South Korea - Climate
At a glance
South Korea’s climate-related ODA is low
In 2018, South Korea committed US$182 million of its bilateral allocable ODA to projects which targeted action against climate change as a principal or significant objective. This represented 7% of its bilateral allocable ODA in 2018, considerably less than the DAC average of 22%. This puts South Korea in 25th place in a ranking of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ commitments on climate-related ODA as a proportion of overall ODA commitments.
Climate finance: funding for projects tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database with the Rio markers for climate change mitigation and/or climate change adaptation. Projects can be tagged with either or both markers.
Each marker has three possible scores:
- Principal, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is a fundamental and explicitly stated goal;
- Significant, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is not a key driver but still an explicitly stated goal; or
- Not targeted, meaning the project does not address climate change mitigation or adaptation.
Not all projects are screened against the Rio markers; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.
South Korea’s ODA for climate has fluctuated over the last five years, ranging from a high of US$325 million (or 14% of bilateral ODA) in 2015 to a low of US$71 million (or 3% of ODA) in 2014.
South Korea’s Framework Act on International Development Cooperation does not explicitly mention climate as one of its overarching principles, however, it is implicitly mentioned through the commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2020 International Development Cooperation Implementation Plan states that the government will analyze the degree to which South Korea’s ODA is targeting climate action and will enhance awareness within implementing ministries and agencies. Climate change is included as a cross-cutting sector, critical to maximizing South Korea’s contributions to the SDGs in the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)’s ‘Mid-term Sectoral Strategy 2016-2020’ and is mentioned in the context of South Korea’s priorities in agriculture and rural development, water, transportation, and energy. South Korea’s Climate Change Response Mid-Term Strategy (2016-2020) sets out three objectives: promoting sustainable development through climate change response; strengthening capacity building for climate change and enhancing access to climate funds through financial mechanisms. The strategy emphasizes the importance of supporting adaptation in the least developed and small island states.
South Korea provides very little principal funding for climate action and prioritizes climate adaptation
In 2018, 87%, or US$158 million of South Korea’s bilateral ODA related to climate action was tagged with the adaptation marker, consistent with their policy objectives to focus ODA spending on activities that support climate change adaptation. 33%, or US$59 million, was marked with the mitigation marker, while 19%, or US$35, was marked with both mitigation and adaptation markers.
In 2018, 5% of South Korea’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects with a significant climate change component, below the DAC average of 15%. Only 2% of funding targeted climate change as a principal goal, again below the DAC average of 7%. A large proportion (93%) of South Korea’s bilateral allocable ODA did not target climate change or was not screened against the Rio markers in 2018 (DAC average: 78%).
Infrastructure activities received the largest share (34%) of South Korea’s climate financing in 2018. Water and sanitation received 18%, followed by agriculture (16%).
South Korea engages in multilateral initiatives to support climate action
Despite its relatively low levels of funding, South Korea has demonstrated international leadership on climate, including hosting the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and proposing the creation of the ‘International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies’, adopted by the United Nations in 2019. Linked to this, it established the ‘National Council on Climate and Air Quality’ and is partnering with China and Japan to reduce fine dust. South Korea was scheduled to host the next ‘Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 Summit’ (P4G) in 2020, however, this has been delayed till 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis. At the United Nations’(UNs’) 'High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond', South Korea reiterated its committements to supporting an environmentally and economically sustainable recovery, including through the Korean New Deal.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is based in Incheon, South Korea, and in September 2014, South Korea committed US$100 million to support its successful operationalization. At the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019, President Moon Jae-in committed to doubling South Korea’s contribution to the GCF. According to the 2020 Implementation Plan, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will provide KRW23.9 billion (US$22 million) in 2020. Since 2016, the Korea Development Bank has been an accredited GCF implementation body, allowing it to implement projects in partnership.
The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organization that promotes green growth, is based in Seoul, South Korea, and is led by Ban Ki-moon, South Korean Foreign Minister, and former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General. The South Korean government works closely with the GGGI to promote "strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging countries", including for instance, the Global Green Growth Week 2019 which was run in partnership by the GGGI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (MOFA) and others including the Korea International Renewable Energy Conference. In 2020, South Korea made a voluntary contribution to the GGGI of KRW11.9 billion (US$11 million). South Korea has also contributed to the Global Environment Facility since 1995, contributing KRW1.7 billion (US$1.5 million) in 2020.
Committee for International Development Cooperation has overall responsibility for climate-related ODA
Given that it is a cross-cutting sector within South Korea’s development portfolio, South Korea’s Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC) overseas climate-related ODA. KOICA led the development of the Climate Change Response Mid-Term Strategy (2016-2020).