More South Korean coal power plant curbs needed to tackle pollution: advisory group

FILE PHOTO: Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech to China's Premier Li Keqiang and Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte during the Global Commission on Adaptation ceremony, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 27, 2019. Fred Dufour/Pool via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea should close up to a quarter of its coal-fired power plants between December and February and nearly half in March in a bid to tackle pollution, an advisory body headed by former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

South Korea operates some 60 coal-fired plants, generating about 40% of the country’s electricity, but is facing growing calls to improve air quality, rated as the worst among its peers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2017.

South Korea has halted some ageing coal-fired power plants in recent years to reduce air pollution. But the National Climate Change and Air Quality committee recommended closing up to 14 over December to February and up to 27 in March, dramatically scaling up the closures.

The committee, set up President Moon Jae-in, also recommended capping operations at other coal-fired power plants during those months at 80%. At present, plants are only capped at 80% when an air pollution advisory is issued.

“The gist of our policy proposal is cutting air pollutant emissions by over 20% from a year earlier through reduction measures,” the group said in a statement.

For the transportation sector, the advisory body suggested restrictions on older diesel vehicles and introducing incentives to encourage ships entering the country’s ports to use low sulfur fuel oil.

The government would consider implementing group’s proposals, the group said.

Reporting By Jane Chung; editing by Richard Pullin