In October 2021, South Korea announced the intention to increase the country’s previous 2030 target from a 24.4% reduction below 2017 to a 40% reduction below 2018 GHG emission levels. While the new target represents a significant improvement to the country’s 2030 target submitted in December 2020, it is not yet aligned to what is needed globally to be on a Paris Agreement compatible 1.5°C consistent pathway. South Korea’s official NDC submission, with its promised strengthened 2030 target, is expected during COP26 in November.
CAT analysis of NDC announcement
After submitting its updated NDC in December 2020, President Moon Jae-in pledged at the P4G Seoul Summit that South Korea would strengthen its 2030 climate target and submit it to the UNFCCC ahead of COP26 in November 2021. During a speech to parliament in June 2021, the leader of the South Korea’s ruling Democratic party, Song Young-gil, proposed that South Korea reduces its emissions by 40% below 2017 emissions by 2030. In October 2021, the government announced an updated NDC with a 40% reduction below 2018 and provided additional detail.
The new target significantly strengthens the 2030 target from the 24.4% reduction below 2017 emissions in the December 2020 NDC submission. It reduces Korea’s emissions to 468 MtCO2e in 2030, 72 MtCO2e or 19% lower than the December 2020 submission. It would, however, still not be compatible with what would be necessary at a global level to be on a pathway consistent with 1.5°C.
Our analysis shows South Korea would need to further increase its current 2030 climate target to a 59% reduction below 2018 emissions (equivalent to an absolute national emissions level of 301 MtCO2e excl. LULUCF in 2030—within its borders and excluding offsets) for it to be compatible with a 1.5°C pathway and be on track to achieve net zero CO2 in 2050.
South Korea plans to achieve part of its 2030 target through purchasing international credits and increasing the LULUCF sink. The 2020 NDC provides that “the updated target also includes an increased share of domestic reduction,” but lacked further specifics. The announced NDC from October 2021 clarifies that 33.5 MtCO2e shall be met through reductions overseas. As a result, CAT estimates South Korea’s domestic target to be at 501 MtCO2e in 2030, excl. emissions from LULUCF.
Global Warming Potential (GWP) values
South Korea uses GWP values from the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR). We converted to AR4 GWP values to ease comparison of countries’ targets and emission trajectories.
For more detail, please read our full country assessment from November 2021.