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2050 GHG emissions target for the marine and fisheries sector confirmed as 3.24 million tons

Date. 2021-12-17
Hit. 908

- Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries laying the foundation for carbon neutrality by announcing “2050 Carbon Neutrality Roadmap for the Marine and Fisheries Sector”-


- Proposing comprehensive policy direction, spanning green shipping, ports, blue carbon, and marine energy –


The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (Minister MOON, Seong-Hyeok) announced that it has drawn up the “2050 Carbon Neutrality Roadmap for the Marine and Fisheries Sector” to establish the future direction of the marine and fisheries sector, in accordance with the establishment of the national 2050 Carbon Neutrality Scenario. The roadmap presents the 2050 carbon emissions target and policy direction for the marine and fisheries sector and strategies for achieving the established goals.

As of 2018, Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 727.6 million tons, with the emissions of the marine and fisheries sector accounting for approximately 4.06 million tons, or 0.56% of total emissions. Although that proportion is relatively small, the marine and fisheries sector is important as it plays a role in diverse sectors such as transportation, agriculture, stockbreeding, and marine products as well as economic transformation under the national 2050 Carbon Neutrality Scenario.

The announcement of the roadmap is timely as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a paper showing that the ocean absorbs 20 to 30 percent of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions and the importance of the marine ecosystem as a natural carbon sink is gaining global interest. The IPCC recognizes mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds as carbon sinks, but research has shown that mudflats, which have been drawing global attention recently, also have great potential for carbon absorption and storage. Especially, mudflats in Korea store approximately 13 million tons of carbon and absorb 260,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 110,000 passenger cars. Furthermore, securing ocean-based new and renewable energy sources is an urgent issue for Korea, making the marine sector all the more important.

Considering the importance and potential of the marine and fisheries sector, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries formulated the carbon neutrality roadmap by setting the sector’s net greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 at -3.24 million tons. This is a proactive goal that represents a reduction of 7.3 million tons compared with the 2018 emissions of the marine and fisheries sector. Realistically, it will be difficult to achieve net zero in the marine and fisheries sector by 2050, but the Ministry set the target with the intention of pursuing a wide variety of policy measures, including replacing fossil fuels with marine energy and maximizing the absorption of blue carbon.

Main Sector 1: Shipping

For the marine sector, the GHG emissions target for 2050 is 307,000 tons, which includes domestic shipping. The plan is to reduce emissions by 70 percent compared to the sector’s 2018 emissions of 1.019 million tons. With the strengthening of the GHG reduction target for the marine sector, including the strengthened environmental regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Ministry set the main policy direction as expanding green ships to lead the paradigm shift toward eco-friendliness.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries established the “2030 Green Ship-K Promotion Strategy” (jointly with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy) last December. According to the plan, the Ministry aims to push ahead with the advancement of low-carbon ship technologies and commercialization of zero-carbon ship technologies by 2030. In addition, starting with the transition of government-owned ships to green ships, the Ministry plans to lead the voluntary transition of private shippers and provide them with active support. In particular, the Ministry will pursue the building or conversion of 388 government-owned low-carbon ships by 2030 and complete the transition to zero-carbon ships by 2050.

Main Sector 2: Fisheries and fishing villages

For fisheries and fishing villages, the 2050 GHG emissions target is 115,000 tons. The plan is to reduce emissions by 96 percent compared to the 2018 emissions of 3.042 million tons. Some GHG emissions will remain due to the long life expectancy of fishing boats and early stage of low-carbon and zero-carbon technology development. However, to achieve the carbon neutrality target, diverse means of reduction will be utilized in the entire fisheries industry, including supplying energy-efficient fishery equipment and expanding renewable energy utilization.

In terms of fishing boats, the Ministry will accelerate engine replacement for and conversion of old fishing boats to improve fuel efficiency. It will also ramp up the development and supply of green fishing boats, such as electric and hybrid boats, to secure more low-carbon and zero-carbon ships.

In addition, energy-efficient equipment such as heat pumps and inverters will be expanded for aquaculture and fishery processing. For unused sites and waters of aquafarms and national harbors, a foundation will be laid for the use of diverse renewable energies, including not only photovoltaic (PV) but also small hydro power and wave power, and the use of eco-friendly refrigerant will be promoted for refrigerators and freezers used for marine products. A wide variety of such policy measures will be prepared.

Main Sector 3: Marine energy

Through the 2050 Marine Energy Development Plan, the Ministry will replace fossil fuel use and reduce GHG emissions by 2.297 million tons. It is known that the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station, currently in operation, produces 552GWh of power per year, reducing emissions by 310,000 tons. This proves the efficacy of tidal power generation. Therefore, the Ministry is planning to gradually establish additional tidal power facilities, as well as conduct feasibility studies, to expand tidal power generation. In parallel, it will spur the commercialization of technologies for the generation of marine power, such as wave and tidal power, on a massive scale.

The Ministry will also advance hydrogen-producing technologies in combination with marine energy and marine biotechnologies. The national target is the complete transition to 100% clean hydrogen by 2050, under the basic plan for establishing the hydrogen economy (November 2021). The Ministry will devote all its efforts to establishing the hydrogen economy by commercializing green hydrogen-producing technologies in a timely manner utilizing marine energy and marine biotechnology.

Main Sector 4: Blue carbon

Blue carbon refers to the carbon stored in marine carbon sinks, for which the GHG absorption target by 2050 is 1.362 million tons. To maximize blue carbon absorption, the Ministry plans to increase the restoration of diverse vegetation in destroyed mudflat areas and existing mudflats and make continuous efforts to expand sea forests. Research on potential blue carbon sinks, such as seaweed, shellfish, and microalgae, will also be expanded.

However, according to the IPCC guideline, only mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds are officially recognized as marine sinks globally. Since Korea’s mudflats, which have been spotlighted for carbon absorption and storage capability, and diverse blue carbon sinks have the potential to be recognized internationally, the Ministry will mobilize all available means, such as strengthening international cooperation and expanding R&D, toward eventually having the IPCC guideline revised.

Main Sector 5: Ports

Although ports are a core focus of local and global logistics policies, they are not currently classified as a separate item in national GHG statistics. This means that there is no official calculation of GHG emissions for ports. However, emissions in 2019 are estimated to have been 300,000 tons, based on the oil and electricity consumption of shipping companies. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will thus pursue carbon-neutral ports with the aim of reducing GHG emissions from ports to zero by 2050 and turning ports into hubs of the hydrogen ecosystem.
The Ministry will create carbon-neutral ports that emit less GHG by changing the fuel sources of unloading equipment at ports, improving the efficiency of energy use and production, and utilizing new and renewable energy such as PV and marine energy. The Ministry will build 14 hydrogen ports by 2040 to enable 13 million tons of hydrogen to be supplied through ports annually. A hydrogen port is a port equipped with the components of the hydrogen energy ecosystem, including hydrogen production, import, storage, transportation, and utilization. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will bring the countries’ ports into the era of carbon neutrality and the hydrogen economy.

Other sectors and basis for implementation

The Ministry will also play a leading role in the areas of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and marine waste.

Under the national scenario, CCS accounts for up to 60 million tons of the carbon reduction target and is being pursued through collaboration among multiple ministries, making it particularly important. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will provide a safety net for ocean and geological CCS in Korea by selecting optimal sites and minimizing environmental impacts. It will also pursue the ratification of an amended protocol of the Treaty of London to facilitate overseas CCS business activities. Furthermore, given the high levels of GHG emissions that are emitted in the waste landfill and incineration processes, b measures will be taken for marine waste as well. The Ministry will ensure that the direct landfill of marine waste is brought down to zero, and that marine waste is used to generate thermal energy. In addition, it will seek out possibilities for the recycling of various marine wastes to reduce waste generation.

As for items, such as marine waste and ports, for which policy measures are in place but GHG reductions are difficult to calculate, measures will be prepared to enable the calculation and management of GHG emissions. The Ministry will improve the GHG statistical system and gradually establish a system, starting from emissions calculation, for implementation and management on its own.

Meanwhile, the Ministry will include short-term and specific implementation plans in the “Comprehensive Plan for Climate Change Response in the Marine and Fisheries Sector,” which is formulated every five years, to establish a full-fledged carbon-neutrality implementation system.

In the first half of 2022, the Ministry will formulate the “4th Comprehensive Plan for Climate Change Response in the Marine and Fisheries Sector (2022-2026)” by reflecting the policy direction presented in the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Roadmap for the Marine and Fisheries Sector. Through this plan, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will come up with not only observation and prediction measures to accurately identify the present and future of marine climate change but also measures for each area of the marine and fisheries sector to adapt to the imminent changes in climate.

Minister MOON, Seong-hyeok of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said, “Climate change and carbon neutrality are massive, inevitable trends that present both risks and opportunities. The year 2050 may seem far away, but we will put our utmost effort into the carbon neutrality policy for the marine and fisheries sector based on the belief that this is our last chance to make positive change.”