Korea’s New 2030 Emissions Reductions Targets Fall Short

Oct 25, 2021

On October 18, the South Korean government’s Carbon Neutrality Committee released new 2030 emissions reductions targets (Nationally Determined Contributions-NDCs), which will be confirmed in a cabinet meeting on October 27. But both the targets and the methods for reaching them remain lacking.

At the bare minimum, Korea needed to set a target of 50% emissions reduction from 2018 levels by 2030. This is based on the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C (SR15), which called for global reductions of 45% compared to 2010 (the equivalent of 50% from 2018 levels in Korea). Instead, the Korean government settled for a 40% target.  

This target abandons the goal of keeping global temperature rising to 1.5°C. This is clear from the proposed NDCs acceptance that coal will continue to make up 21.8% of electricity generation by 2030. This is despite warnings from the UN and the scientific community that OECD countries need to be coal-free by 2030. The committee failed to even call for a halt to new coal power plants planned on the country’s east coast at Gangneung and Samcheok.

The targets themselves are based on shaky assumptions. For one, the NDC proposes that 14% of reductions, totaling 70 million tons, will come from carbon sinks, overseas reductions, and carbon capture technology. But the carbon sinks involve simply cutting down and replacing the same forests, overseas reductions have been plagued by failures and lack of international standards, and the technology and cost of carbon capture remain unknown.

The first draft of these plans was released on August 5, giving only two months for public consultation. The first draft allowed for industrial sector emissions of 53.1 million tons by 2050, leading to much public criticism. The updated plan reduces that by a mere 3.7%, to 51.1 million tons, still completely inadequate.

The new NDCs have been rushed through so they can be announced at this month’s upcoming COP meeting in Glasgow. But while the plan may be ready, it will be unable to deal with the need to tackle the impending climate crisis.

For more information contact:
Hye Lyn Kim
International Solidarity Team
Friends of The Earth Korea/Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, KFEM
Email: naserian@kfem.or.kr