Convention on Climate Change

Korea is making an active and preemptive response to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is striving to accomplish a 30% reduction goal compared to BAU (business as usual) by 2020 announced in 2009, and is trying to implement a proactive and effective policy. To that end, the country is pushing ahead with plans to begin its carbon emissions trading scheme from the start of 2015 and is making systematic reduction efforts, including establishing greenhouse gases statistics that collect emission information from businesses through the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center of Korea established in 2010.

Korea is also making efforts to take a leading role in international negotiations on climate change. It proposed the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Registry, an online registry for reporting developing countries’ voluntary mitigation actions, at the COP15 Copenhagen Congress in 2009. As a consequence, this proposal was reflected in the agreement of the 16th Conference of the Parties in Cancun, and currently the NAMA Registry is in operation. Given that voluntary efforts for greenhouse gas reduction by developing countries without support from the international community can be recognized through the online registry, the NAMA Registry is expected to facilitate the voluntary mitigation actions of developing countries.

In addition, Korea successfully hosted the Ministerial Meeting of the Pre-COP18 in October 2012. This Pre-COP18 Ministerial Meeting is meaningful since it suggests political directions for negotiations at the COP18. At the meeting, environment ministers from around 40 countries participated to draw detailed action plans in each agenda of the UNFCCC and discuss in particular the differentiation of greenhouse gas reduction level and the complience systems of developed and developing countries.

Korea will maintain the effort to take the leading role in climate change negotiations as a bridge between developed and developing countries by suggesting directions and settling differences in the negotiations. To do that, it will expand relevant policy and technology exchanges with China, which is a leader among developing countries. With this, it is expected more of developing countries will actively participate in climate change negotiations in the future. In addition, Korea, as an advanced developing country, is working hard to contribute to ushering in the Post-2020 New Climate Regime. Also, as a hosting country of the Green Climate Fund, it is trying to play a significant role to ensure resources and implementation measures for coping with climate change are effectively delivered to recipient developing countries.

▶ Launch of Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Role of Korea

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), based in the Songdo district of Incheon, Korea, is an international financial organization within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to transfer money from the developed to the developing world to assist developing countries for greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation. It is expected to play a key role in assisting developing countries in climate change in the future.

The idea of the establishment of GCF was first suggested by the United States during the 15th Conference of the Parties held in Copenhagen in 2009, and During COP-16 in Cancun in 2010, members agreed the developed countries would found GCF to support the developing world in coping with climate change. At the 17th Conference of the Parties held in Durban, South Africa in 2011, Korea expressed its willingness to host the GCF, and it was officially selected as the host country of the GCF in the next year. The Secretariat officially launched in Songdo, Incheon, in December 2013.

Korea plans to help GCF secure the financial resouces to assist the developing countries, by acting as a bridge between resource donor countries and recipient countries and by providing needed support to the GCF headquarters.

International Environmental Conventions on Biodiversity

▶ Convention on Biological Diversity and the Protocols

The Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”) in 1992, with the objectives of conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. As of the end of 2013, a total of 193 countries are listed as member countries. Korea also joined the convention in October 1994. As Korea’s Pyeongchang was selected as the host city of the 12th CBD Conference of the Parties to be held in 2014, the Korean government is making a full-fledged effort for the success of the international event.6)
6) For more information, see (4) Hosting the COP12 to the Convention on Biological Diversity

The 10th CBD Conference of the Parties held in Nagoya, Japan, in October, 2010, adopted the protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Nagoya Protocol is with regard to “access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS)” and is expected to enter into force in October 2014 as the ratification of 50 countries is complete. For domestic implementation of the protocol, Korea is preparing to establish the relevant law.

Meanwhile, at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties held in Montreal, Canada in February 1999, member countries began a discussion on the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) that may have an adverse effect on biodiversity. In January 2000, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted. Korea laid the domestic legal groundwork by establishing the Transnational Movement, etc. of Living Modified Organisms Act in March 2001 and deposited an instrument of ratification of the protocol to the Secretariat of the UN in October 2007. The protocol and LMOs Act took effect in Korea starting on January 1, 2008.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a multilateral treaty aimed at ensuring that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It is designed to prohibit the rampant collection and poaching of wildlife species from their habitats by regulating the international trade among importing and exporting countries of wildlife. There are now over 179 member countries of CITES as of the end of 2013. Korea became a member in July 1993.

CITES is considered to be one of the most effective environmental conventions, while closely related to trade regulations. The species covered by CITES are listed in three appendices according to the degree of protection they need. All international trade of species listed in the appendices require a prior permit from their domestic authorities. Any trade without the prior permit is subject to forfeit or confiscation, and such occations are reported to the general meeting of the parties. Based on the Wildlife Protection and Management Act and the masterplan on wildlife protection, Korea is endeavoring to effectively implement CITES with a joint effort from relevant ministries and organizations, including Regional Environment Offices, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Korea Customs Service, the Prosecution, etc.

▶ Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention, adopted in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, was established to invoke multinational cooperation to protect wetlands that serve as habitats for a variety of plants and animals, including water birds. As of the end of 2013, there are 168 member countries to the Convention, with 2,178 wetland sites, totaling about 200 million hectares, designated as Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.

Korea registered Yongneup of Mt. Daeamsan, which is designated and managed as a natural ecosystem conservation area, as the first Ramsar Wetland in Korea after it joined the convention on March 28, 1997. Currently, there are 18 registered wetlands, including Upo Wetland in Changnyeong (Gyeongsangnam-do Province) and Jang-do Wetland in Sinan-gun (Jeollanam-do Province). Korea is promoting the systematic management of wetlands, as it established a master plan for wetland survey and conservation for inland and coastal wetlands in accordance with the Wetland Conservation Act, established in 1999, and designated well-managed wetlands as protected areas.

The 10th COP to Ramsar Convention was held in Changwon in Gyeongsangnam-do Province in October 2008. As the host country, Korea contributed to international discussion on conservation and wise use of wetlands and to the adoption of the Changwon Declaration on Human Wellbeing and Wetlands.

In addition, Korea attracted the Ramsar Regional Center - East Asia in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do Province in 2009, which has a key role in protecting wetlands in the East Asian region. Korea is making consistent efforts to implement and further develop the Ramsar Convention through the center by sharing information and offering training programs for wetland managers in developing countries and holding meetings of the network for implementation of the Changwon Declaration to raise public awareness and come up with action plans.


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body serving as a scientific advisory body to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services. It was established in April 2012, and currently 118 countries, including Korea, have joined the program as of the end of 2013.

At the third intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting held in Busan in 2010, delegates reached an agreement on the establishment of IPBES, and adopted the Busan Outcome which identified the platform’s main functions and operating principles, etc.

At the 2nd Session of the Plenary of IPBES held in Turkey in December 2013, Korea proposed to host the Technical Support Unit and won the bid to host the unit for the Task Force on Knowledge and Data at the third full Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) and Bureau Meeting held in Germany in March 2014. The Unit will be launched in the National Institute of Ecology (NIE).

As IPBES is expected to meet the demands of the related Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), including CBD, CITES, and the Ramsar Convention, there is a rising interest in IPBES in discussions of such international agreements. As the conceptual system on the relationships and evaluation among the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the earth and human wellbeing is established at the IPBES level, relevant research at the global, regional and national level is expected to become even more active.

The Antarctic Treaty System

The main provisions of the Antarctic Treaty are to ensure the peaceful use of the area south of 60°S latitude, freedom of scientific investigation and suspension of existing claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. The Treaty was first signed in December 1959 by 12 countries. As of August 2014, the total number of parties, including the original signatories, to the Treaty is 50, and among them, 29 countries have a consultative party status. Korea joined the Treaty in 1986 and achieved consultative party status after being recognized for its practical activities, including the establishment of a scientific research station called King Sejong in 1988.

To make up for the limitations of the Antarctic Treaty, which lacks specific standards to protect the Antarctic environment, the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was adopted in Madrid, Spain, in 1991. Korea deposited the instrument of ratification in January 1996, and the Protocol come into effect on January 14, 1998. Korea established the Act on Antarctic Activities and Environmental Protection in 2004 with a concerted effort by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to effectively implement the Madrid Protocol.

Recently, as the need to conserve the Antarctic environment as a barometer of the environmental changes of the earth is emerging as a hot issue in the international community, the member countries of the Treaty are accelerating their efforts to protect the Antarctic environment following the effectuation of the Madrid Protocol. In particular, 75 sites are currently designated and managed as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) by 14 out of 20 countries with base stations in Antarctica.

The Environment Ministry conducted procedures for ASPA designation and performed an investigation in the Narebski Point area, close to the King Sejong Scientific Research Station, with the help of the Korea Polar Research Institute, and based on the results, the site was designated as an ASPA in 2009.

Narebski Point is a coastal hill with a size of about 1 km2, adjacent to the King Sejong Scientific Research Station. The site has high ecological, scientific and aesthetic values. When designated as a site of ASPA, access to the site was limited to cases that received a prior permit only for scientific research purposes, and there are behavioral restrictions such as a ban on bringing in animals or plants and the transfer of wastes. The Ministry of Environment has been conducting the Antarctic Specially Protected Area Management and Monitoring Project each year since July 2010. The ministry monitors changes in the number of species and population within the protected areas, including penguins, and conducts a basic ecosystem survey on the surrounding areas.

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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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