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Bridging the Gap: Progress and Prospects for Accelerating South Korea's Move Towards a Carbon Neutral Scenario
Region: Asia
Theme: Energy
Location: Korea, South
Published October 28, 2020
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The Moon administration in South Korea has implemented rapid changes to accelerate the decarbonization of the energy sector. While seeking to embrace renewables, Seoul has been relying on the bridging capacity of natural gas—of which it is the world’s third largest importer. In this context, President Moon is also confronted with public discontent over weak emissions goals and inadequate policies to curb the negative effects of climate change. Besides, the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic could hinder the enforcement of environmental measures and loosen restrictions for the sake of an immediate recovery. As Seoul attempts to secure more environmentally-friendly and economically sustainable energy sources, this paper examines the advances and major drawbacks of this policy agenda. By shedding light on the dynamics within the gas sector, the analysis also assesses the viability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the pillar of this pro-environmental policy shift, including the potential of some LNG-related projects. The paper finds the feasibility of the current goals is challenged by the realities of energy supply stabilization, particularly due to the simultaneous phaseout of coal and nuclear power and the persistent capacity obstacles for renewables to fill this gap. In light of this, the paper advocates for integrated policy measures aimed at improving consistency in implementing national energy policy in tandem with climate change mitigation efforts.

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