South Korea posts modest 2014 drop in GHG emissions

Published 05:37 on June 23, 2015  /  Last updated at 23:36 on June 23, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, South Korea  /  No Comments

South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 0.6% in 2014, according to preliminary government data, leaving the East Asian nation with the stiff task of cutting GHG output 22% over the next six years to meet its 2020 target.

South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 0.6% in 2014, according to preliminary government data, leaving the East Asian nation with the stiff task of cutting GHG output 22% over the next six years to meet its 2020 target.

The data showed emissions fell by 4 million tonnes of CO2e year-on-year to 693.3 million tonnes.

“The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was attributed chiefly to a decrease in thermal power generation, a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, while the operating rate of nuclear power plants rose,” an unnamed government official commented, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

The drop in emissions came as GDP increased 3.3%, suggesting South Korea might be on its way to decoupling economic growth from carbon output.

But the slight decrease means Seoul faces a tough job ahead if it is to meet its 2020 target of limiting GHG emissions to 543 million tonnes of CO2e, estimated as 30% below BAU.

Industry groups say the target is too difficult and have claimed that some foreign firms have already deserted Korea over the high carbon costs stemming from its ETS.

The government has said it is on track to achieve the 2020 target, but amid intense lobbying from industry groups to ease policies, some analysts are now expressing doubts.

“There is a growing implementation gap between South Korea’s 2020 pledge and its climate policies, and its recently launched Phase I emissions trading scheme (ETS) is not stringent enough to address this,” Climate Action Tracker said in an update last week.

Meanwhile, the government has said it will announce its post-2020 target before the end of the month.

Two weeks ago it outlined four options for a 2030 target, ranging from 14.7% to 31.3% below 2030 BAU levels.

But even the most ambitious of those targets would represent a weakening of South Korea’s climate policies, according to analysts.

“These proposed options are less ambitious than its 2020 pledge and would allow emissions to increase after 2020. We rate all four options for 2030 ‘inadequate’,” Climate Action Tracker said.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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