South Korea and Climate Change

South Korea’s Emissions Trading System

On January 1, 2015, South Korea launched an emissions trading system that covers roughly two-thirds of the country’s emissions. Emissions trading is a key policy toward meeting South Korea’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below business as usual levels by 2020.

The South Korean carbon market is the world’s second largest, behind the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). It is also the second nationwide emissions trading program in Asia, following the launch of Kazakhstan’s ETS in 2013.

Background and Details

The original legislation creating the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was adopted almost unanimously on May 2, 2012. The program was originally scheduled to enter force on January 1, 2013, but the government delayed the start to give companies more time to prepare. Trading officially commenced on the Korea Exchange (KRX) on January 12, 2015.

The program is split into three phases: 2015-2017, 2018-2021, and 2022-2026. More than 500 companies are included in the program, from the power, steel, petrochemical, electronic, cement, automobile, buildings, and waste sectors. In addition, five airlines will participate to cover their domestic aviation emissions.

In the first phase, from 2015 to 2017, a total of 1.64 billion allowances will be allocated. The number of allowances individual companies will be allocated is based on their emissions between 2011 and 2013. There will also be additional allowances available for new or expanded facilities. At the beginning of the program, 100 percent of allowances are allocated to companies, but this will be reduced to 90 percent by 2021. The other allowances will be auctioned by the government. International offsets are currently not available to companies to meet their obligations.

The precursor to the ETS in Korea was the Target Management Scheme (TMS), a greenhouse gas management program with 470 participating companies. As with the ETS, individual companies were required to reduce their emissions to target levels. However, the TMS did not allow trading between companies, and the penalties for not complying are not as severe as under the ETS. Features of the TMS have been incorporated into the new system, such as the governance structure and the collection of greenhouse gas inventories.

Additional Resources

Republic of Korea Ministry of Environment – Emissions Trading Scheme

Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center of Korea (GIR) – Target Management Scheme