The Republic of South Korea is the world’s 11th-highest energy consumer and the eighth-largest carbon dioxide emitter globally. However, South Korea’s ambition with regard to climate action has increased significantly since 2017. In October 2020, it declared its goal of attaining climate neutrality by 2050.
For a country with an energy-intensive economy – South Korea is a major manufacturer of steel, automobiles and semiconductors – this is an ambitious target. Supporting the dialogue on the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries became, therefore, the primary focus of the SPIPA Programme in South Korea.
At the beginning of 2021, South Korea enacted the Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality and Green Growth to set the 2050 net-zero target into law. It also established a Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality to oversee and streamline the implementation of its climate and energy policies.
Through interventions such as a SPIPA-hosted seminar on recommendations for South Korea’s long-term strategy (LTS) at the National Assembly, and an assessment conducted in May 2021 of the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution, the SPIPA Programme contributed both to raising South Korea’s ambitions and to its climate neutrality declaration.
In the context of renewable energy sources, SPIPA supported a report addressing South Korea’s electricity governance; in particular, regulations on the minimum distances at which solar photovoltaic (PV) energy developments must be placed away from roads and residential areas. Prompted by the findings, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) commissioned a similar study and, based on the results, prepared legislation to make the siting of solar PV developments more applicable to conditions in the country, and more effective. The energy-related activities were supported by robust social media campaigns.
The EU Delegation to South Korea and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy have also been exchanging information with South Korea on relevant case studies to strengthen climate action and related policy decisions. Cross-linkages with SPIPA’s multi-country actions, such as the one on Just Transition, have also proven very fruitful in the context of South Korea.
SPIPA-hosted dialogues yielded concrete opportunities that can enhance climate ambition in the country. Further technical follow-ups on renewables, Just Transition, green hydrogen, the emissions trading system, the climate-trade nexus and the circular economy are high on the priority list for future engagements.