Robert Stavins and Ash Center Senior Fellow Daewon Choi meet with members of the Korean National Assembly.
Harvard Project Holds Discussions in Tokyo and Seoul
April 5, 2010
Author: Robert C. Stowe, Executive Director, Harvard Environmental Economics Program; Manager, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
Robert Stavins, Director, and Robert Stowe, Manager of the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements visited Tokyo and Seoul in mid-March to hold high-level discussions on climate change policy with policymakers and scholars. The first stop was Tokyo, where the Japanese Government had released a major draft framework bill on climate change policy only days earlier. The bill would establish a cap-and-trade system in Japan. Professor Stavins and Dr. Stowe met with members of the Japanese parliament, senior staff in the cabinet office, and leading officials in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economy, Trade, and Industry dealing with domestic and international climate change policy.
The Harvard Project conducted a seminar at the Canon Institute for Global Studies—a relatively new think tank in Tokyo directed by Mr. Toshihiko Fukui, a former Governor of the Bank of Japan. Participants included scholars and business leaders dealing with climate change policy. Professor Stavins also gave a presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, attended by journalists and special guests from the diplomatic and business communities.
The Harvard Project's meetings with climate change policymakers and others concerned with international climate change policy are central to the Project's mission. Project leaders convey the results of policy research—thereby enlarging the set of options under consideration by negotiators and policymakers—and receive valuable feedback that is used to further shape the Project's research agenda. Professor Stavins and Project staff have met with key climate change officials at four Conferences of the Parties (COPs) and other sessions of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (Bali, Poznan [Poland], Bonn, and Copenhagen); international capitals, including Beijing, Brussels, Canberra, London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Seoul, and Tokyo; and in Washington, D.C.
Japan is a significant country with regard to climate change policy. It is the world's sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (counting the European Union as a bloc and excluding land-use changes). Given the low carbon-intensity of its energy production in 1990—at the Kyoto Protocol base year (partly due to nuclear power being a significant percentage of total electricity production), it has been difficult for Japan to wring more emissions reductions out of its economy. Japan has therefore had to buy considerable emission credits internationally—including 41.5 million tons of Kyoto Protocol credits ("AAUs") in March 2010—a very significant purchase—which will bring it close to its Kyoto target (6 percent emission reduction by 2012 below 1990). Japan, having already taken its Kyoto obligations seriously, is, as noted, moving ahead with a domestic cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Professor Stavins and Dr. Stowe flew on to Seoul from Tokyo, where they met with senior advisors to the President for climate change, at the presidential Blue House complex; several members of the National Assembly; legal and economics scholars; and former cabinet ministers concerned with climate change. Professor Stavins conducted a seminar at the Korea Energy Economics Institute, a leading policy-research center in Seoul under the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Much of the discussion revolved around the Republic of Korea's "Green Growth initiative," announced by President Lee Myung-bak in August 2008 and advanced in a framework law passed by the National Assembly in January 2010. This law will be elaborated in other legislation, including a cap-and-trade bill, over the next two years.
Visiting Korea was important for the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements. As Professor Stavins discusses in his recent blog post, written on the way home from the Asian trip, Korea—with Mexico—is unusual in being both a long-time member (since 1996) of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and of the group of non–Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol, which have no direct commitments under that international agreement. The OECD comes as close as anything to defining the set of industrialized nations of the developed world. Thus, Korea has its feet planted firmly both in the developed world and the developing world (which is readily apparent even on a brief visit). This gives Korea remarkable credibility with the two key blocks in international climate negotiations.
In addition, Korea is hosting the G20 summit in November 2010—just weeks before COP-16 in Cancun, Mexico—which is likely to be an important complementary forum for advancing international climate policy. Finally, Korea has been particularly creative in its domestic climate policy initiatives and international proposals over the past year. Korea has a remarkable opportunity this year to provide leadership of the international community and make real progress on negotiations to address the threat of global climate change.
The Harvard Project gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance of three individuals who helped organize the visits to Japan and Korea: Mr. Daewon Choi, Research Fellow in the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School; Mr. Jun Kurihara, Senior Research Fellow at the Ash Center and Research Director of the Canon Institute for Global Studies; and Prof. Jiman Lee, former Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Korea Institute and a member of the faculty of Yonsei University in Seoul.
For more information about this publication please contact the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements Coordinator at 617-496-8054.
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