Climate Action

South Korea to shut down coal-fired power plants

The South Korean government is considering closing coal-fired power plants in a bid to address worsening air pollution

  • 02 June 2016
  • William Brittlebank

The South Korean government is considering closing coal-fired power plants in a bid to address worsening air pollution, according to an announced on Wednesday.

The Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister's Office has been preparing a set of comprehensive measures with the aim of curbing fine dust emissions from old power stations.

The Yonhap News Agency reported that the initiative is a joint project between the ministries of environment, energy and finance.

According to the Korea Times national news outlet, China is blamed for up to 50 per cent of the fine dust floating in the air over the Korean Peninsula.  

In the winter this figure reaches 80 per cent with Chinese households burning coal to for their heating systems.

Greenpeace said in March 2015 that much of the smog in South Korea originates from the country’s coal power plants and not China.

In a statement at a press conference in Seoul Greenpeace said: “Despite what is widely reported through the Korean media, 50 to 70 percent of particle-laden smog, which is also known as PM2.5, is generated within the country.”

South Korea scrapped plans to build four new coal-fired power plants as part of its climate commitments at the COP21 Paris climate summit in December but 20 new plants are still planned by 2021.

Out of the 53 coal power plants in South Korea, 11 are over 30 years old, and three have been in operation for more than 40 years.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has been drafting a plan to close the oldest plants which are the main source of fine dust, along with old diesel vehicles.