The Korea Herald

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Seoul to disclose emissions annually, nurture carbon capture technology

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : April 11, 2023 - 15:50

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Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (left) is seen inspecting a model of a facility for carbon capture, utilization and storage displayed at the Government Complex Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (left) is seen inspecting a model of a facility for carbon capture, utilization and storage displayed at the Government Complex Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korea finalized its first basic plan at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to gradually reduce annual national carbon emissions to address climate change, so that Asia's fourth-largest economy in 2030 would emit 40 percent less greenhouse gases compared to 2018.

The five-year overarching implementation plan for Korea to emit a net 436.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and its equivalent in 2030, compared to 727.6 million tons in 2018, gained approval at the Cabinet meeting held at the Government Complex Seoul.

Under the blueprint, Seoul looks to monitor and disclose the degree of emissions every year until 2030, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said in a keynote speech.

The basic plan details annual carbon emissions goals. For example, Korea is to emit up to a net of 633.9 million tons of carbon through this year, down nearly 13 percent from 2018.

"I understand that there are some concerns raised about the audacious plan, but we should waste no time," Han said.

Han was apparently referring to backlash among local environmental activists against the plan, which was first revealed in March, as it eases carbon emission reduction targets for various industries.

Under the current plan, industry players are to cut their combined emissions by 11.4 percent to 230.7 million tons, in contrast with an earlier pledge in 2021 to cut emissions by 14.5 percent.

Instead, the government looks to nurture and take advantage of new technologies such as carbon capture utilization and storage, as well as the increased use of hydrogen as a source of electric power in order to offset the eased goals.

In particular, the use of carbon capture technology will enable Korea to trap and store 11.2 million tons of carbon. This is a more aggressive move compared with the October 2021 plan, where 10.3 million tons was to be captured in 2030.

However, the plan stirred backlash from environmental activists as it allowed for more lenient energy transition measures and lower industrywide carbon emission reduction goals until 2027. As a result, the degree of reduction that the nation has to deal with for three years from 2028 to 2030 is greater than that from 2018 to 2027.

"It is not the right time to approve the basic plan for form's sake. Should the government finalize the plan, it will be remembered as a climate villain by the future generation," a coalition of climate activists and labor unions said in a statement Monday.

On the sidelines, Korea aims to have nuclear power plants cover 32.4 percent of its energy needs by 2030, up from 27.4 percent in 2021 -- in an apparent a U-turn from the previous Moon Jae-in administration's nuclear phaseout policy. Renewable energy will also cover 21.6 percent of power needs by 2030, up threefold from 2021.

But the plan, on the other hand, indicated that Korea is to operate 38 out of 58 coal power plants in 2030. With the slow transition trend, Korea is projected to have the third-biggest coal capacity among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2030.

“It is deeply troubling that South Korea is choosing to fuel the climate crisis by continuing to rely on coal power after 2030 as part of its energy policy,” Lee Jin-sun, the head of Climate Finance at Seoul-based Solutions for Our Climate, said in a statement Monday.

Meanwhile, cars powered by either electricity or hydrogen will reach 4.5 million by 2030, up from 430,000 in 2022.

These climate plans will cost the nation a combined 89.9 trillion won ($68.1 billion) over the course of five years until 2027, with the plan’s budget increasing by an average of 11.5 percent each year.

The action plan details the roadmap announced earlier in October 2021 for the country to become carbon neutral by 2050.