Keco is the Vanguard of the Environment
Keco is the Vanguard of the Environment
Korea IT Times had an interview with the CEO of the Korea Environment Corporation (Keco), Park Seung-hwan, to learn about how Keco is the vanguard of Korea's fight against pollution.
Q. World Environment Day (WED) falls on May 5th. Why do you think the U.N. designated May 5 as World Environment Day and celebrates it annually?
A. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference), the U.N.'s first major conference on international environmental issues, was held under the theme of "Only, One Earth" in Stockholm on June 5, 1972. At the Stockholm Conference, June 5 was designated as World Environment Day to raise awareness of environmental issues and enhance political attention and public action.
The severity of environmental issues is so enormous that the whole world should pay keen attention and cooperate with a great sense of urgency. The most serious environmental threat of the 21st century is obviously climate change: melting glaciers, rising sea levels and hurricanes of unprecedented proportions are typical signs of global warming. The whole world is at pains to tackle climate change. The Korean government has also set "Low Carbon, Green Growth" as a national vision and made all-out efforts to realize the vision.
Q. We've learned that Korea Environment Corporation (Keco) has emerged by incorporating Korea Environment & Resources Corporation (ENVICO) and Korea Environment Corporation (Keco). Could you tell us about Korea Environment Corporation?
A. In a nutshell, Keco is a specialized institution providing a full range of environment-related services.
Focused on measuring pollution levels of the air, water, soil and waste and on building anti-pollution facilities, we are working at the forefront of the fight against pollution. First of all, to realize a low-carbon, green society, we are keen on implementing projects aimed at green house gas reductions. We launched a pilot carbon trading scheme in April of this year. And Carbon Point Project and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) certification are being implemented at the moment.
To improve the water quality of Korea's four major rivers, we have set up tele-monitoring systems (TMS). In addition, the Anti-Water Pollution Center is operating in Kumi, Kyungbuk, to ensure swift responses to possible environmental threats. Furthermore, we are working on environment-related health issues - such as sick building syndrome (SBS), atopy and asthma. Next year, we will launch a plan to compensate those who suffer from the deadliest environmental disease, asbestos lung cancer.
Q. We have heard that Keco has built basic infrastructure such as a system for the pilot carbon trading scheme that was kicked off in April of this year. Could you brief us on the pilot carbon trading scheme?
A. The Korean government has declared its goal of cutting green house gas emissions by 30 percent under the business as usual (BAU) scenario by 2020. (The BAU refers to the level of greenhouse gas emissions a country is projected to reach by a certain year if emissions grow at their current speed.)
To spearhead the efforts for green house gas reductions, Keco has carried out the pilot carbon trading scheme since April. The carbon trading scheme has drawn participation from companies, plants, large buildings and metropolitan councils. On a voluntary basis, 22 companies (30 plants), three distribution companies (163 stores) and 14 metropolitan councils (467 public entities) are participating. For three years, from 2010 to 2012, those participants will stick to the goal of cutting green house gas emissions by an average of 1 to 2 percent of the benchmark year's emission levels. Then, based on their report cards, they have to trade carbon credits to achieve their reduction goals.
To minimize trial and error at the beginning, we have crafted a carbon trading scheme suitable for domestic environments.
Q. We have recently heard news that Carbon Points have broken the one million mark. Small-scale efforts at home can contribute to global carbon reductions and be rewarded with incentives. It seems to be a nice system. What's the current situation of the system and what do you have in mind to further advance the system?
A. Since a pilot Carbon Point System was launched in November of 2008, the entire 232 local self-governing bodies have become part of the system. Then, an additional one million people from households, condominiums, business facilities and organizations joined the system, making it a national green movement.
The economic effect of the Carbon Point System is tremendous: a 10 percent cut in utility usage such as tap water and gas amounts to a total of 259,158 ton cut in CO2 emissions, or is equivalent to the effect of planting 5,183 pine trees.
Currently, the Carbon Point System is confined to electricity, tap water and gas, but will expand to local heating and mass transit. Also, the incentives, which are mainly provided in the form of cash and pay-as-you-throw bags, will be diversified into gift vouchers, free parking tickets, local tax deductions and reduced management fees of multi-family housing.
Q. Eye-catching are CleanSYS (a remote air pollution-monitoring system) and Airkorea that keeps track of yellow dust movements. What's the benefit of this state-of-the art equipment?
A. CleanSYS, a remote smoke stack-monitoring system, constantly measures the level of air-polluting substances from large plants. As of now, 1,312 smoke stacks at 515 plants are equipped with the cleanSYS. The concentration of major polluters like CO, NOX and SOX is being measured in real time. When the amount of an air-polluting substance reaches 80 percent of its emission cap, plants are given prior warnings. If it exceeds the ceiling, they get fined. This system has made significant contributions to Korea's improved air quality. Not to mention air polluting substances, green house gas emissions can be measured by CleanSYS that produces very accurate results in an efficient way.
235 atmospheric monitoring stations in 71 cities and counties measure fine dust levels including yellow dust, and the results can be found on Airkorea.or.kr in real-time. Airkorea.or.kr allows visitors to check the condition of the air in their neighborhoods and offer tips on how to respond to yellow dust storms.
Last year, over 450,000 visited Airkorea.or.kr, making it a popular anti-pollution site. I hope man and women in uniform take advantage of this site, too.
Q. There is a growing interest in electric vehicles (EV). And we heard that Keco will launch a pilot project to build charging stations. Given the environmental significance of the EV project, a lot of preparations, I guess, need to be made.
A. As the conventional transportation system has greatly contributed to global warming, transition to electric vehicles, I think, is only a matter of time. The commercialization of electric vehicles necessitates construction of charging stations and improvements in both EV speed and the speed of charging. As technological advances are being made so fast that its commercialization will be realized in the foreseeable future.
To promote EVs, we plan to build 16 charging stations at parking lots, gas stations, and public organizations by the end of 2011. And for two years, from 2010 to 2011, we will monitor charging-related issues (e.g. the amount of time required to charge electric vehicle batteries and convenience) and mileage, and plan to collect EV data on an ongoing basis.
We signed MOUs with a range of major industry players, for instance, Hyundai Motors, Kia Motors, Renault Samsung Motors, SB LiMotive, LG Chem, SK Energy, Samsung Electro- Mechanics, LS Cable, Lotte Mart and LS Industrial Systems - in a bid to push ahead with the EV project.
Q. Then come health-related issues. A growing number of people are suffering from environmental allergies like atopy. What are your countermeasures?
A. That is true. More people are suffering from environmental allergies like atopy and asthma. In particular, sick building syndrome (SBS) and nurseries with harmful environments have drawn a lot of public attention. Keco conducts environmental health risk assessments of playgrounds and nurseries and provides consulting services to remedy the situation. Also there is a program called "Green Coordi." in which healthcare environment consultants pay a visit to households so as to measure the amount of allergy-causing elements such as dust, ticks and hazardous substances. And they offer professional advice on how to remove them.