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Mixed Greens: South Korea approves carbon trading scheme

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South Korea’s National Assembly has passed a bill to establish a cap-and-trade emissions trading system in the country by 2015 with the backing of both ruling and opposition parties, according to the assembly’s webcast of the main session on Wednesday. “The bill is needed to cope with global climate change and, domestically to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas efficiently,” Kim Jae Kyung, a member of the ruling New Frontier Party, said in the assembly’s plenary session before voting. Bloomberg reports that the bill was passed in a 148-0 vote, with 3 abstentions. In Australia, the federal minister for climate change and energy efficiency, Greg Combet, welcomed the move, describing it as an important step to drive sustainable growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Australia is now one of 34 countries around the world, including South Korea, that will use emissions trading as the primary vehicle to drive carbon pollution reduction. We are far from leading the world, as some have claimed.”

“By the beginning of next year, 27 European Union members, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, the US state of California and the Canadian province of Quebec will be using emissions trading to cut carbon pollution,” Mr Combet said. In February, South Africa announced a carbon tax starting in 2013. In March, Mexico passed a climate bill including emissions trading, South Africa is introducing a carbon tax, a number of EU countries are in the process of increasing or introducing carbon taxes (UK, Italy and Norway) and draft plans are emerging over China’s regional emission trading schemes.

Combet also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the opposition, which he claims has said “on no less than 10 occasions” that Korea would never pass an ETS. “This is just another of Tony Abbott’s misleading claims on climate change which is now proven wrong,” Combet said. And Climate Institute deputy CEO, Irwin Jackson, took up a similar theme. “The passage of the South Korean emission trading bill is further evidence that, contrary to popular belief, many leading developed and developing economies are not displacing climate change action with other economic priorities,” Jackson said in a statement. “In fact, countries like South Korea see the shift to low-carbon investments as crucial for their economic performance and global competitive advantage.”

Jackson also said that the ETSs in Australia and New Zealand, and now in South Korea and China could potentially provide a credible foundation from which to build a regional carbon trading coalition. “With emerging markets in South Korea and China, Australia has a unique opportunity to strengthen ties with other countries in the Asia Pacific region who are acting to reducing emissions domestically and internationally, ” he said. “The critical next step would be to engage potential sellers of credible carbon credits in the region. By giving developing countries such as Indonesia export opportunities from large scale emission reductions, emission trading coalitions can provide stronger incentives for developing countries to pledge and exceed their own emissions reduction targets.”

Combet has descirbed the South Korean ETS as similar to Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism, with both schemes covering “the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in our economies.” Both will commence cap-and-trade in 2015, and cover facilities emitting 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution – expected to be around 500 of the country’s largest emitters. The government will set emissions caps and reduction targets for each trading period. South Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and, according to the IEA, the world’s eighth-largest carbon emitter. Its greenhouse-gas emissions jumped to about 640 million metric tons in 2011 from 350 million tons in 1990, making it the fastest-growing emissions source among 34 nations in the OECD, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. South Korea imposed reduction goals in October 2011 on 458 polluters starting this year. They range from factories, buildings and livestock farms that produce at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Durban eyes sea-current power

Durban – the South African coastal city that hosted last year’s UN climate conference – is looking at a undertaking a “first-of-its kind” project to develop plants that would generate electricity from sea-currents. Bloomberg reports that the project would be developed by Florida-based company Hydro Alternative, which plans to develop a $20 million, 1MW demonstration unit that will generate power from the Agulhas Current, which flows past the city. The project is also being supported by the Durban Investment Promotion Agency. “Generating power from from a sea current has never been done before,” Mark Antonucci, co-chief executive officer of the Jupiter, Florida-based company said in a phone interview today. “All previous wave generation technologies have been tidal based.”

As mentioned above, South Africa is taking various steps to reduce the country’s reliance on coal, including the introduction of a carbon tax, as well issuing government tenders for the construction of renewable energy plants with a capacity of 3,725MW by the end of 2016. Antonucci says that the plan with the “Oceanus” sea current technology is to test it, and then build as many plants as required, each with a generation capacity of 8MW. So far four potential sites have been identified, where the plants would be submerged about 30 meters (98 feet) below sea level to prevent interference with shipping.

Enel Green digs deep for wind

Enel Green Power), the renewables unit of Italy’s biggest power utility, has signed up to a 12-year, €180 million ($US237 million) financing agreement with Denmark’s export credit agency and Citigroup to fund wind projects abroad. The Rome-based company said on Thursday that the funds would go towards the development of its 120MW Zephyr I wind farm in Romania, the 200MW Caney River project in Kansas, and the 90MW Cristal venture in Brazil. Bloomberg reports that Enel Green Power is expanding into new markets to counter lower demand in sovereign-debt ridden Europe. The company has earmarked global spending of €6.1 billion through 2016, with plans to add 4.5GW of installed capacity, including about 460MW of wind projects in Brazil, 340MW in Chile and 350MW in Mexico. It’s targeting about 500MW of wind power in Romania.

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