Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 15-06-24 16:34
Enerzine No 40. South Korean Government shows no vision and will to prevent serious climate change
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조회 : 6,588 No 40.pdf [2587]

1. South Korean Government Announced Emission Reduction Target Scenarios

-South Korean Government shows no vision and will to prevent serious climate change.-

South Korea is suffering from worsening drought. Last June 11, Seoul, the country’s capital, recorded its hottest day in the last 108 years. This is circumstantial evidence that South Korea is no longer safe from climate change. On the same day the South Korean government announced four passive scenarios for the country’s reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In such scenarios, however, the country shows no vision and will to prevent serious climate change. 

Despite the worldwide emphasis on each country’s efforts to tackle climate change, no effective agreement among countries has been reached yet. The world is now anchoring its last hopes on the ‘Post-2020 Climate Change Regime.’ This regime has several features such as the participation of many countries in setting bottom-up global targets through voluntary targets of each country. In connection with this, many countries have agreed that the voluntary target (INDSc) should be fair and ambitious, and that they should not backslide in their achievement of their target at the 20th UNFCCC COP in Peru. However, the South Korean government has spurned the people’s hope. This is because whatever we choose among its suggested scenarios would not help solve the climate change problem.

In 2009, former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak participated in the 15th UNFCCC COP and declared that his country aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% of its Business As Usual (BAU) level by the year 2020. If this reduction rate target is calculated based on the country’s 2005 greenhouse gas emission level, the decrease would be 4%. However, the new reduction targets in the aforementioned scenarios were calculated as 3-28%, higher than the 2005 greenhouse gas emission level. Thus, the government’s reduction target seems half-hearted.

< Four scenarios by 2030>
(Scenario 1) Reduction Rate 14.7%  from BAU Level
(Scenario 2) Reduction Rate 19.2%  from BAU Level
(Scenario 3) Reduction Rate 25.7%  from BAU Level
(Scenario 4) Reduction Rate 31.3%  from BAU Level

There is another problem. Several measures to reach the South Korean government’s suggested reduction target are being considered. The South Korean government plans to expand the capacity of the country’s nuclear power plants, and to introduce and commercialize CCS to deal with climate change. In the government plan, the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy supply mix will be increased continuously to 17.7% in 2030. However, the other energy sources, which include renewable energy, will take up only about 5% of the total mix in 2030. This means the South Korean government will replace coal and oil energy with nuclear energy.

From Chernobyl to Fukushima, people the world over had experienced the hazards of nuclear energy. Therefore, the scenario that would force South Koreans to choose between nuclear energy and climate change seems only the government’s trick to expand the use of nuclear energy in the country. Moreover, if the government plans to rely on many unproven technologies, including CCS, it will burden future generations with the more serious challenge of solving climate change.

The South Korean government is now speaking for industries that insist that greenhouse gas reduction will cause an economic crisis. On the contrary, the government and industries should know that if they will come forward to actively prevent climate change, the national economy will surely benefit.

Cho, Boyoung /

2. The Renewable Energy Cooperative Raises a Question About the RPS of South Korea

South Korea had put the feed-in tariffs (FIT) into practice until 2011 after it enacted the system in 2003, which resulted in great contributions to supplying new renewable energy. However, South Korea adopted RPS as a means of new renewable energy supply through the revision of the New Renewable Energy Act in 2010, thereby making FIT disappear in the wake of the sunset regulation. As a result, noisy pros and cons arising from the abrupt introduction of RPS still exist.

The overriding trouble is that the current price of the solar REC that has been adopted by RPS has plummeted. The solar REC price, which was 219,977 won per REC at the contract market in the latter half of 2011, has continuously fallen down to 70,707 won per REC at the contract market in the first half of 2015. This means that the price has gone down by as much as 68% in just three and a half years. What is more disconcerting is the fact that nine in ten contractors failed to submit tenders in spite of such a huge price drop. Consequently, they will not be able to head off the constant decrease in prices and tough competition.
The Energy Cooperative is also suffering from similarly unstable conditions. In South Korea, a number of cooperatives that produce and sell renewable energy have been set up since the Basic Cooperative Act went into effect in 2012, and the energy cooperatives have been showing up mainly in Seoul and its adjacent areas since 2013. The Korea Association of Civil Development Cooperatives acts as a group, which collects the ideas from numerous cooperatives and lobbies the South Korean government for them. 

The association urged that the RPS system be abolished and the FIT system be introduced again for small solar photovoltaic operators. They insisted that its 30 members are driven to a blind alley due to the RPS system. Furthermore, it demands that the government bring to an end the full-scale thermal power generation-oriented energy policies, along with nuclear power, and fundamentally overhaul the nation’s overall energy policies to focus on renewable energy.

The government is opposed to the FIT system, which it says takes advantage of power rates, on the basis that its costs will eventually be passed on to the consumers. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that the FIT system should be reintroduced as an opportunity for the expansion of renewable energy in South Korea.

Eun-suk, Son /

3. The Achievements and Limits of the South Korean Local Governments’ Policies to Phase-out Nuclear Energy

The hybrid type, which is the combination of a nationally-led type and a locally-led type, is perceived as an ideal way of converting energy and coping with climate change. As a result of the central government’s lack of interest in South Korea, the local governments that are interested in discarding nuclear energy have drawn up plans and steps, and pushed forward with related polices since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Some of the remarkable examples include ‘a campaign to close down a nuclear power plant’ and ‘an energy living city’ promoted by the capital of Seoul, which have a positive effect on other major local governments. “The group of local government heads against nuclear energy”, which was chiefly organized by Nowon-gu in Seoul, Suwon-city, and Nam-gu in Incheon kicked off in 2012 and issued “The Municipal Statement for Converting to New Energy from Nuclear Energy”.

The group, which represents 46 of the 244 local governments, declared that they will take positive actions against global warming, as well as energy conversion from nuclear power, based on its statement from the slogan, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” These declarations and practices are believed to be encouraging as a bottom-up conversion experiment to put pressure on the listless policies on energy, climate, and plan by the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.

In addition, we need to take note of the fact that mayoral candidates, who vowed to immediately close down nuclear power plants, were elected in the 2014 local elections, and the achievements of the residents in Samcheok who succeeded in voting against a plan to construct a nuclear power station are spreading to other regions like Yeongdeok. It is, among other things, positive that a debate on how to remove nuclear energy is increasingly held and practices for it are gaining ground in many parts of South Korea. With all this remarkable progress, some steps should be taken to make up for some drawbacks wherein those movements have not produced tangible results in some areas. When we took a close look at what is going on in the arguments against nuclear energy and for new energy cities in terms of the creation and practice of energy plans and measures, the plans against climate change and their practices, as well as the adoption and revision of local laws, we found out that a number of local governments have stayed on a negative course in coming out with proper plans and steps, not to mention related ordinances. What is worse is that most of them are only engaged in the supply or matching business of the central government, and adhere to the scope of the energy-saving business, except for a small number of local governments including Nowon-gu. 

It is as crucial as finding new policies and exemplary cases to be faithful to such basics as the adoption of ordinances, the rearrangement of administrative structures, and the establishment of primary plans and steps. Another essential factor is that the local governments should take full control of a policy practice in order to allow energy and climate-related businesses to fall into another form of development doctrine and come out with measures to make an energy conversion experiment from nuclear power circulate in an organic and good way among all local governments. Hopefully, we will be able to see a greater number of local governments take part in “The Second Municipal Statement for Converting to New Energy from Nuclear Energy”, which is now under consideration, and substantially engage in broader joint practices, not simply declaring their positions.

Deputy Director
Lee, Jung-pil /


ECPI researchers translated ‘Energy Security For Whom? For What?’  Which Published by the Corner House in 2012. It’s Korean version published in 2015. We hope this book helps to understand what ‘Energy Security’ is and why we seriously concern on this issue to Korean civil societies.

You can read preface in Corner House web site ->


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