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South Korea finalizes 2050 carbon neutrality roadmaps

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South Korea finalizes 2050 carbon neutrality roadmaps


Presidential Committee adopts two final roadmaps

Firm objective to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050

Coal, LNG's share in electricity mix will be lowered

  • Author
  • Charles Lee
  • Editor
  • Kshitiz Goliya
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power Energy Transition LNG Natural Gas Oil Metals The Path to Net Zero
  • Topic
  • COP26 Energy Transition Hydrogen: Beyond the Hype

South Korea has finalized its policy roadmaps to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, focusing on restricting consumption of coal and LNG for power generation and replacing internal combustion engine vehicles with hydrogen-powered and battery-based electric vehicles, government officials said Oct. 19.

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The Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality adopted two final roadmaps, with both of them calling for the end of coal use in power generation to achieve net-zero emissions goal by 2050.

Two roadmaps

While the two roadmaps all target net-zero emissions by 2050, they have different proposals in sectors like power supply, transportation, hydrogen, and carbon capture.

"Under the firm objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the country will take flexible measures with the two roadmaps in hand to meet any possible circumstances down the road," a senior official at the presidential committee said.

The first roadmap aims to scrap all thermal power production using fossil fuels such as coal, LNG and oil to have zero emissions in the electricity generation sector.

The second roadmap calls for abolishing coal-fired power generation but will keep LNG as a flexible power source. However, the second plan seeks to boost carbon capture and storage and direct air capture capabilities so as to fully neutralize carbon emissions from natural gas-fired power plants.

"Under the second roadmap, the power generation sector will produce 20.7 million mt of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2050, down 92.3% from 269.6 million mt in 2018, but all of emissions will be captured and stored effectively to make emissions zero," the official said.

Coal, LNG targeted

Under the both roadmaps, the portion of coal and LNG in the country's electricity mix will be lowered to 21.8% and 19.5% in 2030, respectively, compared with 41.9% and 26.8% in 2018, respectively, the official said.

In contrast, share of renewable sources would jump to 30.2% in 2030, from 6.2% in 2018, while nuclear would edge up to 23.9% in 2030, compared with 23.4% in 2018.

"Several coal-fired power plants will be transformed into LNG-based ones," the official said.

When it comes to the transportation sector, the first roadmap targets to have more than 97% of vehicles to be hydrogen-powered or battery-based electric vehicles.

The second roadmap aims to have 85% of EVs on the road with the remaining combustion-engine vehicles using environment-friendly fuels whose emissions will be neutralized by direct air capture capabilities.

"The transportation sector would emit up to 9.2 million mt of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2050, down 90.6% from 98.1 million mt in 2018," the official said.

Emissions by the industry sector that includes oil refinery, chemicals and steels will be reduced by 80.4% to 51.1 million mt of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2050, from 260.5 million mt in 2018.

"Output of refined petroleum products in the country will be gradually reduced as oil demand is forecast to decline in line with the global push for carbon neutrality," the official said, noting the country's energy-intensive industry would face a major upheaval in decades to come.

Plans revised

"The two finalized roadmaps are revised, upgraded versions of the three 2050 carbon neutrality scenarios the government unveiled in August," the official said.

The three scenarios, which aim to reduce the country's carbon emission by 96.3%, 97.3% or 100% by 2025 respectively, have sparked criticism both by businesses and environmental groups as ""threatening to industries" or "far-fetched and ambiguous."

In the face of the criticism, the government has revised the three scenarios into two roadmaps to achieve carbon neutrality "in flexible manners," but the finalized roadmaps are unlikely satisfy both businesses and environmental groups.

The presidential committee has also finalized a plan to drastically raise its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40% by 2030 against the national output level in 2018, from 26.3% previously, as part of its drive to phase out fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutral by 2050.

The government will officially introduce its revised greenhouse gas reduction goal to the international community at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in November, according to the presidential committee.