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In July 2018, the South Korean Government announced a new plan including the objective that national emissions will peak around 2020. The plan also reduced the scope for international offsets, increasing the share of domestic mitigation necessary to reach the Paris Agreement target, with a domestic target reaching 32.5% emissions reduction in 2030 (vs 25.7% previously).
While this is a step in the right direction, South Korea still needs to substantially strengthen its target, which we currently rate “Highly insufficient”. Current and planned policy projections are far off the Paris target level to be achieved domestically and much more so for the level of reduction needed to be considered as “1.5˚C-compatible”, meaning that more stringent policies are still required, even for their current weak target.
In December 2017, the government released a new 15-year “Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand” that confirms President Moon Jae-in’s stated intention to increase the share of renewable electricity generation. The increased target for renewables was a positive sign that the government is willing to take stronger actions to tackle climate change. However, if fully implemented, the plan would only stabilise, not decrease emissions (see “Planned policy projection” in the graph), as South Korea's power generation mix will, under this plan, still remain heavily dependent on coal in the future.
The new plan is suggesting that seven coal fired power plants seeking permits are still being considered, which is disappointing given the government had, in May 2017, announced reconsidering the plans for coal fired power generation. Coal would still account for more than a third of generated electricity in 2030 – at odds with the Paris Agreement temperature goal that requires phasing out coal by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2050 globally.
South Korea’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) includes a target of reducing GHG emissions excluding land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) by 37% below business-as-usual emissions (or 18% below 2010 level) by 2030. Based on this target, we rate South Korea “Highly insufficient”.
In its amended Green Growth Act, South Korea has replaced its 2020 pledge with the 2030 NDC target. Given the 2020 pledge was more ambitious than the NDC target—aiming for a similar emissions level than ten years earlier—the NDC actually represents a weakening of South Korea’s climate plans.