Korea has a comparatively energy intensive economy which relies substantially on heavy industry such as petrochemical exports., Since 1990, South Korea’s industrial energy use has increased steadily, although somewhat flattened out at around 2 EJ/yr since 2011. Electricity has met most of the increased energy demand and oil has been steadily replaced by natural gas. The government has set a target for energy intensity reduction of 21% from 2017 levels by 2040 (from 0.150 to 0.119 toe/million won).
Industrial emissions intensity has been fairly consistently declining since peaking in 1994. In 2019, direct CO₂ emissions was 66 MtCO₂. 1.5°C compatible pathways see direct CO₂ emissions declining to 32-38 MtCO₂ by 2030, and to around 6 MtCO₂ by 2050.
Industrial process related emissions grew rapidly between 1990 and 2004 and have remained variable but generally stable at a level of around 58 MtCO₂e/yr since then. 1.5°C compatible pathways show an immediate and rapid reduction in process emissions from 2020, declining by at least half of the current level by 2030 and at least three quarters by 2050.
South Korean industrial emissions policy largely focuses on energy efficiency measures. While the K-ETS covers the country’s main industrial sub-sectors, including iron and steel, petrochemical, cement, and oil refining, the main mechanism for emissions reduction is financial support for installing energy efficient equipment and implementing related processes. Alongside voluntary energy efficiency schemes, the government’s Target Management System requires companies consuming over 200 TJ/yr (or equivalently, emitting over 50 ktCO₂e/yr) to set legally binding energy reduction targets.,