On February 1, the Ministry of Environment (Minister Han Jeoung Ae) announced the 2021 Work Plan for the Ministry of Environment, which contains 10 tasks in 3 areas under the vision of "Tangible Achievements for People, Carbon Neutrality for the Future". Environmental policy achievements over the past 4 years and major work plans of this year are as follows.
Environmental policy achievements over the past 4 years
Since the inauguration of this government, the Ministry of Environment has made visible achievements by promoting changes in climate and environmental policies such as carbon neutrality, Green New Deal and unified water management.
First, the effects of policy improvement in reduction of GHG and fine dust are evident.
As a result of enhancing GHG reduction, GHG emissions that had been increasing so far passed the peak in 2018 and (tentatively) decreased by 3.4% compared to the previous year in 2019. This paved the way for South Korea to leap forward as a "climate leader" via the Green New Deal and the declaration of carbon neutrality.
By enacting and revising the 8 Fine Dust Acts and introducing a seasonal management system, the concentration of ultra-fine dust, which had been stagnant around 23 to 26 ㎍/㎥, had dramatically improved to 19 ㎍/㎥ in 2020.
Also, the foundation for creating results that are tangible to people, such as the unified water management, was established.
The unified management completed the integrated water management system and the Ministry began to restore the natural status of the rivers, including the opening of reservoir for irrigation of the 4 main rivers of South Korea. By enacting and enforcing the Chemical Product Safety Act (January 2019), a safety management system for household chemical products (disinfectant, germicide, etc.) was also established.
By establishing measures to remove plastics from household wastes, a foundation to achieve free-plastic society was prepared. The foundation for wildlife disease management was established by expanding the national protected area to 16.8% of the total land area (11.2% in 2016) and launching the Wildlife Disease Management Center.
The ministry actively responded to pending issues such as safe handling of medical and recycled wastes, contributing to the overcoming of COVID-19 by enhancing the management of germicide and disinfectants, as well as preventing the spread of African swine fever (ASF) across the country by installing wide-area fences.
Major task promotion plans for 2021
The Ministry of Environment selected ▲ establishing a basis for implementation of carbon neutrality, ▲ creating tangible Green New Deal results for people and ▲ establishing an environmental safety net for people's safety as the 3 major tasks of this year. Specific plans were prepared for the tasks.
1. Establishing a basis for implementation of carbon neutrality
First, an implementation system for the goal of carbon neutrality will be established.
A reduction scenario for carbon neutrality in 2050 will be prepared. As an implementation check and evaluation system are established, the GHG reduction target (NDC) for 2030 will be raised.
Next, the institutional basis for carbon neutrality will also be enhanced, such as establishing a climate response fund (jointed by relevant offices) and promoting the establishment of a (tentatively named) comprehensive carbon information research center.
Second, the ministry will lead the reduction of GHG in different sectors, including the transition into a plastic-free society.
The ministry will achieve transition into a plastic-free society by reducing the use of disposable items and packaging through preliminary inspections for over-packaging, mandatory transparent materials for PET bottles and promotion of the use of recycled raw materials. This will reduce GHG in the waste sector by 19% compared to 2017.
In addition, the ministry will realize the era of popularized future vehicles (electric and hydrogen vehicles) and rapidly induce reduction of internal combustion locomotives by expanding early scrapping of old diesel vehicles.
Third, the ministry will enhance the ability to adapting climate change (climate resilience) in all sectors of society.
Adaptation will be mainstreamed by establishing a system to check the implementation of climate change adaptation measures and preparing procedures for evaluating the impact of climate change in planning and financing projects as well as development projects.
Furthermore, by establishing natural flood reduction facilities such as riverside detention ponds, the climate crisis flood prevention and response system will be established while the flood damage that occurred last year is promptly relieved. The risk management of ecosystems in response to climate change will be also enhanced by establishing and providing a database for large-scale mass outbreak of pest species (gypsy moth, etc.).
2. Creating tangible Green New Deal results for people
First, the era of 300,000 future vehicles will be achieved this year and more than 30,000 electric chargers and more than 100 hydrogen chargers will be installed to advance the era of popularized future vehicles.
In terms of demand, more than 80% of new vehicles for public institutions will be purchased as future vehicles. Private companies will be encouraged to voluntarily convert 100% of their vehicles to future vehicles by 2030 (K-EV100 project).
In terms of supply, the goal of supplying low-emission vehicles (electric, hydrogen, hybrid cars) of automobile manufacturers will be raised (15% in 2020 → 18% in 2021, 10% in electric and hydrogen cars) to promote the industry's transition to future vehicles.
In order to solve inconvenience of charging electric vehicles, the charger will be strategically placed by establishing and utilizing an optimal location system. Ultra-rapid chargers that are 3 times faster than the conventional chargers will also expand.
In addition, to expand hydrogen charging stations (accumulated 180 units), the nationwide deployment plan will be established and special permits as well as licenses will be provided while supporting fuel costs for business operators.
Second, 30,000 green jobs will be created by supporting 420 green promising companies and promoting carbon-neutral R&D in 5 major areas.
The ministry will support green companies with carbon-neutral technologies in priority and 5 green convergence cluster* strategies will be established as regional bases for green industry promotion while focusing supports on promising green companies from their market development to overseas expansion.
* ①Clean atmosphere, ②biological material, ③hydrothermal energy, ④waste battery, ⑤ resource circulation (plastic-free)
The ministry will establish a "carbon-neutral green technology development strategy" and promote 10 R&D projects in 5 areas (① energy conversion, ② reduction, ③ absorption, ④ substitution and ⑤ base technology). In addition, water and sewage management based on smart technology (ICT/AI) will also start operating.
* Operating (water supply) 48 large areas (by 2023) and 44 regional offices. By 2022, operating information and communication-based real-time monitoring and remote control systems (10 pipelines (by 2024), 15 treatment plants (by 2023)) for all 161 local government sewer facilities
Third, the ministry will expand the Green New Deal to local and international communities in order to enhance the ability to implement the Green New Deal and to spread its results.
The smart green city pilot projects (25 regions) will be promoted. Also, standard cases will be established and distributed while expanding the declaration of carbon neutrality to all local governments. This will enable the Green New Deal led by the local governments.
* Smart green city project: Regional-specific environment improvement support project that converges and combines environment projects on climate, water, atmosphere and resource circulation based on the diagnosis of urban climate and environment problems
Furthermore, with the Green Growth Partnership (P4G*) Summit (May 2021), which is the first summit held by Korea since COVID-19, the ministry will become the leader of Green New Deal in the world by leading the Green New Deal and international solidarity on carbon neutrality and enhancing Green Official Development Assistance (ODA).
* (P4G) Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030
3. Establishing an environmental safety net for people's safety
First, the trend on fine dust improvement will be continued this year by reducing the concentration of ultra-fine dust to 18㎍/㎥ (the target of 2022 comprehensive plan for fine dust in 2017).
The ministry will smoothly implement core reduction policies* for each of the 4 major sectors and promote air pollutant reduction technology as well as financial supports for facilities that have been poorly managed, such as cement furnace and GHP.
* (Industry) Total Air Pollution Load Management System, support for pollution prevention facilities for small business sites, (power generation) disposal of 10 old coal fired power plants, (transportation) supply of future vehicles, installation of scrapping and pollutant reduction devices for old diesel vehicles, (life) supply of eco-friendly boilers, etc.
Also, the ministry will enhance the scientific basis for fine dust policies, such as the advancement of the three-dimensional fine dust monitoring system (satellite-aircraft-ground observation network) as well as discover and implement regional-specific measures through diagnosis on local causes.
In addition, the ministry will enhance international cooperation by continuously implementing the Korea-China Cheongcheon Plan* (from November 2019) and jointly publicizing the achievements of fine dust reduction between Korea and China.
* Cheongcheon Plan: expanding the existing R&D projects-centered cooperation to an integrated Korea-China cooperation platform (6 projects in 3 areas such as forecast information sharing, technology cooperation·policy exchange, prevention·reduction projects)
Second, the ministry will enhance the integrated water management and nature-based environment services.
The Nakdonggang integrated water management plan will be finalized within this year to resolve water use conflicts between regions, a comprehensive plan for natural restoration of the Geumgang and Yeongsangang will be established and the restoration of the rivers' natural status will be accelerated by improving the structures crossing the rivers.
In addition, the management of wildlife-borne diseases will be advanced, such as enhancing the management system for the entire process of import, distribution, and sales of wildlife and establishing the "wild boar African swine fever (ASF) countermeasure 2.0" tailored to regional spread risk analysis.
Third, the ministry will implement waste management which would ease down people's worry by responding to waste management threats* early that are likely to expand due to COVID-19 and economic recession.
* Suspension of recycling waste collection, COVID-19 medical wastes, illegal and neglected wastes, saturation of metropolitan area landfills
Responsible public collection and price sliding systems will be obligated to ensure that the collection of recycled wastes is not interrupted. The surveillance system to prevent incineration facilities from being saturated due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 medical wastes will be enhanced and emergency response plans will be executed in case of emergency.
Also, recycling companies will be obligated to install CCTVs and transport companies will be obligated to install GPS on vehicles to prevent additional illegal and neglected wastes. By 2026, the ministry will also promote the solution to the Metropolitan landfill problems via reducing the amount of landfill carried in to the Metropolitan area by 60% and promoting public contests for alternative to landfill sites.
Fourth, a Korean-style environmental health safety net will be established through prevention and relief of environment pollution damages of vulnerable groups and conversion to a green chemical society.
The ministry will enhance tangible services such as supporting litigation for victims of humidifier disinfectants and health monitoring. Also, the scope of environment pollution damage relief will be expanded to household chemical products that were not included in the past.
In addition, the ministry plans to enhance the safety management of chemical substances by pursuing a voluntary agreement to disclose all components of household chemical products and lay the foundation for the transition into a green chemical management system* that reduces carbon emissions.
* Review of the establishment of "Green Chemical Index" which considers expanding the designation of prohibited, restricted and permitted substances as well as carbon emissions reduction
"2021 will be the first year of our transition into carbon neutrality. The Ministry of Environment will lead the foundation of implementing carbon neutrality by 2050 and creating tangible results of Green New Deal", said Minister Han.