
Q: Can you please explain the details of ENVEX and introduce the exhibition?
A: ENVEX is designed to mix environmental technologies with industry and to search for a hopeful environmental industry and foster it so that it may be able to make inroads into world environment market, which is why the event is held annually under the auspices of the Environmental Preservation Association with the support of the Ministry of Environment.
The event, the 30th this year, was held at COEX in Samsung-dong, southern Seoul, from June 10-13 and over 250 companies from 24 countries including the United States, Germany and Japan as well as 93 domestic companies attended and exhibited 2,500 new environmental technologies.
It is estimated that over 50 billion won worth of export talks were held at the event as some 80 buyers and government officials from 17 countries including China, Japan, and Canada attended the event. Major technologies displayed at ENVEX included ones to turn waste water from food waste into clean water and technologies to burn the methane gas developed during the purification of food garbage to create steam so that the garbage will be completely dry. Included was also an LPG-burning passenger car, which is environmentally-friendly, powered by an LPLi engine, a third-generation technology using purified fuel with low pollution material.
Q: Can you tell us something about the environmental guarantee that controls the production process of products such as cars, electrical and electronic products?
A: The environmental guarantee system is designed to hold down the use of toxic materials and produce products that can easily be reused and reduce waste material as a system for overall control of products. It is based on the Electric, Electronic Products and Vehicles Material Cycle Law implemented on Jan. 1 this year.
The products on the watch list include refrigerators, TVs, air conditioners, 10 electronic products, passenger cars, 9-seat SUVs and cargo trucks.
The system means to restrict the use of lead, mercury, hexavalent chrome and three other harmful materials and simplify the makeup of the materials so they can easily be taken apart.
Q: Please explain the prospect for building a national integration system for the measurement of environmental pollution managed by the Korea Environmental Management Corp.?
A: The distant watch system for smokestacks is a facility to measure the amount of pollution material discharged by smokestacks across the country. The ministry plans to connect the smokestack watch system with computers at the Environmental Management Corp." four monitoring centers around the country to monitor the discharge of pollution material 24 hours per day.
In 2006, the smokestack watch system was named CleanSYS to make it a brand. As of the end of 2007, a total of 462 plants attached CleanSYS to 1,123 smokestacks and they have been able to control and prevent the discharge of pollutants so that the companies can not only keep the air cleaner, but also save money. nw
Deputy Minister Chun Byung-seong of the Overall Strategy Office of the Ministry of Environment.
Deputy Minister Chun inspects an environment protection facility and to his right is NewsWorld Publisher Elizabeth M. Oh.