South Korea on Friday announced a raft of climate policy changes, including abandoning its GHG emissions target for 2020, stripping the Ministry of Environment of its responsibility for the emissions trading scheme, and lifting a cap on Early Action Credits that observers say could boost the market’s supply by more than 40 million tonnes.
Former President Lee Myung-bak won international praise at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 when he pledged to keep South Korea’s 2020 emissions at 20% below business-as-usual levels, a goal that was considered very ambitious by many.
But under the current administration led by President Park Geun-hye, Lee’s green growth strategy has faded into the background and the construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants have sparked concerns about whether the 2020 target can be achieved.
“The introduction of (planned) new coal plants after 2016 will represent a more than 65% increase in coal capacity, compared to Korea’s current levels,” Joo-jin Kim, a lawyer with consultancy ELPS, told Carbon Pulse.
South Korea’s Green Growth Act will be updated and the 2020 target will be replaced with Korea’s Paris pledge to keep 2030 emissions 37% below BAU levels and 2050 ambitions, a government press release said.
In effect, Korea’s emissions can continue to grow as more coal enters the generation mix without any domestic laws being broken.
“While a clear roadmap for emission reductions in 2050 is helpful for companies to make investment decisions to transition to a low-carbon future, short-term targets must be retained to urge action now,” said Thomas Winklehner, a trader with Korea Carbon.
“Shifting the focus away from a 2020 reduction target to 2030 and 2050 targets risks engaging industry proactively in achieving emission reductions. Companies should both be encouraged to achieve short-term targets while having the certainty that long-term targets provide for making investment decisions,” he added.