Japan lowers target for greenhouse gas emission cuts after Fukushima

Tokyo criticised for setting a new, less ambitious target for greenhouse gases

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 3:34am

China, Europe and the world's small island nations reacted with dismay - and green groups with fury - after Japan yesterday slashed its goal for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions.

With the Fukushima nuclear accident forcing Japan to turn to fossil-fuel-burning energy sources, Tokyo said its new target for 2020 - 3.8 per cent below 2005 levels - replaced an ambitious goal to slash emissions by one-quarter from 1990 levels.

The new target, which takes account of the idling of the country's nuclear reactors after the worst atomic accident in a generation, represented about a 3 per cent rise over levels in 1990, the base year for the Kyoto Protocol, the environment ministry said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the earlier target set in 2009 by then-prime minister Yukio Hatoyama's centre-left government was never realistic.

"Our government has been saying that the 25 per cent reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn't feasible," he said.

The previous target had almost no plan for achieving the goal outside of increasing dependence on now-shut nuclear power, Tokyo said.

Hatoyama had said that the nation would slash its carbon emissions provided that other major polluters such as China and the United States also made sharp reductions.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party ousted the Democratic Party in elections last December after pledging to review the emissions reduction target in light of the post-Fukushima switch to fossil fuels. The move had sent Japan's energy bills soaring.

The announcement was attacked at a UN climate conference in Warsaw, Poland. China's climate negotiator Su Wei said: "I have no way of describing my dismay".

The European Union urged Japan to consider the consequences of its actions, while the Alliance of Small Island Nations - a group of island countries vulnerable to rising seas - said the move was "a huge step backwards".

The European Commission said EU members "recognise" Japan's difficulties after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but said it should keep its promise.

"While we understand this situation, we expect all countries to stand by their mitigation commitments, and developed countries in particular to continue to show leadership in this respect," the EU executive said.

Environmental group WWF said the move "could have a devastating impact on the tone of discussions ... in Warsaw".

"It could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries when the world needs decisive and immediate actions to 'raise' ambition, not to 'lower' ambition."