OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

1990-0090 (online)
1990-0104 (print)
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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress in achieving domestic and international environmental policy commitments and goals, together with policy-relevant recommendations.  They address the management of air, water, waste, biodiversity, and land; they examine the relationship between economic and social policy and the environment; and they describe the subject country’s international co-operation in such areas as climate change, marine pollution and development co-operation.  Each report includes a broad range of economic and environmental statistical data. On average, five or six countries are reviewed each year.

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Korea 2017

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16 Mar 2017
9789264268302 (EPUB) ; 9789264268265 (PDF) ;9789264268258(print)

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress towards their environmental policy objectives. Reviews promote peer learning, enhance government accountability, and provide targeted recommendations aimed at improving environmental performance, individually and collectively. They are supported by a broad range of economic and environmental data, and evidence-based analysis. Each cycle of Environmental Performance Reviews covers all OECD countries and selected partner economies. The most recent reviews include Chile and France (2016).
This report is the third Environmental Performance Review of Korea. It evaluates progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with a focus on waste and materials management, and environmental justice.

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  • Preface

    During its 20 years as an OECD member country, Korea has shared many good practices with its peers. It has championed green growth at the OECD, as well as establishing the Global Green Growth Institute and hosting the Green Climate Fund. This third OECD Environmental PerformanceReview of Korea assesses the country’s progress in achieving its environmental policy objectives since the last review, carried out in 2006.

  • Foreword

    The principal aim of the OECD Environmental Performance Review programme is to help member and selected partner countries improve their individual and collective performance in environmental management by:

  • Reader's guide

    The following signs are used in Figures and Tables:

  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Basic Statistics of Korea (2015 or latest available year)


  • Executive summary

    Korea has been one of the fastest growing OECD economies over the past decade, driven by a large export-oriented manufacturing sector. However, this growth has come with high pollution and resource consumption. Although greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) have risen less quickly than GDP since 2000, they grew faster than in most other OECD countries and Korea became the fifth largest GHG emitter in the OECD. Its energy mix is dominated by fossil fuels and the share of renewables is the lowest in the OECD. Emissions of many air pollutants have been decoupled from economic growth but exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is severe and the number of premature deaths caused by outdoor air pollution is projected to almost triple by 2060. Infrastructure development is putting considerable pressure on ecosystems and well-being varies widely between regions. Environmental challenges are exacerbated by the population density, which is the highest in the OECD.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    The Assessment and Recommendations present the main findings of the Environmental Performance Review of Korea and set forth 45 recommendations to help Korea make further progress towards its environmental policy objectives and international commitments. The OECD Working Party on Environmental Performance reviewed and approved the Assessment and Recommendations at its meeting on 8 November 2016. Actions taken to implement selected recommendations from the 2006 OECD Environmental Performance Review are summarised in the annex to the Assessment and Recommendations.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Progress towards sustainable development

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    • Environmental performance: Trends and recent developments

      Korea’s strong economic growth has been driven by manufactured exports produced by large firms. High population density has exacerbated environmental challenges. This chapter provides a snapshot of key environmental trends in Korea since 2000. It highlights the progress made in decoupling economic activity from environmental pressures. The chapter presents the main economic and social developments, then examines Korea’s progress in reducing the energy and carbon intensity of its economy, in making the transition to a resource-efficient economy and in managing the natural asset base. The chapter also summarises key policy developments in specific areas, including energy, climate change, air, water and biodiversity.

    • Environmental governance and management

      Korea has made significant progress in environmental governance over the past decade, including introducing strategic environmental assessment, reforming environmental permitting and strengthening environmental standards. This chapter examines Korea’s environmental governance framework for environmental management, including mechanisms for horizontal and vertical co-ordination. It reviews the regulatory framework for environmental management, including for environmental impact assessment, land use planning and permitting, as well as enforcement and compliance assurance. It also briefly addresses the promotion of environmental democracy through public participation, access to information and environmental education.

    • Towards green growth

      Korea has created a strong institutional framework for green growth but faces challenges in making the transition to a more environmentally sustainable economic model. This chapter reviews efforts to mainstream environmental considerations into economic policy and to promote green growth. It analyses the use of taxation and other economic instruments to pursue environmental objectives and discusses environmentally harmful subsidies. The chapter examines efforts to scale up environment-related and low-carbon infrastructure, expand related markets and support eco-innovation as a source of economic and employment growth. It also reviews progress in mainstreaming environment in development co-operation programmes, promoting corporate social responsibility of Korean multinational enterprises and greening export credit systems.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Progress towards selected environmental objectives

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    • Waste, materials management and circular economy

      Korea is a good performer in waste management and is now seeking to move further towards a circular economy approach. This chapter examines trends in materials use and waste generation, as well as related policies, objectives, and legal and institutional frameworks. It looks at the instruments Korea uses to encourage waste prevention and reduction and to promote recycling and related markets. It studies the environmental effectiveness of Korea’s waste disposal and management before focusing on food waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, and construction waste. The chapter also discusses engagement in international co-operation and outreach.

    • Environmental justice

      Environmental justice can include fair treatment in terms of access to natural resources, environmental services and benefits, and environmental risk exposure (distributive justice), accountability and remediation for environmental harm (corrective justice) and access to environmental information, judicial and administrative proceedings and participation in environmental decision making (procedural justice). This chapter looks at the current generation’s access to water supply and sanitation services and to green space and exposure to air pollution, chemicals and other environmental risks. It then considers measures to ensure future generations’ access to a clean environment and natural resources. The chapter examines progress in the environmental liability framework. It also addresses procedural rights and proposes international frameworks that Korea could use to advance in this area.

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