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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 as well as 110 national agenda items (the “National Agenda”).  President Yoon was inaugurated on May 10, 2022.  In particular, the National Agenda contains detailed measures to implement the environment-related pledges of President Yoon and the “climate and environmental policy direction for a sustainable future” announced by the Presidential Transition Committee on April 28, 2022.  The key issues are as follows. 


1.   Devising Scientific Measures to Implement Carbon Neutrality

With the objective of achieving a 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, the new administration 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 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.  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 waste, 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 recycle, including petroleum/chemical raw materials or hydrogen fuels via thermal decomposition.  Meanwhile, the new administration also plans to foster the new five major green industries (e.g., climate tech, environment IoT, and biogas).

4.   Devising a Reasonable Chemical Substance Management System

Moving forward, the chemical substance management system will be modified based on scientific data to enhance public safety and to reduce corporate burden.  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 strengthened, the new administration plans to expand the environmental health services for the public by establishing a human-safety based assessment and management system for the 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 environmental policies will be considered within the context of carbon neutrality and public health, they are expected to be emphasized in the future.  When discussing feasible implementation measures for carbon neutrality, responding to climate change and creating new future industries will also be substantially discussed.  In this regard, it is necessary to closely monitor the National Agenda 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 burden while strengthening public health-related areas, corporations should promptly respond to the expected regulatory changes in terms of ESG management, which appears to be essential all around the world.