South Korea

South Korea

Geopolitical Informations

50.22 million (2013)
Total area
100,210 km2

Main legislative bodies

  • Daehan-min-guk Gukhoe (National Assembly of the Republic of Korea)

Latest News

China makes heavyweight contribution to climate pledges as INDCs submission list grows longer

On June 30, the number of countries that submitted their INDCs to the UNFCCC increased by four as China, South Korea, Iceland and Serbia presented their pledges in the lead-up to the Paris COP21 in December 2015. An additional pledge was submitted by Singapore shortly after (on July 2). Submitted INDCs now total 44 contributions, read more…

IN DEPTH: A tangled case – Turkey’s status under UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement

Despite joining the position of all G20 members except of the US to designate the Paris Agreement as “irreversible”, shortly after the summit in read more...

IMO takes a step forward to tackle GHG emissions from the shipping sector

The meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) ended on Friday (July 7) in London.  According to IMO’s read more...

Climate Policy Facts


Year Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)
1990 298.7229516 6.97 612.184
1991 310.3905561 7.17 581.476
1992 332.9465766 7.63 589.117
1993 372.0106451 8.44 620.196
1994 394.3421855 8.87 605.718
1995 426.488366 9.46 600.075
1996 458.6965095 10.08 603.178
1997 492.3675009 10.71 618.68
1998 429.1206683 9.27 578.888
1999 469.9632598 10.08 579.054
2000 522.6824752 11.12 593.634
2001 531.7437044 11.23 580.845
2002 549.5722935 11.54 560.261
2003 554.2992507 11.58 549.674
2004 570.2787998 11.87 540.552
2005 556.934333 11.57 507.808
2006 567.1281936 11.72 491.642
2007 594.3556383 12.23 490.216
2008 609.4696269 12.45 491.388
2009 615.4153116 12.51 494.602
2010 678.3221789 13.73 512.752

The line chart below shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.



Energy Source Production (ktoe) TPES (ktoe)
Coal 958.626 79798.004
Oil 690.735 92781.163
Natural gas 405.301 41620.371
Nuclear 39133.388 39133.388
Hydro 406.178 406.178
Geothermal 45.778 45.778
Solar thermal 27.677 27.677
Solar photovoltaics 69.66 69.66
Tide, wave, ocean 4.472 4.472
Wind 73.788 73.788
Biomass 324.601 324.601
Biofuels 480.991 480.991
Waste 2664.053 2664.053

The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.

The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.

Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.



National Policy

The responsibility for the enactment of climate and environmental laws and regulations are given to the Ministry of the Environment. In February, 2008, Korea Meteorological Administration became an affiliate of the Ministry to facilitate countermeasures against climate change.


In 2015 South Korea did submit its INDCs to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to the COP21 in Paris (see International Policy)

National Emissions Trading Scheme
On January 1, 2015, South Korea launched a national Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that covers about 60% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and it designed to reduce the country’s GHG emissions by 30% from projected levels by 2020. The target is voluntary but the government ensured it will impose regulations to force major emitters to comply as part of the nation’s efforts in the broader international fight against climate change. It was planned to be launched in 2013. However, it has been delayed due to opposition from the country’s industrial sector. The percentage of the free allowances has gone up from the original percentage of 90% but not as high as 100 %. Banking and borrowing of allowances are allowed and participants can buy permits from each other. Trading plan is managed by Korea Power Exchange, Korea Exchange or a new commodities exchange to trade emissions. The Kyoto instruments, CERs can also be used in the South Korean emissions trading scheme.

South Korea Ministry of Environment’s website on the  Emission Trading Scheme

Renewable Portfolio Standard (2012, still in progress)

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was introduced in 2012 and is replacing a previous feed-in tariff scheme. It is a system that enforces power producers to supply a certain amount of the total power generation by new and renewable energy. England, Sweden, Canada and Australia introduced the RPS and are running the system. They begin with 2% and increase to 10% in 2022 (Kemco, 2013).  South Korea has already started implementing renewable energy technologies but is still dependent on coal, so the reduction effect is low compared to its potential.

Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth (2010)
Major contents of the Act’s enforcement decree include a 30% GHG emission reduction from the business-as-usual projection for 2020. According to the act, the Minister of Environment shall verify the information and statistics on greenhouse gases, and externally maintain the status as a national integrated information manager on greenhouse gases.

Carbon Neutral Program (Not yet in force – Planned)
Carbon Neutral Program, which has been going on in countries like the US and the UK, will begin in South Korea in order to cope with the climate change. The concept of ‘carbon neutral’ was introduced by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) in February 2008 thanks to a campaign that aims to reduce GHG emissions to zero through the reduction of carbon dioxide by calculating emissions in everyday life, buying an authorized credit, investing in new and renewable energy and planting trees. State-run organizations will have emissions targets starting in 2012.

In the 7th Electricity Supply Plan, planned to be finalised by the end of June 2015, South Korea targets the following electricity supply mix by 2029: 18.5% nuclear, 32.2% coal, 24.7% LNG, 4.6% renewable, 5.8% combined heat and power and 4.2% oil and pumped storage. This represents a decrease in coal and an increase in nuclear compared to the previous Electricity Supply Plan. Source


The reduction of GHG in the energy sector is being promoted by targeting energy supply and demand, heating and cooling of buildings and transportation fuel. As regards energy demand, GHG reduction is being achieved through an integrally managed energy conservation policy and improvements in energy efficiency. For energy supply, policies are being devised to expand the use of RES and cleaner energy.

Enforcement Decree of the Act on Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources (2008 – Enacted year: 1992)
The Decree provides the government’s guidelines for reducing waste at the production, distribution and consumption stages.  It also promotes the recycling industry. The main targets of the national policy on waste are raising power generation rate from combustible wastes to 37% and organic wastes to 26% by 2013 and utilizing 77% of waste heat from incinerators and 91% of landfill gas.

Development of Renewables (2002)
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) invested in the research and development of renewable energy sources. The legislative framework of the Development of Renewables Act is the 1987 Alternative Energy Act. This policy constituted the initial framework for the development of new and renewable energy technologies. It aimed to secure cost-effective renewable energy by fitting the energy supply to the characteristics off the area and through cost effective business modeling. It encouraged the installation of waste-incineration plants to generate heat and power. It also promoted residential solar heaters, small hydropower plants and facilities to use methane gas.

Design Standards for Energy Efficient Buildings (2001)
Separate building standards were implemented for buildings with particularly high energy consumption (large office buildings, hospitals, etc.). These standards require the buildings to expand their use of high energy efficient equipment and design standards in order to qualify for approval.

Rational Energy Use Act (1995)
This legislation outlines the general provisions for securing energy supplies and stabilizing energy demands for the sustainable development of Korea. It requires the drawing up of a long term National Energy Plan every five years, Regional energy plans, and emergency plans. It allows the government to determine energy rations during a supply crisis, to proscribe energy saving measures or equipment as necessary, to order energy audits, or to instate energy consumption limitations on machinery and equipment and require them to be labelled. It also includes the Voluntary Agreements, a crucial part of the government’s GHG reduction strategy. This measure involves 5 years agreements negotiated between the government and the participating company, wherein the latter agrees to lower its energy consumption and its emission of greenhouse gases. The company sets an appropriate goal and the government provides financing, tax support and other incentives to encourage and support the company’s efforts.



Air Quality Preservation Act (2007)
The government offers financial support for the purchase of buses, interest reduction on loans for expenses incurred in the installation of LPG stations and tax benefits to promote fuel switching. The Air Quality Act has been revised to require the purchase of natural gas buses and other natural gas vehicles by government ministries, and to mandate the use of low or no pollution emitting vehicles.  It also establishes limitations on unnecessary extended idling of vehicles in designated areas where it is frequent (terminals, garages, parking lots).


The Republic of Korea’s National Climate Change Adaptation Master Plan consists of the National Strategic Plan for Climate Change Adaptation (2011-2015), which is a legal plan set by the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth (2010). It consists of 86 major projects in 10 sectors: public health, disaster/infrastructure, agriculture, forest, marine/fishery, water, ecosystem, climate change monitoring and projection, adaptation industry/energy, and public education international cooperation (Summary of the Adaptation Master Plan in Pdf, courtesy of Soojeong Myeong, Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change)

Main Sources:

International Policy

General features

South Korea has been actively participating in the GHG mitigation activities through the Kyoto mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Till date, the country registered 51 projects with the UN that expecting to generate over 17 million CERs per annum worth over 197 million Euros. 14 projects have been issued over 65 million CERs worth over 758 million Euros.

General features:

  • Party to the UNFCCC (Annex II)

o    Date of signature: 13 June 1992
o    Date of ratification: 14 December 1993
o    Date of entry into force: 21 March 1994

  • Party to the Kyoto Protocol

o    Date of signature: 25 September 1998
o    Date of ratification: 08 November 2002
o    Date of entry into force: 16 February 2005

  • Post 2020 action:

Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of the COP21 (Paris Agreement) in 2015. Main targets:

o  achieving an emissions reduction of 37% from the BAU level by 2030 across all economic sectors
o  strenghening the adaptation capacity


  • Asian Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate: it’s an innovative new effort to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the United States have agreed to work together and with private sector partners to meet goals for energy security, national air pollution reduction, and climate change in ways that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The APP has a number of projects in member countries designed to implement or improve new technologies, better policies, and mutual cooperation;
  • Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer;
  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer;
  • Environmental Cooperation in Northeast Asia (Korea-China-Japan): Korea, China, and Japan are in the same sphere of environmental influence in Northeast Asia due to their geographic adjacency. Based on a consensus formed around these points following the UNCSD of 1992, there has been multinational environmental cooperation in the region in many forms, such as through the Northeast Asian Conference on Environmental Cooperation (NEAC), the Northeast Asia Sub-regional Program on Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC), and the ADB-GEF project on the prevention and control of dust and sandstorms. Bilateral cooperation through the conference on environmental cooperation has also been active. In particular, since the Tripartite Environment Ministers’ Meeting between South Korea, China, and Japan (TEMM) was formed in 1999, it has played a critical role in promoting environmental cooperation in the region;
  • Environmental Cooperation in Middle East and Central Asia.

Negotiating position

South Korea has been the first Annex II country to indicate that it will adopt quantifiable but voluntary emissions targets for 2020: the country has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30% below business-as-usual growth over this decade. In addition to its voluntary targets, Korea has imposed sweeping clean energy plans that include a 20% renewable energy target by midcentury and an investment of nearly $1 trillion into current and next-generation clean energy sources.