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Key Issues and Implications of the New Administration’s Environment Policies


On May 3, 2022, the 20th Presidential Transition Committee announced the national vision and six major goals of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration and 110 national agenda items (the “National Agenda”) to realize these goals.  In particular, the National Agenda contain detailed measures, among other things, to implement the environment-related pledges of the President Yoon Suk-yeol and the “climate and environmental policy direction for sustainable future” announced by the Presidential Transition Committee on April 28, 2022.  Key issues are as follows. 

1.   Devising scientific measures to implement carbon neutrality

With the objective to achieve green economy through science-based carbon neutrality policies, the new administration plans to devise realistic measures to achieve the 2030 national greenhouse gas emission objectives (40% reduction as compared to 2018) and reflect them in the relevant statutes.  Further, it will evaluate a plan to expand the paid allocation of emission permits under the emissions trading system and apply the generated revenue to support companies’ carbon reduction activities.  Moreover, following the EU’s system, it will also include “nuclear power” in the K-Taxonomy, which will be implemented in 2023. 

2.   Creating a blue sky free of fine dust

The new administration plans to re-establish the “Comprehensive Plan for Improvement of Air Quality,” a roadmap to reduce ultrafine dust (PM2.5) by 30%, in order to reach mid-ranking for ultrafine dust concentration among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.  To establish such a plan, the proportion of fossil fuel-based electricity generation will be reduced via power mix optimization, while establishing pollution-free vehicle transition goals, expanding early scrapping eligibility of diesel vehicles, and strengthening greenhouse gas standards for compact vehicles within the field of transportation.  Further, reduction in the operation of coal power generation will be expanded when the concentration of fine dust is high, and seasonal fine dust management implementation period will be extended.  Separately, the total permissible emission of air pollutants for each air control zone will likely be reduced by more than 50%. 

3.   Transitioning to a circular economy and fostering new green industries

In order to accomplish carbon neutrality, it is necessary to shift to a circular economy system that fundamentally reduces wastes, while increasing the proportion and quality of recycling.  To lay the foundation, the ‘Act on Promoting Circular Economic Society’ is expected to be enacted.  Specifically, the implementation plan includes (i) mandatory use of high-quality renewable plastic materials and (ii) recycling of waste plastics, which are difficult to be recycled, as petroleum/chemical raw materials or hydrogen fuels via thermal decomposition. Meanwhile, the new administration also plans to intensively foster the new five major green industries (e.g., climate tech, environment IoT, and biogas).

4.   Devising reasonable chemical substance management system

Moving forward, the chemical substance management system will be modified based on scientific data to enhance the public safety and to reduce corporate burdens.  For example, under the new system, hazardous substances will be designated and managed by taking into account their characteristics and volume.  Moreover, as the system to ensure the safety related to public health hazards is expected to be further heightened, the new administration plans to expand the environmental health services for the public by establishing a human-safety based assessment and management system for total amount of hazardous substances rather than a product-based system, and integrating damage relief systems that are currently dispersed into four different categories (e.g., environmental pollutants and asbestos).

Because the environmental policies will be considered within the context of accomplishing carbon neutrality and improving public health, they are expected to be frequently emphasized in the future.  When discussing feasible implementation measures for carbon neutrality, responding to climate change and creating new future industries will be also discussed substantially.  In this regard, it is necessary to closely monitor the announced national affairs as they will be further elaborated in greater detail by the new administration and the National Assembly.  On a separate note, as environment-related regulations are expected to reasonably alleviate corporate burdens while strengthening public health-related areas, it is also necessary to promptly respond to the expected regulatory changes in terms of ESG management, which appears to be essential all around the world.


[Korean version]