South Korea’s Carbon Emissions and Renewable Energy Efforts

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South Korea’s Carbon Emissions and Renewable Energy Efforts

The article on Carbon Brief explains South Korea’s attempt to achieve its ‘green aspirations’ – incorporating more renewable energy into its electricity mix while at the same time reducing its emissions.  

It mentions that the country’s economic growth is driven primarily by energy-intensive and high-emitting industries such as steel, shipbuilding, and automotive, which are difficult to decarbonise.

Gabbatiss, J. (2020, April 6) says:

  • South Korea’s emissions are at 640m tonnes in 2015 and have doubled since 1990. 
  • It has pledged to reduce its emissions to 37% below business-as-usual by 2030.
  • But this emissions target is insufficient because its current policies would bring their emissions up to 786m tonnes or up to 155 per cent above 1990 levels by 2030 which makes the country’s emissions target and current policies highly insufficient.

Cutting South Korea’s emissions is challenging due to the fact its economic development is driven by its industries where manufacturing accounts for 32 per cent of it. A key to reducing its emission is through an emissions trading scheme (ETS), a cap-and-trade system, the article explains.

Electricity is the most significant contributor of South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions as the nation’s power generation is heavily reliant on coal and its efforts to decarbonise the sector have been slow.

The government-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) controls the grid and has a monopoly of electricity generation. Restructuring KEPCO is critical to reform their energy allowing for more renewable energy into the mix. In 2018 only 6.2 per cent accounts for renewable energy made up of waste and bioenergy into the mix, and just 1.9 per cent from solar and wind power.

South Korea has several climate policies in place. Recently it came up with the Green Growth policy, an economic recovery package that includes the environment while building the economy from the pandemic.  

However, the government have been criticised for its inaction to follow through with this policy.

Climate Change and Adaptation

The article says that South Korea is already experiencing an increase of temperature by 1.4, and it is affecting its well-defined four seasons.

Their summers have become longer, increasing from 80 to 110 days that started in 1910, and 110 to 149 days in the 2010s. In the summer of 2018, a record heatwave hit the whole country, temperatures in Seoul reach 39.6 C.

Residents along the coasts are feeling the impacts of increased storm surge. The intensity of typhoons have increased by 50% in the last 40 years due to rising sea temperatures.

The country is also vulnerable to wildfires, in 2019 Goseong county experienced the largest wildfire on record.

The article mentions that in 2008, the country published its national climate change adaptation master plan for 2009 to 2030.  Vulnerable sectors identified in the program includes infrastructure due to extreme natural events, and public health from infectious diseases spread and heatwaves.

Click on the button below to read the entire article to know more about Korea’s carbon profile, its climate change policies, and efforts to transition to renewable energy while sustaining its economic growth.

Source Citation:

Gabbatiss, J. (2020, April 6). The Carbon Brief Profile: South Korea. Retrieved from

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