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…

China launches first phase of national ETS

Chinese government on Tuesday (Dec.19) released details about the start of the long-awaited national carbon trading scheme, Reuters reports. Once operational, China’s ETS will read more...

Macron’s climate finance rally to accelerate global response to climate change

On the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate Agreement, the French presidency organized an international summit to increase climate financing to accelerate efforts to 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


South Korea’s politics are based on the civil law system with powers divided between executive, legislative and judicative bodies. The political system can be characterised as a representative democratic republic with a multi-party system.

South Korea has a unicameral parliament, the National Assembly, as the main legislative body. It consists of 300 members, of which 244 are single-seat constituencies and 56 proportional representatives. The National Assembly is the institution for the enactment of laws. However, the law-making process must not only be initiated by members of the National Assembly with the support of at least 10 members. Also government representatives and the relevant ministries can propose a law. This has to follow a predefined process. The ministry has to consult other ministries and issue a public notice of the proposed bill. Moreover, the Ministry of Legislation, an independent and specialised control agency within the government, has to review the bill and assess if it is in line with higher laws or any other relevant laws. Bills are generally first considered by the relevant parliamentary committee before it is passed to the plenary session of the National Assembly.

The executive can issue subordinate status and presidential decrees. However, these have to be in accordance with existing laws and provide for the enforcement of the legal provisions contained in the laws. The president of South Korea is the head of state. He or she is elected directly by the Korean citizens. The president appoints the prime minister, the head of government, with the approval of the National Assembly. The prime minister presides over the State Council of chief ministers. The president cannot dissolve the National Assembly and is thus to a certain extent restricted in his or her powers.

The last elections of the National Assembly took place in April 2016. As the members of the parliament serve for a four-year term, the next elections are envisaged for 2020. The last presidential elections took place in May 2017, following the impeachment of first-female president Park Geun-hye due to a corruption scandal. Since the elections, Moon Jae-in is the president of South Korea. One of his campaign promises was to tackle the chronic air pollution problem. On his fifth day in office, Moon ordered the temporary halt of ten coal-fired power plants. During his presidency, all coal power plants older than 30 years are supposed to be closed. In addition, Moon has vowed to phase-out nuclear power. Instead, the new president wants to promote renewable energies and natural gas.

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

As a high-income country, South Korea’s per capita emissions are comparable to industrialised countries; they were about the same as for Norway in 2013. Between 1990 and 2012, GHG emissions in South Korea have more than doubled, with steep increases in the 1990s. In contrast to other countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), per capita emissions of South Korea are still rising. This can be to a large extent attributed to the high export rates of the industrial sector.


In 2015, South Korea submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to COP21 in Paris (see section on ‘International Policy’).

National Roadmap for Greenhouse Gas Reductions by 2030 of 2016
The roadmap defines the target to reduce GHG emissions by more than 200 million tons by 2030. It relates to eight different economic sectors with separate targets of maximum 19 percent GHG emission reductions.

National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Roadmap 2020 of 2014
The roadmap includes emission reduction targets for seven sectors. It provides for the implementation of a range of policies, including the planned emissions trading scheme (ETS; see below), the development of low-carbon technologies and the creation of GHG reduction markets. Moreover, the roadmap tasks different ministries to develop detailed sectoral GHG reduction measures.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Centre of Korea (GIR) 2010
The GIR was established to manage the national GHG inventory and to analyse GHG reduction potentials. It is also responsible for respective MRV systems and supports the operation of the ETS.

Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth 2009
The Framework Act on Low Carbon Green Growth is the legislative basis on climate change, energy issues, sustainable development and green growth. As a framework act, the law has precedence over other acts, specifies the overall approach and defines the responsibilities of different actors. It even establishes a new body for the deliberation of green growth policies and plans, the Presidential Committee on Green Growth, located under the Prime Minister’s Office. Moreover, it includes especially a lot of orders for the state government to elaborate different strategies and plans as well as to set out medium- and long-term goals, as it is described in the continuation.
First of all, the government shall establish and enforce the National Strategy for Low Carbon Green Growth. This strategy shall include main targets and address all related issues, such as green growth, policies for coping with climate change, low-carbon traffic systems, international climate negotiations and cooperation as well as respective means for implementation, such as public procurement, financial resources, taxation, capacity building, education and public relation activities.
A separate chapter addresses the governmental support of the green economy and green industries, including the transformation of traditional industries into green ones. This includes the establishment of a Green Industries Investment Company to invest in green industries and to boost technological development.
Regarding to the climate, the government shall establish and implement a Basic Plan for Coping with Climate Change. Such a plan shall be drafted every five years with a planning horizon of 20 years. The plan shall provide an overview of the relevant emissions and impacts, and include the medium- and long-term targets for GHG emission reductions and climate change countermeasures. Moreover, it shall specify arrangements for the cooperation with local governments, capacity building and research & development (R&D). Further, adaptation measures, including monitoring, forecasts, evaluation of impacts and respective weaknesses for disaster preventions, should be part of the Basic Plan, as well as education and public relation activities.
The Basic Plan for Energy, in contrast, has to address trends and prospects of the energy demand and supply. It shall formulate respective objectives for energy demand, the composition of energy sources, energy savings and energy efficiency improvements, again for the medium- and long-term. Moreover, the plan shall set out measures for the supply and use of environmentally friendly energy, such as new and renewable energy.
Beyond that, the Framework Act includes provisions for the reporting of GHG emissions and energy consumptions by entities above a certain level and for the establishment of an integrated information management system to verify and manage GHG emissions. In addition, it tasks the government to operate an emissions trading system to reduce GHG emissions. However, the framework act leaves the details to be specified in another separate law. Also the transport sector and the building sector are addressed: The definition of vehicle emissions standards and vehicle energy consumption standards as well as the expansion of green buildings is called for. Additionally, the framework act aims to diffuse a culture in production and consumption for green growth by relying upon energy saving and resource efficiency measures, enabling appropriate pricing of goods and services and disclosing information of GHGs in goods to put consumers into a position to make informed choices. Finally, the document elaborates n more detail on education and public relations activities for the practice of green life.
In addition to the framework act itself, there is also a related presidential decree, which provides for the matters delegated by the law and for matters necessary for the enforcement of the law. The decree for instance includes the target of reducing national GHG emissions by 30 percent in 2020 below the business as usual (BAU) scenario. Moreover, a National Strategy for Green Growth for the period up to 2050 has been adopted as well as a Five-Year Plan for Green Growth 2009-2013 based on the Framework Act.
Full document available as pdf.


South Korea’s electricity mix is so far dominated by coal-fired power plants (43 percent share in 2015) and nuclear power (30 percent share in 2015). Before Moon Jae-in took office, South Korea announced that it would close ten ageing coal-fired power plants by 2025. Eight of the 43 remaining coal-fired power plants are older than 20 years and would be retrofitted to reduce emissions. However, South Korea planned to build 20 new coal-fired power plants by 2022. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker, there are currently eight coal-fired power plants under construction in South Korea with a combined capacity of 6.85 GW. In addition, six power plants with 5.34 GW have been permitted or are currently in the permission process. Five projects have been cancelled and three projects have been shelved. In addition, two new nuclear reactors are under construction.

Seventh Electricity Supply Plan 2015
In the seventh Electricity Supply Plan, South Korea targets the following electricity supply mix by 2029: 23.4 percent nuclear, 24.6 percent coal, 20.6 percent liquefied natural gas (LNG), 20.1 percent renewable energy and 9.5 percent others (combined heat and power, anthracite oil and pumped storage). Initial plans represented a decrease in coal and an increase in nuclear compared to the previous Electricity Supply Plan. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the share of nuclear power was downscaled, while the target for renewable energies was substantially increased.

Second Energy Master Plan 2014
The second Energy Master Plan reaffirms the target of 11 percent renewable energy by 2030. Moreover, it revised the target on energy demand to a reduction by 15 percent until 2035. This objective shall be reached through the adjustment of energy taxes, appropriate pricing of electricity and smart demand management systems building on internet and communication technologies.

Energy Use Rationalisation Act 1980 (last revised in 2013)
This legislation outlines the general provisions for securing energy supplies and stabilising energy demand for the sustainable development of Korea. It requires the government to take measures for the stabilisation of demand and supply in an effective way and to rationalise energy utilisation. At the same time, the economy is supposed to be able to grow while the environment shall be safeguarded. As concrete examples, the law allows the government to determine energy rations during a supply crisis, to prescribe 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. The Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy s supposed to draw up a long-term Basic National Energy Plan every five years and a Basic Plan for Rational Use of Energy, addressing demand-side and supply-side issues of energy efficiency, substitution between energy sources and measures to reduce GHG emissions. Also regional plans and emergency plans are supposed to be created. It also includes the Voluntary Agreements, a crucial part of the government’s GHG reduction strategy. This measure involves five-year 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. Besides, the National Energy Committee is established. Beyond that, following the provisions of the law, the government has provided long-term and low-interest loans for energy efficiency and conservation investments as part of a Fund for Efficient Use of Energy, which was introduced already in 1980. Back in 1980, also the Korea Energy Management Corporation was established, which is responsible for the planning and implementation of energy conservation programmes and activities. The law as well addresses standby-power standards, utilisation of waste heat, management of equipment and support to enterprises specialising in energy savings.

Act on the Promotion of the Development, Use and Diffusion of New and Renewable Energy 2004 (revised in 2011)
The law aims to diversify the South Korean energy mix. For this purpose, it established the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) for minimum shares of renewable energy generation and trading of renewable energy certificates. This does not only include solar, bioenergy, wind, water, fuel cells, hydrogen, marine and geothermal power, but also natural gas. The RPS were introduced in 2012 and replaced a previous feed-in tariff scheme. The system requires power producers with capacities of 500 MW or more 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. In the beginning, the RPS required the utilities to purchase or generate renewable energies to ensure a share of those sources of 2 percent. This share steadily increases to 10 percent in 2022.

Act on the Creation and Facilitation of Use of Smart Grids 2011
According to the law, the government shall develop and implement a respective five-year plan. It requires especially the promotion of R&D and sets the frame for the establishment of smart grids, including how to deal with and protect the respective information of consumers.

Energy Act 2006 (revised in 2011)
The Energy Act defined the long-term vision and the basic principles of the energy policy. Accordingly, local governments have to formulate and implement five-yearly energy plans to ensure energy supply, promote renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, reduce GHHGs and develop new energy sources. It calls for the creation of a National Energy Supply Contingency Plan and an Energy Technology Development Plan. Moreover, it establishes the Energy Committee, which serves as the body for the deliberation of major energy policies and energy-related plans. Further, it creates the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning. This entity is supposed to support the planning, evaluation and management of projects that aim to improve and develop energy technologies. Also a respect fund is established by the law.

Electricity Business Act 1990 (last revised in 2010)
The law mandates the purchase of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. It guarantees that any generator of renewable energies, who is connected to the grid, can sell the electricity at a fixed price. The Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) is responsible for purchasing the electricity from renewable energies, while the government compensates for the price difference between renewable and convention energy generation prices.

Integrated Energy Supply Act 1991 (last revised in 2010)
The law promotes energy conservation and demands the drafting of master plans for integrated energy supply. It includes provisions on the construction, operation and safety of integrated energy facilities.

First Energy Master Plan 2008
The first Energy Master Plan of 2008 set the target to reach an 11 percent share of renewable energies in the energy mix by 2030, while ensuring affordability of energy supply. It built on three main pillars – energy security, energy efficiency and environment. Hence, it also included a goal to reduce energy intensity by 46 percent by 2030. However, a review of the plan indicated that energy consumption in the industrial sector and electricity demand had both increased faster than expected. This resulted in a less ambitious target in the second Energy Master Plan (see above).

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 modelling. 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.
Korea is currently establishing a Green Building Standards Code and a system for the Performance Evaluation of Eco-friendly Homes.


Act on the Allocation and Trade of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rights 2012
The law established a domestic cap-and-trade system, an emissions trading scheme (ETS), following the example of the European ETS. As such, it is supposed to contribute not only to the reduction of GHGs but also to the development of green industries. The law itself only called the government to operate a respective system. As a consequence, the respective enforcement decree outlined the rules and governance structure of the ETS, including a Master Plan and an Allocation Plan. The Allocation Plan has determined that there will be three implementation phases from 2015 until 2015. Phase I lasts from 2015 to 2017, during which 100 percent of permits will be freely allocated and emission caps of 573 MtCO2eq in 2015, 562 MtCO2eq in 2016 and 551 MtCO2eq in 2017 apply. Phase II follows from 2018 to 2020, with a share of 97 percent of allocated permits. Phase III starts in 2021 and ends in 2025. It will have a percentage below 90 percent of allocations. Caps for the second and third phase have not yet been defined. After a review of the plan in 2014, the government modified the plans, which has mainly been attributed to the opposition of the country’s industrial sector. As a result, emissions targets were reduced by 10 percent from previously planned levels for all covered industries. In addition, the price was set to be kept at approximately USD 90 per ton of emissions by using stabilisation measures. Moreover, the banking and borrowing of allowances were allowed; participants can also buy permits from each other. Extra emissions rights apply to new facilities. Beyond that, a quota evaluation commission can add emission rights to an allowance reserve and make further interventions. Last but not least, financial support measures for emission- and energy-intensive industries were introduced to safeguard their competitiveness in form of financial and taxation incentives or subsidies to reduce GHG emissions or develop technological solutions.
On January 1, 2015, South Korea finally launched the ETS, covering more than 60 percent of the national GHG emissions. This happened with a delay of three years, as it was initially planned to launch the system in 2013. In specific, the ETS includes companies emitting more than 125,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year as well as factories, buildings and livestock farms with annual emissions above 25,000 metric tonnes CO2. This results in 525 business entities from 23 sub-sectors, including steel, cement, petrochemicals, refinery, power, buildings, waste and aviation, These sectors have all an own cap in addition to the overall cap mentioned above. Moreover, the system covers all six Kyoto Protocol gases. The Kyoto instruments, certified emission reductions (CERs), can also be used in the South Korean emissions trading scheme. However, offsets are allowed to make up only 10 percent of compliance obligations at maximum. Other international offsets are eligible for use in the third phase from 2021 on but have to constitute less than 50 percent of the maximum offsets. The specific criteria and procedures for using these offsets are yet to be determined. In the case that an entity exceeds the allotted amount of GHGs, it has to pay a fine up to three times the average market price of certificates of the year.
The law established also an Emission Rights Allocation Committee for the deliberation and mediation of the major issues regarding the ETS. In the meantime, the Minister for Industry, Trade and Energy is responsible for controlling and operating the ETS, after assuming this function from the Ministry of Environment.
In 2017, some industry-friendly adjustments have been made by easing the cap by an additional 17 MtCO2eq allowances and increasing the permitted share of allowances to be borrowed for compliance from 10 to 20 percent.
More information on the website of the South Korean Ministry of Environment.

Greenhouse Gas and Energy Target Management Scheme (TMS) 2011
The TMS functioned as a precursor to the ETS. It was designed to manage and impose specific GHG emission reduction and energy consumption standards on businesses with an energy consumption and GHG emissions above a certain threshold. As such, it covered more than 90 percent of industrial GHG emissions and 70 percent of overall national GHG emissions. It also involved the development of a measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) system for GHG emissions and energy consumption, which became the basis for the national ETS.


Low-Carbon Vehicle Fund
A low carbon vehicle fund is supposed to be established for the promotion of low-carbon transport options. However, the fund has been delayed and is now planned to be introduced in 2020. It is intended to establish additional charges on polluting, high-GHG emitting cars, while providing subsidies to low-GHG emitting vehicles.
Additionally, South Korea has put in place vehicle emission standards that have been strengthened from 140 gCO2 per km in 2015 to 97 gCO2 per km in 2020.

Act on the Promotion of Development and Distribution of Environmentally Friendly Automobiles 2004 (revised in 2011)
According to the law, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy has to create a master plan and implementation plans to promote the development and distribution of environmentally friendly automobiles. These include electric cars, hybrid cars, fuel cell vehicles, natural gas vehicles as well as clean diesel cars.

Sustainable Transportation Logistics Development Act 2009
The law aims to promote low-carbon, environmentally friendly, energy- and resource-efficient transportation logistics systems to reduce GHG emissions and to improve the mobility, accessibility and safety of the respective systems. Thereby, a balance between modes of transportation and supported regions shall be ensured. Based on the law, state and local authorities need to formulate basic plans for ten year periods and annual implementation plans. Sufficient financial resources have to be provided.

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).


Act on Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources 1992 (revised in 2008)
The respective Enforcement 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 percent and organic wastes to 26 percent by 2013 and utilising 77 percent of waste heat from incinerators and 91 percent of landfill gas.


During Japanese rule and the Korean War, forest areas have been over-harvested and deforested. Beginning in the late 1960s, forest management begun with enforcement of strict laws. Several comprehensive forest rehabilitation plans were drafted and implemented. While the first (1973-1978) and the second (1979-1987) plan focused on rehabilitation and restoration of mountain areas, the third National Forest Plan (1988-1997) shifted the forestry policy from simple greening activities for reforestation to the emphasis of an environmentally healthy forest. The fourth National Forest Plan (1998-2007) was then grounded on the new notion of sustainable forest management. The current Fifth National Forest Plan (2008-2017) further expands sustainable forest management and highlights the importance of forests as a carbon sink.


National Climate Change Adaptation Master Plan (NCCAMP) 2008
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 (see above). It consists of 86 major projects in 10 sectors:

  • Public health (e.g. countermeasures against heatwaves and air pollution)
  • Disaster/infrastructure (e.g. plans for disaster prevention through early warning systems and building social infrastructure through insurances)
  • Agriculture (e.g. climate smart agriculture)
  • Forest (forest health improvement and prevention of forest disasters such as forest fires or landslides)
  • Marine/fishery (adaptation to sea level rise, preservation of marine resources)
  • Water (water response systems against floods and droughts)
  • Ecosystem (conservation of biodiversity through habitat protection of vulnerable species)
  • Climate change monitoring and projection (including governmental support for respective R&D projects)
  • Adaptation industry/energy (creation of new businesses for adaptation and minimise economic damages)
  • Public education international cooperation (awareness raising and expansion of international partnerships)

In addition to the specified projects, the master plan includes provisions for local adaptation planning. Moreover, it established a comprehensive climate adaptation framework with the establishment of the National Government Adaptation Committee (NGAC) as a ministerial coordination body for the implementation of the adaptation strategy. Already before, the Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change (KACCC) had been created in 2009 as part of the Korea Environment Institute.
The Master Plan was revised in 2012 based on the new RCP climate change scenarios, providing for a downscaling of climate change impacts and thus new vulnerability assessments.
A summary of the National Strategic Plan for Climate Change Adaptation is available as pdf.


Main sources

If not otherwise indicated in the text, the following sources apply:

Profile of South Korea on the website of the Climate Action Tracker

Profile of South Korea on the website of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

International Policy

General features

  • Party to the UNFCCC (Non-Annex I)
    • Date of signature: 13 June 1992
    • Date of ratification: 14 December 1993
    • Date of entry into force: 21 March 1994
  • Party to the Kyoto Protocol (no greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction obligation)
    • Date of signature: 25 September 1998
    • Date of ratification: 08 November 2002
    • Date of entry into force: 16 February 2005
    • Date of Acceptance Doha Amendment: 27 May 2015
  • Signatory of the Copenhagen Accord (with a pledge of reducing national GHG emissions by 30 percent from business-as-usual (BAU) emissions by 2020)
  • Party to the Paris Agreement
    • Date of signature: 22 April 2016
    • Date of ratification: 3 November 2016
    • Date of entry into force: 3 December 2016
  • Post 2020 action: Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of the COP21 in Paris in 2015 (for more information on INDCs see here). Following the ratification and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the INDC has become the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of South Korea. Main targets:
    • Mitigation target of achieving an emissions reduction of 37 percent from the BAU level by 2030 across all economic sectors (however, it has not been specified yet if emissions from land use, land use change and forestry are included or not). The emissions of the BAU scenario are quantified for 2020 (782.5 MtCO2eq), 2025 (809.7 MtCO2eq) and 2030 (850.6 MtCO2eq). Thus, the emission level in 2030 would be 535.9 MtCO2eq. All six Kyoto gases are included. The methodologies and metrics are based on IPPCC guidelines. The Republic of South Korea intends to use international market mechanisms to achieve its mitigation target; almost one third of the target shall be attained this way.
    • The NDC includes an adaptation component with several strategic actions.
    • South Korea emphasised that its mitigation target is in line with IPCC requirements and highlighted its limited mitigation potential due to high economic efficiency as well as its large manufacturing share for exports.
    • The Climate Action Tracker has rated the NDC of South Korea “inadequate”, indicating that it is not in line with the below 2°C target, let alone 1.5°C. With the NDC, South Korea replaced its 2020 target as contained in the Copenhagen Pledge, which is no longer pursued. The 2020 target would have implied almost the same emission level as the NDC. Under current policies, South Korea is expected to exceed its targets as emissions are projected to rise.

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation

  • South Korea has been actively participating in GHG mitigation activities through the Kyoto mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Until date, the country registered 91 projects with the UN that generated over 20 million CERs. Additionally, 52 projects have been issued over 161.5 million CERs.
  • South Korea has pledged to contribute USD 100 million to the Green Climate Fund.
  • The Republic of Korea is a member of the G20 and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change. Moreover, it is an observer of the International Energy Agency (IEA). In addition, it has joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
  • At COP21 in Paris in 2015, South Korea pledged to double its expenditures on clean energy research by 2020 as part of the Mission Innovation initiative.
  • Moreover, South Korea is a member of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), which aims to reduce methane emissions, and of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), which strives to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and HFCs.
  • The Republic of South Korea has also joined the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF).
  • South Korea used to be part of the Asian Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP), which aimed to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States had 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 had a number of projects in member countries designed to implement or improve new technologies, better policies, and mutual cooperation. It consisted of a governing body and eight sectoral forces, which were tasked to elaborate on concrete projects and plans. The APP was abandoned after only five years and had little impact on the emissions of the member states. The APP was accused to undermine the legitimacy and supremacy of the UNFCCC.
  • Environmental Cooperation in North-East Asia (Korea-China-Japan): Korea, China, and Japan are in the same sphere of environmental influence in North-East 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 North-East Asian Conference on Environmental Cooperation (NEAC), the Northeast Asia Sub-regional Programme 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

The Republic of South Korea, as a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1996, is a member of the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) in the international climate negotiations under the UNFCCC.

South Korea was the first non-Annex I country to indicate that it will adopt a quantifiable but voluntary emissions target for 2020 with its Copenhagen Pledge.