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Seoul doubles '13 emissions reduction target ahead of cap-and-trade system

SEOUL -- South Korea on Monday doubled its target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions next year, as it moves towards the introduction of a nationwide cap-and-trade system in 2015.

The economy ministry said the country would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17.2 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2013, compared with this year's target of 8 million tons.

The new target, which is equivalent to three percent of expected total emissions in 2013, is aimed at 377 entities in the industrial and power sectors of Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The ministry said it had taken into account the additional burden on emitters, who argue that overly ambitious reductions will undermine profit margins and force cost-cutting layoffs.

“The government worked to reflect most concerns over a possible obstacle to investment and job creation ... when it set the greenhouse gas reduction targets,” the statement said.

It added that the new target would help increase the competitiveness of major emitters in preparation for the 2015 cap-and-trade scheme.

The scheme, approved by South Korea's parliament in May, limits industry emissions of carbon dioxide. But it allows companies to buy credits if they want to emit more, or sell credits if they can cut emissions.

The limits apply to companies that discharge 125,000 tons or more of carbon dioxide annually or workplaces that emit at least 25,000 tons a year.

Annual greenhouse gas emissions by South Korea have doubled in the past two decades to about 600 million tons from some 300 million tons in 1990, according to government data.

Australia and New Zealand have already approved carbon-trading systems, and China plans to start a cap-and-trade program in 2015.

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