Welcome to the Earth.Org Global Sustainability Index, where Earth.Org examines the policies and actions regarding the environment of every nation on earth. Combining the most respected global indexes on pollution, climate change, policy, energy, oceans, biodiversity we have produced an overall Global Index, which will be updated annually. This is the Global Sustainability Index scorecard for South Korea.

South Korea’s rapid economic expansion over the past few decades has left it with a significant carbon footprint. In 2015, it was the world’s 13th largest greenhouse gas emitter. 

While governments have often spoken about using ‘green growth’ to build the economy while also benefiting the environment, the nation has been criticised for not always matching this green growth rhetoric with meaningful action. 

A report by Seoul-based NGO Solutions For Our Climate found that the government has so aggressively supported the growth of biomass-fuelled energy production that it has become one of the most subsidised renewable energy sources in South Korea. However, these subsidies are causing severe disruptions and uncertainties in the renewable energy market in the country, including steep declines in the price of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which is discouraging utilities from investing in renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind. Further, these subsidies are meant to help offset the operating and construction costs of converting coal-fired power plants into biomass plants, but these costs are overestimated, in some cases by as much as 15 times the actual cost. 

The citizens of South Korea place the climate crisis highest in their list of potential national threats. Of those surveyed, 86% agreed it is a ‘major threat to our country’, higher than even North Korea’s nuclear program, which 67% viewed as a major threat.

In its Paris commitments, the nation pledged to reduce its emissions in 2030 to 37% below business-as-usual levels, however this target would amount to emissions levels 78% higher than in 1990 by 2030. 


Global sustainability index scorecard South Korea

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Earth.Org Global Sustainability Index Ranking image description: South Korea Rankings – Policy: 24, Pollution: 60, Climate Change: 58, Oceans: 48, Biodiversity: 94, Energy: 43, Earth.Org Global Sustainability Index Ranking 112.