Japan makes drastic cuts to greenhouse gas reduction goals

Yesterday, Thursday 14th November, Japan’s Ministry of Environment announced that it would be slashing its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. The Environment minister for Japan yesterday said that the original target, that of reducing greenhouse gas levels in Japan by 25 per cent from their 1990 levels, has been cut by a quarter, a figure so significant and drastic that environmental experts have wasted no time in expressing their concern for the “devastating effect” this cut could make to climate change action.

For a nation which led the way at the recent Kyoto climate change treaty, this certainly presents as a significant step backwards for Japan. Such a turnaround is very likely a response to the increase in fossil fuel consumption in Japan caused by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster two years ago and the subsequent closure of Japan’s nuclear power stations, which have made the current emission reduction targets highly difficult to meet.

Speaking about the modified targets, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained that the government would now be working towards a 3.8 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 as compared to 2005 levels, rather than the previously agreed 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. “The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future,” said Japan’s chief negotiator at the UN talks in Warsaw. “We have to lower our ambiton level.”

Whilst many in the country, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, look favourably towards a return to nuclear power, many are opposed to the idea, or at least do not see a return to nuclear power to be a viable or realistic option. Indeed, many are hopeful that Japan will be able to decrease and eventually end its reliance upon nuclear power. Currently, all fifty of Japan’s nuclear reactors are offline due to safety and maintenance checks being carried out by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The process of restarting reactors will be by no means quick, and due to the extent of the devastation caused by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, many will never be restarted.

As a result of the cut to Japan’s nuclear energy sources, which provided a large proportion of the nation’s energy, Japan has been forced to return to importing natural gas and coal, thus increasing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Japan hopes to offset this increase by 2.8 per cent by planting trees, and will also be using carbon credits from other countries wherever possible.

Sources include The Japan Daily Press, Japan Today

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