Incheon: the eco-friendly city of the future in Republic of Korea

Incheon: the eco-friendly city of the future in Republic of Korea

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Korea Country Manager Hatyja Nuriyeva


Incheon, the third largest city in South Korea, is emerging as a global city. Incheon is in pursuit of an eco-friendly transformation based on its Green New Deal Projects. Every public institution in Incheon launched recycling expansion and waste reduction campaigns at the beginning of 2021, so that disposable products are no longer used in the city.

In addition, Incheon is planning to turn into a carbon-neutral city as part of its climate change response. The city joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance last year and plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through boosting green infrastructure, clean energy, and electric vehicles by 2025. This was specified in Korean Green New Deal. The Korean New Deal is a first step toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Korea plans to use green innovations and emerging digital tools to build synergies between the two foundations of the the Green New Deal and the Digital New Deal. Korea will also take decisive steps, especially by promoting and engaging in the advancement of advanced climate technology with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBF), which is located in Incheon city, was originally designed as a free economic zone for international business, but the District now seeks to use its expertise to drive efforts in Incheon to become Korea’s first ‘smart city’ through the use of green technologies. Computers are built into the buildings and streets, while sensors gather information on things like traffic flow and energy use. This kind of information can be converted into alerts that tell citizens when a bus will arrive or notify the authorities when a crime is taking place. The water pipes are designed to prevent drinkable water from being wasted in showers and toilets.

In Incheon, 28 buildings, including Northeast Asia Trade Tower, have been certified as eco-friendly by LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). Incheon city became a leader in lowering greenhouse gas emissions though 2015-2016 and was awarded first place for Public Sector GHG & Energy Goal Management Excellence Award by Ministry of Environment Korea. The city reduced GHG to 42.6% (reduction of 12,959 tons of CO2-eq) compared to the standard emission of 33,422 tons of CO2-eq.  It was the highest achieved reduction rate among 243 local governments that participated in this award competition. The city achieved its emission outcomes by focusing on  improving renewable power generation facilities, and the use of LED lighting equipment (Cho, 2018).

In October 2012, Songdo IBD was selected as the location for the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) offices. One of the reasons for the selection is the environmental-friendly practices that were incorporated into the city’s foundation.

The Framework Act for Low Carbon Green Growth, passed by Korea’s National Assembly in 2010, provided Incheon with $83.6 billion for green investment spanning five years (Framework act on low carbon, 2021). Under this initiative, the Songdo IBD is being developed as a sustainable city with more than 40% of its area reserved for green space, including the park of 40 hectares. In addition, policy makers in Incheon are proposing an attractive bike lane in Songdo, which is to replace private cars. The total length of bike road in Songdo is 20km and was constructed near six subway station in 2009. There are almost 120 citywide bike rental stations in Incheon where people can rent public bike and return at the public bike station nearby.

All of the trash generated by the city is handled by a pneumatic tube system that carries trash to a central processing system where it’s burned for energy or recycled. In addition, Songdo IBD utilizes a pneumatic waste disposal system. This means no garbage cans on street corners, and no garbage trucks. Instead, garbage is thrown into pipes that will suck the garbage underground, disposing of waste, and recycling what can be recycled.

According to a Gale International and Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)’s Sustainability Report  Incheon has built four main sustainable infrastructure systems – water use network, waste collection and treatment system, energy network and public transportation (Whitman et al., 2008). Figure 1.1 shows the institutions that are responsible for the urban infrastructures.

Figure 1.1. Source: (Baek, 2015)

Learn More References:

Baek, I. (2015). A study on the sustainable infrastructure of the Songdo City Project: from the viewpoint of the metabolic flow perspective.

Cho, J. (2018). City with sustainable Development goals – Incheon Metropolitan city.

국가법령정보센터 | 영문법령 > 본문 – Framework act on low carbon, green growth (2021)

Global Energy Review: CO2 Emissions in 2020 – Analysis – IEA. (2021).

Group, T. (2021). C40 Cities: Why Cities? Ending Climate Change Begins in the City.

United Nations Environment Programme. (2012). 21 Issues for the 21st Century – Results of the UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Environmental Issues. In Environmental Development (Vol. 2).

Whitman, C. T., Group, W. S., Reid, C., International, G., Klemperer, J. Von, Pedersen, K., … Danforth, J. (2008). New Songdo City – The Making of a New Green City.


Mayor of Incheon Metropolitan City Park Namchoon coordinates Incheon’s efforts to become a sustainable city. Address: 29, Jeonggak-ro, Namdong-gu, Incheon 21554, Korea Tel +82-32-120 Fax +82-32-440-3009

Image Source:


Climate change is real, and what governments do matters.

Help us work with key stakeholders globally to ensure continued support of the The Paris Agreement.