Republic of Korea Republic of Korea

In this year’s CCPI, the Republic of Korea (ROK; South Korea) drops seven spots to 60th and is thus still a very low performer.

Like in last year’s CCPI, Korea receives very low ratings in the GHG Emissions and Energy Use categories and a low in Renewable Energy. In Climate Policy, the country plummets 27 ranks and is now rated low. Both the National and International Climate Policy indicators receive a low rating.

In April 2021, President Moon Jae-in announced an immediate end to state-backed financing of new overseas coal plants. Environmental NGOs worldwide celebrated the decision because Korea is the third-largest provider of public finance for overseas coal. With the Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality and Green Growth of August 2021, South Korea set itself the target of at least a 35% GHG emissions reduction by 2030 (compared to 2018 levels). Experts note this is incompatible with the global 1.5°C target. As a market-based mitigation tool, the Korea Emissions Trading Scheme was launched in January 2015, and it is currently in its third phase (2021–2025), wherein the annual allocation is reduced by about 10%. Experts criticise this tool for being ineffective at reducing domestic GHG emissions in line with Korea’s domestic 2030 target.

The country still has not announced a date for coal phase-out and still has new coal power plants under construction. Considering this, and the national 2050 net zero target, experts ask that coal-fired power generation be halted no later than 2030, followed by a net zero power sector in 2035. Complicated permit schemes and grid access challenges currently hinder necessary expansion of renewable energy. Despite the Government’s efforts, the majority state-owned utility company KEPCO and its subsidiaries’ protection of legacy assets underlies many of these problems, preventing faster decarbonization of Korea’s power sector and enhancement of climate targets.

The following national experts agreed to be mentioned as contributors for this year’s CCPI:  Jieon Lee (Korea Federation for Environmental Movements);  Gahee Han (SFOC)

3rd of December 2021: After finding a calculation error in the CCPI 2022, we have revised our data. This effects Korea`s ranking slightly (-1 rank).

Technical note: how to read the target comparison graph

The graph above shows the development of a country over the past years compared with its Paris compatible pathway and 2030 target. For all three quantitative categories of the CCPI, this visualisation gives an overview of where a country is right now, where it would need to be to fulfil the Paris Agreement promises and where it aims to be in 2030.

For GHG emissions per capita, the data includes LULUCF, as used for the emissions per capita indicator. This leads to the vast changes in emissions of some countries with high forest coverage.
The calculation of individual country target pathways is based on the common but differentiated convergence approach (CDC). It is based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” laid forth in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. All Annex I countries therefore have a decreasing pathway from 1990 onwards, starting at that year’s emissions. 60 years later, in 2050, these countries are expected to reach net zero emissions. All other countries, which did not reach the level of global average emissions in 1990, are allowed to increase emissions until the average is reached. But by latest 2015 these countries, too, have decreasing pathways and 60 years to reach net zero. These pathways start from the global average.

The Renewable Energy data is given in per cent of Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) and includes hydro energy, consistent with the respective CCPI indicator. As global distribution of Renewables (especially solar and wind) only started in the 2000s, the pathways in this category start in 2010. All countries have an equal goal: 100% Renewables in 2050, each starting from its 2010 value.

For Energy Use the Primary Energy Supply per capita is shown. All pathways for this category start at country’s 1990 values and meet at global average of 80 gigajoules per capita in TPES.
For 2°C and 1.5°C scenarios, a decrease in emissions by reducing the (growth in) energy use is as crucial as deploying renewable (or other low-carbon) technologies. The IPCC carried out a scenario comparison using a large number of integrated assessment models. From the scenarios available, we observe that the total amount of global energy use in 2050 has to be roughly the same level or a bit higher than it is today, with a margin of uncertainty. At the same time population will grow slightly between today and 2050. We therefore pragmatically chose the well-below-2° compatible benchmark to be “same energy use per capita in 2050 as the current global average”, which is 80 gigajoules per capita in TPES.