South Korea To Launch Ambitious Carbon Trading Scheme, Says Report

South Korea is preparing to introduce the world’s most ambitious emissions trading scheme, potentially paving the way for carbon costs as high as $90 a tonne for many of the country’s key industries. That is the stark conclusion of a major new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and Ernst & Young, which hails the proposed scheme as the world’s most ambitious carbon-pricing policy but warns that changes to the proposals may be required before the scheme is introduced in 2015 to avoid “punitive” costs on industry. “If the government implements the scheme without any changes, it will have major implications for Korean companies,” said Richard Chatterton, lead analyst for carbon markets at BNEF, in a statement. “A carbon price will lead to higher power prices and impose additional costs on industrial firms. The government is mitigating the impact for covered entities by handing out most allowances for free, but costs could still rise quickly.” The report calculates that if South Korea adheres to its national target of cutting emissions to 30 per cent below business-as-usual levels by 2020 emissions reductions delivered through the planned emissions trading scheme would have to reach 836 million tonnes between 2015 and 2020. But it also predicts the “need to reduce emissions will, however, exceed the options available within industrial companies and from the country’s current fleet of gas fired power stations”, meaning that the target is likely to be missed and the price of carbon in the scheme will effectively be set by a $90 a tonne penalty price for company’s exceeding their emissions cap. The government hopes that businesses will be able to comply with the cap by accelerating the shift toward lower carbon energy sources, such as gas, renewables, and carbon capture and storage plants. But the BNEF report warns that the cost of such technologies is likely to be significantly higher than the penalty price, meaning many firms are likely to opt to exceed their targets. It recommends that the government consider a number of options to improve the proposed scheme, including relaxing the number of offset credits companies can use to count towards their carbon target or loosening the over-arching cap on emissions. “The challenge is to put in place a carbon price high enough to impact investment decisions, but low enough to transition smoothly towards a carbon-constrained economy,” said Milo Sjardin, head of Asia research for BNEF, in a statement. “With the proposed design, demand and supply within the ETS are not well-matched and will lead to unnecessarily high carbon prices. Policy-makers will need to look at cost containment measures closely while not compromising the ambitions of the scheme.” However, Yoon Joo-Hoon, senior manager at Ernst & Young, warned that while changes to the proposals could be made businesses still needed to be preparing now to the likely impact of the scheme, arguing that firms should be looking at carbon mitigation options and developing a plan for operating effectively under an emissions trading scheme. Taylor Scott International

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