South Korea has been ranked 58th out of 60 countries worldwide in Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2018, an instrument that assesses action taken on climate protection.
The index, compiled by European NGO Germanwatch, aggregates performance in terms of 14 indicators within four categories: greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. Sweden ranked first, while South Korea was separated from the bottom of the pile only by Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The description of South Korea in CCPI 2018 slams the country’s “comparably very low and severely misaligned performance with regard to a well-below-2°C pathway in the GHG emissions and energy use categories” and “very low level of renewables in the energy supply,” but finds one redeeming feature in its very high rating in renewable energy development (emphasis in original).
So how can Korea climb improve its performance? “First, the government needs to come up with specific measures to manage energy demand, such as reform of the tax system,” said Lee Eon-jeong, climate and energy coordinator at Korean Federation for Environmental Movements. “It also needs to deliver a specific roadmap for moving away from coal-fired power plants – so far it has only pledged to shut down 10 aging plants, without giving dates – and introduce measures to help reach its declared target of a 20% share for renewable sources in electricity generation by 2030.”
Calls for energy tax reform demand a new method of tax calculation that takes into account the social and environmental costs of each energy source: By these measures, sources such as coal and nuclear would be more heavily taxed, promoting a shift to renewable sources such as solar and wind.
In a further blow to anti-coal campaigners, the Board of Audit and Inspection on Nov. 3 turned down a request made by KFEM in April this year to formally investigate the previous Park Geun-hye government’s last-minute approval of the construction of a new coal-fired power generation unit at Dangjin, on the country’s west coast. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) is currently negotiating with the proposed new plant’s investors to convert its two power generation units to run on liquefied natural gas, a much cleaner source than coal.
Meanwhile, South Korea is yet to join Powering Past Coal, an alliance of 25 – as of Nov 16 – governments, businesses and organisations for faster clean growth and a rapid phase-out of “traditional coal power.” The alliance was launched on Nov. 16 by Canada and the United Kingdom at COP23, the United Nations climate change talks held in Bonn, Germany. South Korea’s absence from the list casts further doubt on its commitment to abandoning coal in favor of renewables.
Cover image: Smoke stacks (Source: Pexels Photos)