Issue Deep Dive
Last updated: April 14, 2023
ODA In Context
In 2021, South Korea committed 35% of its bilateral allocable ODA to projects which targeted action against climate change as a principal or significant objective well above the DAC average of 24%. This puts South Korea in fifth place in absolute terms compared to other OECD DAC members and sixth in relative terms of ODA/GNI.
Funding for climate change returned to pre-COVID-19 levels after dropping drastically in 2020 as South Korea shifted its development focus to respond to the immediate threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Infrastructure received the largest share of South Korea’s climate commitments in 2021, in line with its policy objectives and growing interest in the sector.
In 2021, 29% of South Korea’s bilateral ODA related to climate action was tagged with the mitigation marker. 95% was tagged with the adaptation marker, while 24% was tagged with both mitigation and adaptation markers.
Multilateral Spending and Commitments
Because GCF is based in Incheon, South Korea has committed to supporting GCF on a regular basis. At the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, former President Moon Jae-in committed to doubling South Korea’s contribution to the GCF. Since 2016, the Korea Development Bank has been an accredited GCF implementation body, allowing it to implement projects in partnership.
The GGGI, an intergovernmental organization that promotes green growth, is based in Seoul, South Korea, and is led by Ban Ki-moon, former South Korean Foreign Minister and the UN Secretary-General. The South Korean government works closely with GGGI to promote inclusive and sustainable development partnerships.
In 2022, the government pledged to establish a US$5 million Green New Deal Trust Fund in GGGI to support the development of climate response projects in LICs and MICs, in connection with the Korean version of the Green New Deal.
South Korea has been a contributor to the GEF since 1995.
Funding and Policy Outlook
South Korea’s Framework Act on International Development Cooperation does not explicitly mention climate as one of its overarching principles, but it is strongly implied through the document’s commitment to achieving the SDGs.
The Framework Act on International Development Cooperation, first published in 2010 and amended in 2018, outlines the overarching principles of South Korean development cooperation and clarifies the responsibilities of different actors. Climate change is included as a cross-cutting sector, critical to maximizing South Korea’s contributions to acheiving the SDGs in KOICA’s Mid-term Sectoral Strategy 2021-2025, and is mentioned in the context of South Korea’s priorities in agriculture and rural development, water, transportation, and energy.
KOICA’s Climate Change Response Mid-Term Strategy 2021-2025 sets out three objectives:
- Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050;
- Supporting green recovery and climate change adaptation; and
- Expanding green climate partnerships.
The strategy emphasizes the importance of supporting resilience in climate in LICs and SIDS, with both strategies applying solely to KOICA.
South Korea’s Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation 2021-2025 states that the government will define a roadmap to increase the share of ODA financing from the Green New Deal fund and strengthen partnerships with international organizations on climate and environment, such as the GCF. These objectives are affirmed in the ‘2023 Annual Implementation Plan,’ an annual spending review. The Annual Implementation Plan also states that the government will increase ODA to the thematic areas of climate change, environment, and renewable energy.
South Korea also established the National Council on Climate and Air Quality and is partnering with China and Japan to reduce air pollution. As part of the government’s endeavors to establish itself as a ‘middle power’ country, South Korea hosted a scaled-down version of the P4G Summit in May 2021, in which it highlighted the importance of PPPs in various areas, including climate action. South Korea will be chairing the P4G until 2023. In 2022, South Korea made a new contribution to P4G for carbon neutrality.
South Korea’s MOEF hopes to expand the scale of Green New Deal ODA projects and diversify environmental ODA into multiple sectors. MOEF aims to increase the proportion of ODA in the climate and environment sector from 20% in 2015-2019 to 28% by 2025. President Yoon Suk-yeol committed to continuing South Korea’s climate leadership.
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