Climate Scorecard Progress Report for South Korea

This report is in the form of memos from Climate Scorecard Country Managers to Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC). Below is a description of the progress the country has made made in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 and the challenges they still face in order to comply with the IPCC goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

To: Patricia Espinosa
Executive Secretary

Subject: Climate Scorecard Progress Report for South Korea

From: Jitae Chang
Climate Scorecard South Korea Country Manager

I serve as Climate Scorecard Country Manager for South Korea and would like to submit the following climate mitigation progress report from the perspective of my organization.

Since its initial 2015 pledge to the Paris Agreement, South Korea has made excellent progress in meeting the goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

Positive Developments

South Korea has accomplished the following:

  1. Developed a 2050 long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy (LEDS), December 2020—The Korean New Deal

The Korean New Deal will serve as a stepping-stone to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Korea will harness green innovations and advanced digital technologies to create synergy between the Green New Deal and the Digital New Deal, the two pillars of the Korean New Deal. Korea will also take decisive action, especially in supporting and investing in the development of innovative climate technologies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Tackling climate change requires global efforts and collective engagement. Korea will lead by example to encourage the international community to jointly make efforts toward realizing carbon neutrality by 2050.

Key elements of the 2050 Vision

  • Expanded use of clean power and hydrogen across all sectors.
  • Significantly improved energy efficiency.
  • Commercial deployment of carbon removal and other future technologies.
  • Scaling up of the circular economy, to improve industrial sustainability.
  • Enhanced carbon sinks.
  1. Submitted a 2030 nationally determined contribution (NDC), December 30, 2020

The updated NDC is set at the most ambitious level possible, considering the long-term temperature goal established in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement. The updated target is to reduce 24.4% from total national GHG emissions in 2017 (709.1 MtCO2eq) by 2030. This is an absolute emissions reduction target that is more predictable and transparent than the target relative to Business-As-Usual (BAU) emissions projection in the previous NDC. The updated target also includes an increased share of domestic reduction, which is facilitated through the Republic of Korea’s continued mitigation efforts, such as the nationwide ban on construction of new coal-fired power plants.

In December 2019, the Enforcement Decree of the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth was amended to include the updated target, ensuring the legal basis for mitigation efforts. To prepare a more solid foundation for carbon neutrality by 2050, the Korean government will further raise its ambition level for its 2030 national GHG reduction target and communicate a further updated NDC at the earliest possible date before 2025.

  1. Korean New Deal: National Strategy for a Great Transformation, July 2020.

The Korean government plans to move toward a net-zero society by supporting ongoing policies such as the 2030 target for GHG emissions reduction and a plan to ensure that renewables account for 20% of the country’s generation capacity by 2030. This includes a green transitioning of infrastructure, to strengthen the safety net against climate and environmental risks. In addition, the use of low-carbon and decentralized energy will be promoted, while regions and groups that lag behind the transition will be protected. Moreover, the foundations for innovation and growth will be consolidated for the green industry.

With an investment of 73.4 trillion won—including 42.7 trillion won from the treasury by 2025—the Green New Deal will create 659,000 jobs.

Figure 1. Overview of Green New Deal

Remaining Challenges

The following persisting conditions in South Korea, however, threaten its ability to make further progress and achieve the important goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030; the 2050 long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy (LEDS); the 2030 nationally determined contribution (NDC); the Korean New Deal (Green section).

  1. Grand election on March 9, 2022.

It has been repeated that the Korean government has changed their policy upon green energy as the ruling party changes since last 2008. It is unclear how current action plans could be changed if the opposite party takes regime.

  1. Organized resistance from industries.

There continues to be constant resistance from private business sectors. Corporations are claiming publicly that they are focusing on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), but most of these promises are solely marketing strategy.

  1. Ongoing COVID situation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there is a high chance that South Korean society will prefer more economical energy such as conventional fossil power generation. The public could resist a shift to green energy out of a concern to prevent economic collapse.

Climate Scorecard is committed to working with other like-minded organizations to support efforts by South Korea toward further progress in reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and help the Paris Agreement realize its important goals.

Please contact me with any further questions about this report or for more information.


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