Net zero in South Korea: Leaders gather in Chungnam to drive forward commitment to decarbonisation | Climate Group Skip to main content
Helen Clarkson presenting at Chungnam International Conference on Carbon Neutrality

Net zero in South Korea: Leaders gather in Chungnam to drive forward commitment to decarbonisation

12 October 2023, 11:09 UTC 5 min read

  • On 5th and 6th October, international and local government leaders, businesses and climate advocates attended the Carbon Neutrality International Conference 2023 in  Chungnam Province, South Korea.
  • Climate Group took part in and hosted numerous panels and sessions, engaging South Korean policymakers to remove barriers to decarbonisation and encouraging businesses to join our industry initiatives, SteelZero and ConcreteZero.
  • South Korean businesses have the potential to be international leaders in reducing carbon from industrial materials. It’s critical for their competitiveness, as well as the climate, that more take these steps now as other businesses and their governments, globally, are already taking bold actions. 
  • Chungnam Province is Asia-Pacific Co-Chair of Climate Group’s Under2 Coalition, a group of nearly 170 subnational governments committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. 

On 5th and 6th October 2023, Climate Group participated in the Carbon Neutrality International Conference in Chungnam Province, South Korea. The summit brought together political leaders, industry figures and climate campaigners to take stock of the South Korean and international net zero landscape. Across the two days, attendees shared their expertise on decarbonisation, discussed structural barriers and worked towards solutions that enable decarbonisation and support industrial development. 

At this year’s Conference, Climate Group opened key panel discussions on ‘The Role of Industry in Implementing Carbon Neutrality’ and ‘Opportunities for Cooperation and Innovation in the Steel Industry.’ These sessions celebrated achievements so far, identified gaps and called for renewed and ambitious climate action. We highlighted both the importance of and long-term benefits to the Korean economy of decarbonisation and investing in renewables as a critical enabler of industrial decarbonisation. 

Climate Group highlighted the opportunity and benefits for business leaders to join our growing global leadership networks of SteelZero and ConcreteZero. Through these initiatives, we’re harnessing their collective purchasing power and influence to shift global markets and policies towards the responsible production and sourcing of steel and concrete that these businesses are looking for. 

Our members are already having an enhanced influence on their supply chains and finding themselves well positioned for policy and regulatory discussions with governments, globally. Though joining, businesses in South Korea, have the chance to enhance their voice on the international stage. They’ll also be able to maintain the competitive advantage that decarbonising their supply chains will bring in an emerging global regulatory framework that increasingly penalises high carbon products. 

At the same time, we also urged lawmakers at the Conference to scale-up net zero and renewable energy targets and increase investment in low emission technologies - using government policies and purchasing power to incentivise industry decarbonisation and shape a level playing field for low emission Korean products, including in international markets. 

These conversations took place at a critical time and in an apt location. In 2020, the South Korean government committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, rolling out the ambitious Green New Deal to decarbonise the country’s heavy industries. At the subnational level, Chungnam is a world leader in climate leadership. In 2019, it became the first province in East Asia to declare a ‘climate emergency’ and has since scaled-up investment in clean energy infrastructure to transition away from coal power. 

For several years, we have worked closely with Chungnam Province as a key partner on industry decarbonisation - including on renewables and green steel. In 2021, Chungnam also became Asia-Pacific Co-Chair of the Under2 Coalition, a group of nearly 170 subnational governments committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. 

Commenting on the Conference, Helen Clarkson, CEO of Climate Group, said

“The East Asia and Pacific region accounts for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions and 60% of the world’s coal usage. We will not be able to reach net zero and contain global temperature rises without bold climate leadership in the region. South Korea is showing us how it’s done, but there is always more work to do. And it needs to be sped up.” 

“Take steel, for example: steel is responsible for around 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with almost three-quarters of all steel made in Asia. In South Korea - the world’s 6th largest steel manufacturer - the figures are even starker. The Korean steel sector accounts for almost 40% of the country’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions and 13% of national emissions overall as a critical material for many of its key industries.” 

“Thankfully, change is already underway. For example, South Korean companies Hyundai Heavy Industries and POSCO, the country’s largest steel maker, are respectively working with Maersk and Ørsted - both SteelZero members - to decarbonise their operations and invest in clean energy.” 

“What we need now is more companies joining our industry initiatives, including SteelZero and ConcreteZero. By committing to reach net zero industrial materials by 2050 at the latest, businesses in Asia can both drive decarbonisation in the region and take advantage of new business opportunities and income streams.” 

“I call on South Korean businesses to lead the way in driving up demand for net zero industrial materials. They are well placed to support the conditions for green products which will outcompete high carbon alternatives. Climate Group is ready to help. Other countries and regions are taking this up so this is increasingly becoming about business and economic competitiveness.” 

“The Chungnam Conference was not only a celebration of South Korea’s leadership in the global net zero agenda; it was a rallying call to go further and faster on industrial decarbonisation, and for other governments and industries in the region to join and drive forward the transition.” 

Chungnam Province, as our Under2 Coalition Asia-Pacific Co-Chair, also used the Conference to host the Under2 Coalition Asia-Pacific Forum, bringing regional partners together to share best practices from the past year and coordinate subnational policy priorities ahead of COP28 in Dubai.

If you would like to learn more about our SteelZero work in South Korea, please click here.