North Korea saw its forests shrink by nearly 31 percent in the past 20 years, a report by an international organization said Tuesday.
The size of forestlands in North Korea is down 30.9 percent as of 2010, compared to 1990, the 2013 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program said. The report ranked about 40 developing countries in terms of human development. It disclosed the North Korean data without including the country in its ranking.
The report also said that as of 2011, 8.6 percent of its animal and plant species are in danger of extinction.
The average life expectancy in North Korea is 69 while an average North Korean woman gives birth to two children in her lifetime as of last year, according to the report.
The average infant mortality rate — the number of babies who die within one year of their birth per 1,000 babies — reached 26 as of 2010 while the corresponding death rate for children under the age of five stood at 44, the report also noted.
A total of 6.6 North Koreans out of 100 used fixed-line or mobile telephone services as of 2010, according to the organization. Recent data from other sources have shown that the country with a population of about 25 million people had 660,000 mobile service subscribers in mid-2010. The number is believed to have soared to 1.5 million in late 2012.
The North Korean authorities are apparently proposing to reduce the size of hillside plots farmed privately from thirty pyeong down to ten (1 square meter is equal to 0.3025 pyeong), while all remaining acreage is meant to be handed over to existing cooperative farms.
A source from Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 29th, “A cadre from the county Party Committee just told a packed meeting of the Union of Democratic Women that ‘the policy is that from this year all private plots of land are to be limited to ten pyeong, and the other twenty will be taken away and assigned to cooperative farms. That which is in the mountains will be used for planting trees’.”
The source continued, “We must also pay fifty won per pyeong in order to farm the ten pyeong that is allowed, and there will be severe penalties for transgressors,” before reiterating a common refrain in conversation with North Korean civilians: “The rations only last for three to four months anyway, so people have to live off their plots of land. Taking away their land is the same as taking away their food.”
From a state policy perspective, the step appears designed to refocus energies on cooperative farming activities, in the hope that this will increase the productive capacity of the official farming sector in an effort to attain the sort of production levels required for the implementation of the June 28th Policy of farming reforms announced domestically in July 2012. However, it is thought unlikely that this will come about, and, conversely, the source predicted that the measure, if widely implemented, would have a detrimental effect on overall output and decrease the amounts of grain entering markets.
Partly this is because, while people are not technically meant to hold more than 30 pyeong of private land, in reality many are cultivating more even than this; in many cases, more even than their formal work unit is responsible for. This is because only by farming soybeans, cabbage, radish and other agricultural goods are many able to eek out a secure living.
Read the full story here:
Farmers in a Muddle over Private Land Order
Gross domestic product in the communist nation increased 0.8 percent in 2011 after a 0.5 percent decline in 2010, according to an estimate published by the Bank of Korea in Seoul. The nation’s economy has contracted during four of the last six years, the bank’s data show.
“The manufacturing sector declined, but the agricultural industry enjoyed better weather and more use of fertilizer,” the Bank of Korea said in an e-mailed statement.
North Korea is projected to keep growing under the new leader as its economic ties with China and Russia develop.
“Mineral exports to China and dollars brought in by North Korean workers sent to China and Russia would have driven the country’s GDP growth,” said Koh Yu Hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “North Korea is expected to be economically stronger under Kim Jong Un as it continues to increase transactions with its allies.”
Kim Jong Un has waged a nationwide campaign to “bring about a turn in agriculture” and increase crop yields, according to a June 7 report carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea’s agriculture and fisheries sector expanded 5.3 percent in 2011 while manufacturing fell 3 percent, according to the BOK report.
North Korea’s nominal GDP totaled 32 trillion won ($28 billion) in 2011, compared with South Korea’s 1,237 trillion won, the BOK said. North Korea’s per capita income was 1.33 million won while South Korea’s was 25 million won, according to its estimates.
After adjusting for inflation, North Korea’s economy remained smaller at the end of 2011 than it had been in 2008, according to the Bank of Korea.
The North Korean economy is undergoing changes. In fact, last year there was actually some growth, with GDP increasing .8 percent, versus a .5 percent decline in 2010. The North Korea GDP (about $28 billion, compared to $1,100 billion for South Korea). Thus even with a larger population, the average South Korean has 20 times more income as their northern counterparts. Moreover, income distribution is quite different in the north, where about two-thirds of the population is very poor and very hungry. The other third contains the well-fed ruling elite (whose lavish country estates can be seen via commercial satellite photos) and their supporters (secret police, military officers, bureaucrats) plus the semi-legal merchant class that has been allowed to develop over the last six years to avoid total economic collapse.
The economic decline in 2010, was the result of agricultural (floods) and industrial (massive power shortages) failure. But China came to the rescue by offering to set up mining operations in North Korea and buy billions of dollars-worth of minerals each year. China rebuilt railroads to handle the increased traffic from the remote North Korean mines. In addition, China offered legal jobs for North Koreans in China. The only catch was that the North Korean government took most of the pay. Similar deals have long been used with Russia but China offered far more jobs under more comfortable conditions. Competition for these jobs is fierce in North Korea and the government selects those deemed least likely to run away.
Last year North Korea bought more fertilizer for farmers and the weather was pretty good. That, plus the growing income from Chinese run mines and North Korean workers in China made up for the continuing declines in manufacturing. A good year on the farm is a big deal in North Korea, where farming and fishing are 23 percent of the economy (compared to under three percent in the south). But this year all of Korea is suffering from a record-breaking drought. This is hurting the north a lot more than the south. Although the monsoon (jangma) rains recenly arrived, a month late, the damage was already done in the north. Three months of very hot and very dry weather has seriously damaged crops. The rains will save some of them but at least a fifth of this year’s crops will be lost.
[U]nder the terms of the [Kyoto] protocol, North Korea, as a developing country and a member of the United Nations, has the right to build clean energy projects that may apply for Certified Emission Reductions, or CERs, popularly known as carbon credits. The North Koreans can then sell them to a rich country or company that needs the credits to offset its own greenhouse gases. Dig into data from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, and you will find seven North Korean projects registered for carbon trading.
This is where Miroslav Blazek comes in. Blazek, director of Czech company Topic Energo, acts as a link between North Korea and potential carbon credit buyers. He says his experience as manager of a tractor factory in socialist-era Czechoslovakia is invaluable for doing business with the communist North Koreans. “I can work with them because I understand how their system works,” he says. “If I send an e-mail and still don’t have a reply in several days, I know it’s not because they didn’t see it but because it had to work its way through the chain of command. For me it’s like a trip down memory lane.”
North Korea is now building seven hydroelecrtric plants, which provide some of the cleanest energy going. Most can earn tradable carbon credits. Blazek says the North Koreans “jumped” at the opportunity to get into carbon trading: “They immediately grasped that this is a way to make money.” Korea’s seven dams may generate as many as 241,000 CERs a year, worth almost €1 million ($1.3 million). “The projects are already in a relatively advanced phase,” says Ondrej Bores, director of carbon advisory services at Virtuse Energy in Prague, who’s worked with Blazek on other deals.
Still, selling anything made in North Korea has its challenges. More than 30 potential buyers pulled out because of the U.S. embargo on trade with North Korea. Blazek finally struck a deal with a Chinese-controlled conglomerate that needs credits to offset emissions from facilities in Europe. He won’t name the company, citing a confidentiality clause.
UPDATE 8 (2012-2-14): I have been notified that the certification program is proceeding. From a reader:
There has been a statement by the 1718 committee (on sanctions) that CDM projects in NK do not violate UN rules.
[Seven] hydropower plants did get their validation and underwent a process of “clarifications and corrections” as foreseen by UN rules. After the final report (which might have been already issued or might be issued soon) they will go for final vote to the UNFCCC.
Currently, North Korea works on projects as diverse as methane gas from coal mines, biogas and electricity-saving light bulbs.
UPDATE 6 (2011-7-11): It looks like none of the DPRK power stations have been approved by the UNFCC for the CDM program as of this date. A reader notes:
[I] just searched through the entire CDM database with the category numbers for these projects, and as far as I can see none of these has got beyond validation phase['s] comments phase, and judging by some of the comments – “It is evident from the PDD [Project Design Document] that the values are consistent and it is definitely forged and cooked up values to show a non CDM project as a CDM project” – being one of the more polite, that I’d be amazed if they make it beyond that. [It] looks like the DPRK hasn’t got its environmental and managerial audit systems quite up to date yet.
UPDATE 5 (2011-7-11): I just checked the UNFCC web page, and it appears that in addition to the hydro power plants mentioned below, the North Koreans also submitted the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in Pyongyang Textile Factory” [sic] for carbon offsets on May 23, 2011. According to the UNFCC web page, the project is in the portfolio of the Carbon-Trade Division, GBCIO, Ministry of Foreign Trade.
UPDATE 4 (2011-7-11): DPRK begins construction of Ryesonggang Power Stations 3 and 4
Pictured above (Google Earth): Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (례성강청년발전소).
I have not had the time to pinpoint the exact locations of these power stations using Google Earth. Since the imagery is older, it will take some time to match up the mountain contours. However, we have a general idea where they are located: between the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 and 6. These are mapped out in the image at the top of this post. The satellite imagery is of Thosan (토산군) and Kumchon (금천군) counties.
Since I have a job, am in graduate school, am a landlord, and running this web page, I have not had time to follow up with the UNFCC to see if they have approved these projects for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). If there is an enterprising journalist or reader who cares to find out the answer, please let me know.
UPDATE 3 (3/23/2011): According to the UNFCC web page (select Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the “Host Party” box), these are the eight power stations that have been submitted for consideration:
The UNFCC web page does not mention the locations, size, or power generation capacity for most of the dams, but I am sure that information will trickle out over time. With the exception of the Kumya Power Station (See satellite image below), none of these facilities are visible on Google Earth–but related facilities are: the Paektusan Power Station 1 (See satellite image below) and Ryesonggang Power Station 1, 2, 6 (See satellite image below). The Hamhung Power Stations are probably in or near Hamhung, and the Wonsangumin project is probably near Wonsan.
And according to an email from the UNFCC:
This list contains all the projects which have already started and for which a notification of CDM prior consideration has been submitted. This notification is necessary to prove that the incentive of the CDM was a decisive factor for taking up the project when a project has started before a project design document (PDD) has been published for global stakeholder consultation or a new methodology in connection with the project has been submitted. However, kindly note that these projects have not yet entered the CDM project cycle as lined out in the CDM rules, requirements and procedures, and to submission for registration has yet been made.
Further details on the CDM project cycle are available here: http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/diagram.html
More information will be added here as time passes.
UPDATE 2 (3/11/2011): The DPRK has apparently registered eight power plants with the UNFCC. According to Reuters:
North Korea has registered eight hydroelectric plants with the United Nations, and if approved, could allow the world’s most reclusive state to sell carbon offsets to earn precious hard currency.
These hydropower projects were registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for prior consideration in getting carbon credits, some of which have a capacity of 20 megawatts, the UNFCCC website showed.
Prior consideration is the first step for accreditation toward the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism that allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions from clean-energy projects.
Bernhard Seliger, a messenger for North Korean officials on these projects, said the United Nations uploaded the information on Thursday after he submitted related forms on behalf of the North Korean government’s carbon trade division in late February.
“I have no idea when the U.N. makes a decision… North Korea has to finish the power plants, which up to now are only half-finished dams,” Seliger, Hanns Seidel Foundation’s representative in South Korea, told Reuters via email.
Analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, concerned the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.
North Korea hopes to earn much-needed hard currency by selling UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro-power projects, as the country faces sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.
If approved and registered by the UN, these would be the first projects for North Korea under a scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions reductions from clean-energy projects.
Some analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, with fears the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.
The government has asked the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, which focuses on humanitarian issues, to act as a go-between by working with UN-approved verification agency TUV Nord.
According to Bernhard Seliger, the foundation’s representative in South Korea, North Korea is initially looking at trying to get approval for three hydro power plants of 7-8 megawatts (MW).
Seliger visited the three hydro-plant construction sites in the north-east corner of the country in January.
In a statement, TUV Nord confirmed the foundation had engaged their services.
“In this respect, TUV Nord intends to verify hydropower dams in North Korea once pre-registered with United Nations framework conventions on climate change [UNFCCC] via the Beijing branch of its Chinese subsidiary TUV Nord Guangzhou,” it said.
If registered, the plants could yield millions of euros over several years.
Beijing-based lawyer Tom Luckock, who specialises in projects that curb greenhouse gas emissions, estimated that an 8 MW hydro plant could yield about 23,000 UN offsets a year.
The offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), are generated from registered CDM projects, such as wind farms, that are rewarded for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The offsets currently trade at nearly €12 (£10) each and are bought by governments in rich nations that need to meet UN emissions reduction targets.
Europe is the biggest buyer, with large polluting firms allowed to buy the offsets to meet a portion of their emissions reduction targets under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.
“Finding ways to secure foreign currency is the priority for North Korea, which is linked to everything from food to raw material imports to boost reduced productivity,” said Cho Myung-chul, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.
Seliger said North Korea, which signed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact in 2005, was also interested in biomass power generation projects under the CDM.
The UN-approved national agency that assesses and approves CDM projects in North Korea was not available for comment.
Questions remained on demand for North Korean CERs.
“Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons programme?” said Choi Soo-young, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Cho said the UN needed to prevent outside cash going into its nuclear development activities, while Luckock, of global law firm Norton Rose, said: “Their limited access to hard currency has to be a concern for buyers – the damages clauses will carry limited weight without some security there.”
Another challenge is that North Korea would have to make public its energy consumption and generation data and disclose information on the amount of energy linked to the hydro project.
“Annual inspection, constant measurement and energy flow posting on the [UNFCC] website – all these things are new for North Korea,” Seliger said.
“We are talking about eight power plants, with the smallest size about 7.5 megawatts. These are not big projects but small or medium-sized projects,” Bernhard Seliger told AFP.
None has yet been completed, he said.
“I saw some (construction) sites in South Hamkyong province but that’s not all. There are other plants in other regions,” Seliger said, adding that some of the projects are led by the UN Development Programme.
The Hanns Seidel Foundation has been working since 2003 to build the North’s development capacity, and in 2008 organised a seminar on carbon trading for Pyongyang officials at their request.
The tradeable credits, called Certified Emissions Reductions, are awarded for approved clean-energy projects such as hydropower plants or wind farms.
Big polluters elsewhere in the world can buy them as part of their efforts to cut emissions.
Seliger said his foundation is helping the North to prepare for the auditing process required to join the UN carbon credit trading system known as the Clean Development Mechanism.
“One good thing about this project is that it is very transparent, involving monitoring and auditing on an annual basis… I think it is very good for North Korea to participate in such an international regime,” said Seliger.
An official at a South Korean state agency, the Korea Energy Management Corp, said registration would take at least a year or two and it was unclear how much the North would be able to earn if approved.
The official, who declined to be identified, said a typical eight-megawatt hydropower plant could yield about 19,500 carbon credits each year, each of which was currently traded at 12 euros in global markets.
This would amount to around $327,000 a year.
But some buyers may shun the communist state, given its history of nuclear and missile development which has led to international sanctions.
“Government buyers will certainly shy away from dealing with the North,” said Koo Jung-Han, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance.
“But private companies have few reasons not to buy credits from the North as long as it can offer a competitively low price. However, the big question is whether the North will be able to build the plants without outside financiers.”
Koo said that countries hoping to buy carbon credits from upcoming overseas projects often encourage investment in the ventures by their own finance companies.
“But what kind of financial companies will take a plunge in projects in such a volatile, politically risky country like North Korea?”
The North suffers persistent power shortages even in the showpiece capital Pyongyang.
Many rural areas receive power only during key agricultural seasons, and must rely for the rest of the year on alternative fuels, according to a recent policy paper published by the Nautilus Institute think-tank.
I am not sure which hydro power stations the DPRK is planning to submit to the UN, but many have been been highlighted in North Korean “media” in recent years:
Kumya River Dam A dam is being constructed in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province, to provide electrical power. Kim Jong-il last visited in August 4, 2010. It is just one of several dams under currently under construction in the DPRK.
Here is a satellite image of the Kumya dam’s construction (Google Earth: 11/25/2008, 39.574232°, 127.104736°)
This new reservoir will flood the locations of three villages (리): Ryongnam-ri (룡남리), Ryongsang-ri (룡상리), and Ryongchon-ri (룡천리).
Estimates of the reservoir size are made by me, but it is fairly obvious where the North Korean engineers expect the reservoir to flood because they have already relocated the villages from their former locations in the flood zone.
Kumjingang River Power Stations
Beginning in 2000, the DPRK has constructed three power stations on the Kumjin River (금진강) in South Hamgyong Province. The first was the Kumjingang Power Station (금진강발전소). The second was the Kumjingang Hungbong Youth Power Station (금진강흥봉청년발전소). The third was the Kumjingang Kuchang Youth Power Station (금진강구창청년발전소). All three are pictured below on Google Earth:
It does not appear that these projects have resulted in dislocated villages.
Wonsan Youth Power Stations
Below is a satellite image of the Wonsan Youth Power Stations No’s. 1-4 (원산청년발전소). These projects required the construction of both the Kuryong Reservoir (구룡저수지) and an appx 8.5 mile (13.69km) tunnel to link the hydro power stations with their power source. The inaugural ceremony for these facilities was on January 10, 2009.
The construction of the Kuryong Reservoir resulted in the dislocation of three villages: Kuryong-ri (구룡리), Konja-ri (건자리), and Haerang-ri (해랑리).
Orangchon Power Station No. 1
Kim Jong-il offered guidance at the Orangchon Power Station (어랑천1호발전소) in February 2007. This facility will probably not be submitted to the UN for scrutiny because it lies just outside the security perimeter of what human rights groups assert is Kwan-li-so No. 16.
Anbyon Youth Power Stations No’s 1 & 2
The Anbyon Power Stations (안변청년1-2호발전소, 38.954400°, 127.538912°) are powered by waters from the Imnam Reservoir (임남저수지) via an underground tunnel nearly 45km in length. Much more here.
Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1-6
Some of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations (례성강청년1-6호발전소, 38.367696°, 126.781096°) appear to be under construction in North Hwanghae Province. The North Korean “media” has only broadcast images of the Ryesonggang Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (all completed), so I presume that power stations 3, 4, and 5 are too new to show up on available Google Earth Satellite imagery. Below I post images of the distance between power stations 1 and 6 as well as close-ups of both facilities.
Power Station No. 1 was completed in 2007 and most recently received media attention in South Korea in September 2009 when the DPRK released a massive amount of water from its dam (Hwanggang Dam), causing floods in South Korea that killed six people. An estimated 40,000,000 short tons (36,000,000 t) of water was dumped during the flood, causing the water level at the border of Gyeonggi-do to leap from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 15.1 feet (4.6 m).
Power Station No. 2 (38.324008°, 126.673366°) has been completed, but it is too new to appear on Google Earth satellite imagery. I have drawn it on Google Earth below:
Construction of Power Station No. 2 resulted in the dislocation of approximately 27 houses, but I have not been able to determine if any other villages were relocated due to construction of the other facilities.
Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations
The North Korean media has also done a lot of advertising for the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations (백두산선군청년발전소) in Paekam County, Ryanggang Province (41.716931°, 128.786163°).
These dams have resulted in the dislocation of two small communities as well as the severing of the old railway lines that connected Unhung, Kilju and Paekam with Musan. Maybe the railway lines have been moved to accommodate the new dams, but it is also unclear if these line were in use to begin with.
Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station
Up until recently I believed the Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station (북창룡산발전소, 39.596238°, 126.266478°) was a large-scale river-straightening project, but according to recent KCTV footage (which I posted to Youtube here) it is in fact a hydro power station. Work on this project began sometime around the spring 2002 (as best I can tell).
Huichon Youth Power Stations
The Huichon Youth Power Stations No. 1 & 2 have received the most attention in the North Korean media. I recently located them and will post something soon.
Since the DPRK will likely be subjecting several of these (or other) power plants to international scrutiny, I look forward to seeing that data published. KCNA is short on details and the disclosed information would facilitate more accurate assessments of the DPRK’s domestic hydro-power generating capacities.
A reader writes in with the following comments:
I would like to share some comments on the potential CDM projects in north Korea as i have been working on this field for many years now.
Concerning existing hydropower plants:
To be eligible to a CDM project, one of the first criteria is the additionality of the project. You have to prove (the rules are very stricts) that the project would not have been launched without the consideration of the revenues from the reselling of the CERs.
So the Dams that have already been buit are not eligible.
Concerning hydropower plants that are being implemented:
The first step of a CDM project is to notify to the UNFCCC secretariat and to Designated National Authority (in this case the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Committee of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Environment) that you are seeking to establish your project as a CDM project.
Up to now, no such notification has been received by UNFCCC so it would be quiet difficult for projects being implemented to ask for the CDM status (i mean nearly impossible).
Some facts concerning future hydropower projects:
From the day you send the notification that you are seeking the CDM status to the day you are actually given the status, it takes in average 2 to 3 years (they would have to build the plants during this period)
Then it can be at least another year before you receive the CERs.
The price of 12 euro for a CER is for secondary market. The price for primary CER (directly sold by the producer) would be much less than 8 euro.
The figure of 20 000 CERs/year is completely unpredictable for the moment, here is a simplification of the calculation:
One CER is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent that would be avoided by producing clean electricity. For example when you produce 1 MW electricity from coal, the process releases X tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but when you produce 1 MW from a hydropower plant, you do not release CO2.
In order to calculate what the CDM project would be able to claim, we would have to know the CO2 emission factor of the North Korean grid and then multiply it by the amount of MWh produced by the CDM project.
If most of the electricity produced these days in North Korea already comes from hydropower plants, then the national emission factor will be low and the CDM project will not avoid a lot of CO2 emission (and so not earn a lot of €)
Without the capacity of the future project and the national emission factor, it is impossible to estimate the amount of CERs the project could generate.
The CDM status seems quiet unrealistic to obtain for North Korean projects but other international agreements are discussed these days and their outcome may be more adapted.
Nuclear-armed but cash-starved North Korea has expressed interest in joining the world carbon market in an apparent bid to earn precious hard currency and avoid international sanctions, an expert told RFA.
But the secretive Kim Jong Il regime has to disclose critical information, such as energy consumption data as well as methods by which it derives energy, to be eligible for funding under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said the North Korea expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The CDM is aimed at encouraging companies or organizations in the developed world to invest in carbon dioxide emissions-saving projects in developing countries.
In return for funding and technology transfer, investors receive carbon credits, which can then either be traded on carbon markets or used to reduce their own emissions tally if they are subject to a domestic cap.
The Kyoto Protocol set emission caps for 38 countries through 2012, establishing the CDM as a worldwide carbon market. It is a cornerstone of the group’s efforts to tackle global warming.
The North Korea expert told RFA on Jan. 13 that Pyongyang intended to apply for funding via the CDM and that the regime might list its proposed hydro-electricity power projects under the U.N. mechanism.
UN refrains from comment
When contacted on the North Korea move, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the secretariat charged with implementing the global environmental treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, said it would refrain from commenting on individual country projects.
The North Korea expert estimated that one ton of carbon dioxide would trade for about U.S. $26 dollars and if a hydro-electric power project was registered under the CDM, depending on the carbon credit bid price, about U.S. $1 million dollars could be earned annually.
A hydro project registered under the CDM would need to be evaluated by U.N. inspectors for it to qualify for carbon credits. Usually, it would be evaluated continuously for about 14 years.
Details, including the amount of energy linked to the hydro project and potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, would have to be submitted.
North Korea has been mostly reluctant to share information about its energy generation activities.
According to the expert, North Korea has recently displayed “great interest” in the possibility of operating hydro-electric power stations to alleviate its domestic energy shortages and to acquire “carbon credits” that it could, in turn, sell on the international carbon market.
As North Korea’s economic crisis worsens, Pyongyang is seeking ways to earn hard currency following a failed currency reform and due to sanctions imposed by the international community over its nuclear and missile developments and provocations targeting South Korea.
The interest in the CDM is likely to be part of this search.
The North Korea expert also said that earning hard currency through “carbon credits” would not be subject to sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under UN Security Council resolutions, and that any North Korea’s application for participation under the CDM “may stand a chance.”
“For North Korea, this could be an opportunity to earn hard currency without engaging in illegal armament sales, while operating an electric power station in transparent fashion, and accepting strict monitoring by the UN, and abiding by applicable international standards.”
The United States has been pressing China to use its influence to persuade North Korea regime to end recent provocations and return to disarmament talks involving the three countries and South Korea, Russia and Japan.
The six-party nuclear talks were last held in 2008. The impoverished North has been seeking a restart to the nuclear negotiations, which propose to reward its gradual nuclear disarmament with phased infusions of economic aid.
In a bid to renew dialogue and ease chances of conflict, South Korea recently proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to prepare for high-level defense talks. On Friday, the North suggested parliamentary talks between the two sides.
Read the full story here:
North Korea Eyes Carbon Market Radio Free Asia 1/29/2011
ORIGINAL POST (2012-5-8): On 2012-5-8 KCNA posted two articles citing a publication by Kim Jong-un on “land management”. The paper, titled “On Effecting a Drastic Turn in Land Management to Meet the Requirements for Building a Thriving Socialist Nation”, was not posted but will no doubt be offered for sale to Pyongyang tourists before too long. However until I receive a copy, the two KCNA articles below will have to do:
Last month, North Korea invited 14 scientists from eight different countries — five alone from the U.S. — to attend a conference with 75 North Korean scientists, and provide their expertise on restoring the country’s environment and securing domestic food supplies. Dr. Margaret Palmer, executive director of Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland and one of the scientists who appeared at the conference, recently spoke with the New York Times about her assessment of North Korea’s ecological crisis and its government’s capability to deal with it.
“It’s a depressing landscape, especially this time of year,” Palmer told the Times. “Everything is just mud and everything is being farmed, or attempted to be farmed. But their ability to produce food is being dramatically compromised by a cascade of effects caused by deforestation.”
North Korea’s environmental crisis started in the 1950s during the Korean War, which resulted in massive forest fires and widespread deforestation. The situation was exacerbated during the 1990s when droughts and floods destroyed crops and caused a major famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Recovering forests were raided by desperate villagers for food and fuel, many surviving by eating grass and tree bark.
Although the major environmental problems were clear to Palmer, she expressed doubts about the North Korean scientists’ approach to them.
“The presentations were almost exclusively about how to promote agriculture … It felt like [the North Korean scientists] had a sense of the direction of the scientific community in the rest of the world but that they lacked the technology and understanding to implement any of it,” Palmer said.
In contrast, Peter Raven, president emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, offered praise for North Korea’s efforts to reforest through planting crops alongside trees.
“They had a fine understanding of agroforestry principles and were applying them in a very understanding way to reforestation,” Raven told Science Magazine.
Norman Neuriter, director at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who selected the American experts for the conference, said the gathering was heavily monitored and restricted, and expressed disappointment with the limited communication between the advisory team and North Korean scientists.
“One would like to have had more individual interaction, one-on-one or two-on-two, but that wasn’t possible,” Neureiter told the Atlantic Wire.
“We weren’t allowed to talk informally with the scientists,” Palmer told the Times. “We were escorted to separate rooms during coffee breaks and there was no time to casually chat and ask questions.”
Despite the restrictive atmosphere of the conference, the scientists are hoping to move forward with environmental restoration projects, though it is not yet clear how political tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program will impact future collaboration efforts. It is clear that the government must mobilize quickly if it is to avoid another disaster like it experienced during the 1990s.
The gross industrial output value grew 1.2 times for twenty days of January this year as against the same period last year.
This is the result of the high-pitched drive waged by all the workers of the country since the first day of this year after receiving with excitement the joint calls of the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the joint New Year editorial for this year and the letter of the working people in South Hamgyong Province.
In the period, the Ministry of Light Industry increased the production 1.4 times and the Ministry of Food and Daily Necessities sharply boosted the production.
Thermal and hydropower stations have increased the ratio of operating the generating equipment.
Much effort is being concentrated on supplying coal to the thermal power plants and chemical and metal plants and developing more coal beds.
The Ministry of Coal Industry produced 12,000 more tons of coal than planned for the 20 days.
Iron mills and steelworks also increased the production.
The freight transport volume increased by 12 percent from the same period last year.
Innovations were made in the production of vinalon and fertilizer by the industrial establishments in the field of chemical industry and in the production of custom built equipment and mining machines by the industrial enterprises of the field of machine industry.
The forestry stations and pit wood stations increased the timber production.
Progress has been reported on a daily basis from the important projects including the building of apartments in Mansudae areas and the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Station.
For the uninitiated, this is about as close as the DPRK gets to releasing economic statistics. Note there are no base numbers–only [some] % increases. Also, despite the measure being officially named “output value”, it is really just a claim of increased physical production. There is no value (prices) or mention of “services” included in these measures.
Unfortunately without more solid numbers, and the proclivity to ascribe productivity gains to effective propaganda, these reports cannot be taken seriously.
Although we all talk about the DPRK’s GDP and per capita income as if the numbers are solid, the reality is quite the opposite. In addition to the general lack of information, there are all sorts of methodological problems with assessing the value of the DPRK’s economy. Here are some helpful sources if you want to learn more:
- (JSTOR) “Soviet Industrial Growth”, Source: Science, New Series, Vol. 130, No. 3370 (Jul. 31, 1959), pp. 252-255
-(JSTOR) “Industrial Growth in the Soviet Union”, The American Economic Review , Vol. 48, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May, 1958), pp. 398-411
-(JSTOR) Some Observations on Soviet Industrial Growth”, The American Economic Review , Vol. 47, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Sixty-eighth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May, 1957), pp. 618-630
Kim, a defector who arrived in South Korea in 2008 after working for 30 years in the North Korean forestry sector, explained to The Daily NK on the 5th, “North Korea’s operations in Russia are now just enough to send timber to North Korea on the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il; they provide little real benefit in terms of foreign currency earning.”
In essence, Kim went on, “North Korea is just running the Forestry Mission to maintain its relationship with Russia.”
Following a 1967 agreement between the two countries, logging has at times played a key role in North Korea’s hard currency earning efforts, with more than 20,000 North Korean laborers being involved in forestry operations in Russia by the start of the 1990s.
Under the agreement, Russia agreed to provide the trees, equipment and power, while North Korea would provide the labor, and both countries shared the timber.
However, the deal is no longer beneficial to the North Korean state, as Kim explained in more detail, saying, “At the moment, Russia takes 72% and North Korea 28% of what is felled by these North Korean laborers, but most of the money North Korea earns from selling it on to Chinese trade companies goes on the laborers’ wages, accommodation, food and administration of the Forestry Mission. Now that Russia is a market economy with constantly rising prices, there is hardly any hard currency left to send back to the North Korean authorities.”
“Recently, China has been offering the Russians more money for these felling operations, so the North Korean laborers have no choice but to go home,” Kim added, continuing, “In addition, the scale of the workforce and operations has been decreasing recently partly because those groups of workers who protest about wage delays and whatever else are all dispatched back to North Korea.”
“In the past there used to be trade missions in Tynda and Khabarovsk, but now they is only the one in Tynda, with seven logging businesses underneath it,” he said. “The Khabarovsk trade mission has recently been closed down, and there are now a total of just nine logging operations underway in all of Russia.”
The numbers of loggers has shrunk to “4,000 in Khabarovsk and 2,000 in other remote areas; a total that does not exceed 6,000,” Kim stated.
Even the remaining forestry mission in Tynda is not large, with a president, chief engineer and vice-director working in parallel with a Party chief secretary, organizational secretary and propaganda secretary. Although each secretary has two or three workers under him, even with the National Security Agency staff that keeps tabs on the activities of the workers included in the total, the mission remains small.
Elsewhere, however, there are actually tens of thousands of North Korean laborers in Russia working in fields including construction, agriculture and mining, including around 30% of the 6,000 nominally said to be involved in logging.
The activities of military-run enterprises are on the increase, too. Kim explained, “Following cooperation between the Russian Air Force and the North Korean Air Force Command, there are now farming operations going on around air fields. If you include the General Reconnaissance Bureau, North Korea has sent at least a few tens of thousands of people to Russia.”
Given the ever increasing number of laborers running away from their assigned workplaces, Kim speculated there could also be as many as 600 or more defectors residing in Russia.
“In 2006 the Ministry of Forestry sent some cadres all over Russia to try and lure defectors back home, but these people had grown accustomed to living in Russia and nobody listened. There were 598 at that time, so it’s probably even higher by now,” Kim said.
One other key reason why North Korea has been unsuccessful in its attempts to retrieve the defectors is that the Russian authorities take a sympathetic view of their plight. According to Kim, “Russia does not forcibly repatriate defectors in the same way as China, so they are able to marry and work there. The Russian police have been treating defectors as humanitarian refugees since 2005, aware that forcibly repatriated defectors risk public execution and that their families face punishment, too.”
Naturally though, surveillance and control of the laborers is as severe as it has always been at the logging sites. Every week the workers are forced to participate in Party-led activities including mutual criticism sessions. The authorities are trying to limit the number of defectors by encouraging them to spy on one another, and the NSA has an intricate system of investigation to maintain order. Nevertheless, workers are sufficiently unhappy with their situation that defections continue to occur.
Pictured above (Google Earth): A North Korean propaganda slogan on a mountain-side urging “Let’s plant more trees!”
This should be nothing new to regular readers of this site, but according to a recent article by Yonhap:
Deforestation in North Korea is taking place at a rapid pace as people cut down trees for fuel and turn forest into farmland, a report by a state think tank here said Friday.
An average of 127,000 hectares of forest in North Korea have been destroyed on average every year for the past two decades, the Korea Forest Research Institute (KFRI) said in the report based on data by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
I have not been able to locate the report on the KFRI web page. If any readers are able to locate it, please send it to me.
An earlier report found that in two adjacent biosphere reserves across the border of China and North Korea, over one half of primary forest landscapes have been deteriorated by exploitive uses, including seed harvesting and systematic logging.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite detected several fires in North Korea on April 13, 2011. The fires are marked in red in the image. The fires stop at the country’s borders with China and South Korea, a sign that they were probably deliberately set. Fire is frequently used throughout the world to clear land for agriculture and other purposes, but rules governing the use of fire vary from country to country.
Clustered along the east coast, many of the fires are producing thick smoke, blanketing the Sea of Japan with haze. Though some of the smoke may be coming from far eastern Russia, the densest plumes extend east from the Korean peninsula.
The fires appear to be taking place straight down the east coast.