South Korea
Overview of carbon emissions produced by South Korea
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does South Korea produce?

South Korea produces 1.4% of global emissions, and has been ranked the world’s 15th largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 1990. Since this date, their annual emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5%.

Summary – GHG Emissions in South Korea

CountrySouth Korea
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$1.8tr
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2019653m
Change in Emissions since 2018-2.5%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2019)1.4%
Rank – Emitters in 201914
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 199014.7bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19903.5%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2019)1.3%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$34.8k
Emissions Per Capita12.6
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In the last recorded year (2019), South Korea was the world’s 14th largest producer of yearly carbon dioxide emissions and contributed 1.4% of all global emissions. The top three emitters in the same period were China, the United States, and India. These three nations produced 25.2%, 12%, and 7% of global emissions respectively.

641ce7fae979a20961bd60f8 South%2520Korea change in emissions 1990 to present

In 2019, South Korea emitted 653m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. This represented a decrease in emissions from 2018 by -2.5%.

Emissions per capita in South Korea – average household carbon footprint

The population of South Korea is 51.7m. On a per capita basis, they produce 12.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person. This places them 28th out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The top three emitters per capita are Solomon Islands, Qatar, and Kuwait.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in South Korea?

In 2019, South Korea produced 698m metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This was a reduction of -2.4% from 2018. 87.4% of these emissions came from CO2, 3.3% came from CH4, and 1.5% came from N2O.

The sector that produced the most emissions in 2019 was the energy industry. Energy produced 594m of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This amounted to 85% of total GHG in South Korea. The second and third largest emitting sectors were industrial processes and bunker fuels- producing 11.6% and 6.3% of total GHG respectively.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the electricity/heat sector, emitting 360m tonnes of greenhouse gas. The second and third largest emitting sectors were transportation and manufacturing/construction – producing 109m and 66m tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of South Korea, their LUCF had a positive impact on their emissions, reducing their footprint by 45.8m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse emissions in South Korea in 2019 was 653m metric tonnes.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth?

In 2019, gross domestic product (GDP) in South Korea declined by -4.3% from the previous year. Measured in US dollars, the economy went from $1.72tr to $1.65tr. In the same period carbon emissions decreased by -2.5%. Over a ten year period from 2009 to 2019, GDP grew by 74.9%, while emissions have increased by 22.4%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate of GDP in South Korea over the previous ten years was 5.8% and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 2%.

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