The South Korean government announced Wednesday that the country was considering closing aged coal-fired power plants in a bid to curb fine dust emissions. The move comes in light of worsening air pollution.
The Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister's Office has been preparing a set of comprehensive measures to address the rising environmental concerns. It aims to work jointly with the ministries of environment, energy and finance in this endeavor, Yonhap News Agency reported.
South Koreans have repeatedly blamed China for a majority of their pollution woes.
According to local daily Korea Times, China is blamed for up to 50 percent of the fine dust on average floating in the air over the Korean Peninsula, as per the government. In winter, when Chinese households burn coal to keep warm, the figure reaches up to 80 percent.
However, environmental group Greenpeace said in March last year that much of the smog in South Korea originated from the country’s coal power plants and not China.
“Despite what is widely reported through the Korean media, 50 to 70 percent of particle-laden smog, which is also known as PM2.5, is generated within the country,” Greenpeace said at a news conference in Seoul in March.
At the December 2015 global climate deal in Paris, South Korea scrapped plans for four coal-fired power plants as part of its pledge to the summit. However, 20 new plants are still planned by 2021.
Out of 53 coal power plants in South Korea, 11 are over 30 years old, and three have been in operation for more than 40 years.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has been drafting a plan to close the plants over 40 years of age. These are blamed as the main culprits of fine dust, along with old diesel vehicles.
Yonhap also reported that policymakers have been making efforts to step up regional cooperation with neighboring countries to fight air pollution and to improve air quality. Replacement of the coal plants with liquefied natural gas facilities has also been suggested.