Although climbing five ranks from last year’s edition, the Republic of Korea (ROK) still places among the very low-performing countries, ranked 53rd rank in CCPI 2021.
CCPI data shows a mixed image of the country’s climate policy performance compared with in the previous year. The country drops from a medium to a low rating in the Renewable Energy category, reflecting a very low current share of such energy. Here, it is also rated very low with regard to a well-below-2°C pathway. Also concerning is that the country receives very low ratings for its 2030 targets in all categories. In contrast, the Republic of Korea rises in the national experts’ annual climate policy assessment, mainly thanks to an improved rating in the international climate policy indicator.
Experts note the country doubled its pledge to the Green Climate Fund compared with previous commitments. With this, the country now receives medium ratings for its climate policy both at the national and international level. Experts are, however, very critical of ROK’s ongoing support for coal. This is both internationally, through support of public overseas coal financing, and nationally, seeing the new operation of coal-fired power plants and the lack of a coal phase-out target combined with a just transition pathway. Despite this, some positive signals are seen at both levels, with the parliament in the process of passing new legislation to ban public financing for foreign coal projects and with President Moon Jae-in’s October 2020 announcement of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. To achieve this, Moon announced plans to “expand financial support to local renewable energy businesses” from a KRW 8 trillion (US$7.04 billion) Green New Deal budget. Please note that the latest announcement from October 2020 could not fully be covered in the CCPI climate policy assessment. Thus far, those developments do not affect the policy and target analysis, as a clear roadmap to achieve the targets has yet to be announced. In line with the CCPI target analysis’ findings, experts assessed the long-term renewable energy targets of a 20% share of the total energy mix by 2030 and 30%–35% by 2040 as too unambitious. In light of its announcement of a climate emergency in September 2020, the National Assembly urged the government to strengthen its NDC for it to be in line with the recent IPCC reports. This demand was, however, as experts note, dismissed by the government when submitting its NDC with the same target as in 2016 (539 MtCO2e/year excluding LULUCF), while not providing a clear pathway to achieve this target. On a positive note, experts appreciate the relatively wide coverage and comparatively high prices in the emissions trading system, as well as strong standards and regulations with regard to the emissions balance of vehicles and buildings.
The following national experts agreed to be mentioned as contributors to this year’s CCPI: Jieon Lee (Korea Federation for Environmental Movements), HyeJin An (WWF), Yong-Gun Kim (Korea Environment Institute).