The emissions intensity of South Korea’s transport sector has only declined by 3% between 1990 and 2019. Conversely, the annual emissions from transport related energy demand have increased by 143% over the same period. This is the result of oil’s continuing dominance in the transport energy mix.
Currently, fossil fuels meet almost the entirety of the transport energy demand (98% in 2019, 94% from oil), while electricity and hydrogen make up the remaining small share. 1.5°C compatible pathways show a reversal of this demand structure with hydrogen, electricity and biofuels overtaking fossil fuels as the larger source of transport energy supply by around 2040. By 2070, the structure has almost entirely flipped, with alternative fuels meeting 93% of demand and fossil 7%.
Due to this shift in the energy structure, 1.5°C compatible pathway shows direct CO₂ emissions declining, particularly after 2030. Along with this, energy demand for transport would also decline under most pathways, particularly over the next decade. This decline could come from efficiency measures and/or a modal shift.
The government has acknowledged the need for both long term fuel switching and short-term management options to reduce transportation sector emissions. It has proposed policies designed to promote public transport use and increase electric and hydrogen vehicle deployment. These include a target for electric and hydrogen powered vehicles to account for a third of new vehicle sales by 2030. This would entail selling a total of 3 million electric vehicles and 850,000 hydrogen vehicles over the period 2019-30. For the increased electricity and hydrogen use to reduce transport emissions, these fuels must be produced from renewable energy sources (e.g., green hydrogen).