Characteristics and Variations in Korea through the Lens of Net-Zero Carbon Transformation in Cities

Ziyu Duan, Seiyong Kim

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As climate issues become more severe, the necessity and importance of urban transformation are being widely recognized, and the breadth and depth of research in various disciplines of social sciences to promote net-zero carbon (NZC) transformation in cities is increasing. In this study, between 2015 and 2021, 17 major cities and administrative regions in Korea from were taken as the target and based on the driving force-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) model, a framework of 23 indicators of energy, environment, and economic systems (3ES) was constructed through the coupling coordination degree (CCD) assessment system. The development level, development speed, coordination index of subsystems, and coupled coordination relationship were analyzed successively. Finally, a gray correlation model was adopted to extract the 3ES of each city and their key driving factors. The findings indicate that: (1) There is a phenomenon of high coupling and low coordination within the subsystem, with the environmental factors layer being the most critical concern. (2) The overall coupling of the system has improved continuously since 2015, but it is still at the moderate coupling stage, owing to the long-term nature of system contradictions and processing lags. (3) The driving causes of urban transformation have shifted from economic to environmental restrictions, resulting in noticeable regional differences later in the study period and a rise in the necessity for hierarchical zoning governance. Finally, based on the perspective of restricted subsystems and the consolidation of the 3ES coordination relationship, this study demonstrates the significant relationship between environmental protection, energy transition, and economic development, thus enriching the associated literature at the periphery. It also provides a theoretical foundation for investigating the transition path of NZC cities, thus enhancing research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13748
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • coupling coordination degree
  • energy–economy–environment
  • net-zero cities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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