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South Korea

Brief description:

Energy and Climate Change


The Republic of Korea comprises the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. Around 65% of its land is under forestry, and 19% is used for farming. It is currently the world's third most densely populated country.

The country has seen rapid economic development since the 1970s, promoted by its government, and growth in trade has made it the 11th largest economy in the world. Its leading industries include shipbuilding, electronics and car manufacturing. By 2001, agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for just 5.6% of Korea's industries. Mining and manufacturing accounted for 39.1%, and services 46.8%.

In 2001, Korea ranked as the 10th largest energy consuming nation. It imported 97.2% of its energy needs, and oil accounted for 50.7% of its energy source, followed by coal (23.0%), nuclear energy (14.1%), LNG (10.5%), hydraulic power (0.5%) and others (1.2%). Of total energy consumption, about 55.7% was used by industry, 21.5% by the residential and commercial sectors, and 20.9% by the transport sector. The country has seen sharp growth in the demand for privately owned cars. Public transport networks also continue to expand in line with the needs of a rapidly developing nation.

Rising energy consumption is the major cause of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which rose 2.6% from 144.3 million tonnes of CO2
in 2000 to 148 million tonnes in 2001. The energy sector was a major contributor. The trend of total GHG emissions between 1990 and 2001 shows an annual increase of 5.2%, with an annual rise of 5.6% within the energy sector. After 1990, industrial processes recorded a sharp increase of 10.2% of emissions per year. Total CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2001 rose by 5.8% per year, with fuel combustion and industrial processes being the main sources.

The country has committed to ambitious plans to voluntarily cut GHG emissions by 30% from its anticipated levels in 2020, and is also moving towards setting up a carbon trading system, under which companies can exchange rights to release greenhouse gases.

Climate change impact

Climate change will seriously affect agriculture, forestry and fisheries in South Korea, with an impact on health, the coastal and marine environment and terrestrial ecosystems, and an increase in natural disasters. The government has been carrying out research into the effects of climate change on  socio-economic and natural systems as well as attempting to develop adaptation measures to mitigate these impacts.

It is expected, for example, that the productivity and stability of existing agricultural sites will be under threat. For the forestry sector, an extended growing season due to temperature rises may help productivity. However, there would also be an increased threat of forest fires and landslides, and a rise in damage by pests and plant pathogens.

Climate change will result in rising water temperature and sea level around the Korean Peninsula, which will ultimately affect the marine ecosystem and impact on fisheries' resources and fish and shellfish production.

The scale and frequency of floods are expected to increase from climate change, without any respite from current annual droughts, which are caused by massive fluctuations in outflow for each year and season and could actually worsen. Global warming will also affect natural ecosystems throughout the country.

Policy and initiatives

The Korean government has recognised the need for energy conservation and a reduction in GHG emissions, and is committed to international cooperation to achieve this as long as practice is consistent with the long-term development goals of the Korean economy. In May 2012, Korea approved a cap-and-trade scheme that will come into effect in 2015, alongside its Emissions Target Management Scheme (ETMS). The rules for using international offsets, such as the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, also need to be decided. According to GCCSI's CCS status report of 2012, Korea is reportedly in talks with Australia and New Zealand over linking emissions trading schemes.

Korea is a non-annex 1 party of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and various policies and measures related to energy conservation and GHG emissions reduction - as advocated by the convention - have been established in the country. In 2001, Korea acknowledged the implementation plan for the Kyoto Protocol by introducing its Second Comprehensive Action Plan (2002-2004). Through this policy, efforts are being made to conserve energy and promote and fast-track low energy-consuming industries.

The Five Year National Plan for Green Growth, agreed in 2009, includes two key objectives - the reduction of GHG emssions by 4 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, and the allocation of 2% of annual GDP to Green Growth investments and development projects. Mitigation scenarios, which highlight the development of 27 core green technologies, also include CCS. The government has said it will spend US$150 million on CCS over the next ten years, while the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology stated an intention to ramp up Korea’s R&D on CCS.


The Framework to Act on Low Carbon provides the legal basis for financing green technology R&D and inward investment. It also supports tax reform that promotes environment-friendly actions and allows the government to set emissions reduction targets.

In late February 2012, South Korea was reported to have delayed a Bill to introduce a carbon trading system aimed at cutting the country’s GHG emissions. Reasons given included concerns that the Bill had too many unresolved details at the time of the decision. However, it was expected to be taken up at a later date.

At present, the country has no specific legislation to back the development and deployment of CCS technologies. However, it has set out on a process of considering the development of CCS policies and the necessary legal framework. The government aims to have two demonstration projects up and running by 2014 with two commercial-scale plants operating by 2020.

In January 2012, the country's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology opened its first research centre dedicated to developing CCS technologies. The Carbon Capture and Sequestration Research Center will spend up to $150 million over the next nine years to develop new capture, transport and storage technologies. It will also be seeking to develop ways to transform CO2 into fuel. This followed the Ministry of Environment's stated intention in July 2011 to facilitate the development and commercialisation of CCS technology by fostering departmental cooperation. It specified CCS as a key technology for reaching its ambitious 30% emissions reduction target.

The government had announced in 2010 its National CCS Masterplan along with plans to invest around US$1.9 billion by 2019 to support capture technology and CCS infrastructure.


In April 2012, the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime affairs announced the discovery of a potential underwater storage site in the south-western seabed of the Ulleung basin, in the East Sea, that could hold up to 5 billion tonnes of CO2 and other GHGs.

The ministry has been researching the potential underground storage of CO2 since 2010 and, during early 2012, studies of the Ulleung basin indicated a possible location 800 to 3000 metres below sea level. The ministry believes it could provide a permanent site for the next 150 years, at a storage rate of 32 million tonnes a year by 2030.

International links

In January 2013 it was announced that oil giant Saudi Aramco and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) had signed a deal to establish a new research centre for CCS technologies in South Korea. The Saudi Aramco-KAIST CO2 Research Center will conduct research into carbon management technologies, establish exchange programmes and conduct joint projects.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate was set up in 2006 comprising a membership of the national governments of South Korea, India, Australia, Japan, China, Canada and the US. Its eight action plans included the Action Plan on Cleaner Fossil Energy, which identified 13 project proposals for exploring clean coal and gas technologies. Australia chaired the partnership and was the main financial contributor, pledging A$200 million over 5 years towards the so-called AP6 projects. The partnership had also worked to build links between the public and private sector, disseminate knowledge and promote best practice. It concluded its work in early 2011, with a number of its projects continuing and/or being transferred to other agencies.

The Asia Coalition for Climate and Energy (ACCE) is a joint industry agency with members from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. It was set up to facilitate the deployment of sustainable fossil energy and cutting-edge renewable energies. ACCE is also a stakeholder of the international Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum and the Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP). The next meeting of the coalition is due to take place in Beijing, China, in August 2011.

More information

Read the Republic of Korea's second National Communication to UNFCCC here.

Global CCS Institute's country profile, 2009


Projects in South Korea: