Japan drastically scales back greenhouse gas reduction target

Japan drastically scales back greenhouse gas reduction target
Vehicles line up bumper to bumper in the street in downtown Tokyo on November 15, 2013.

TOKYO - Japan said Friday it was dramatically scaling back its greenhouse gas reduction target after the Fukushima nuclear accident forced the country to turn to fossil-fuel burning energy sources, a move denounced by climate campaigners.

Tokyo said the new target for 2020 - 3.8 per cent below 2005 levels - replaces an ambitious goal to slash emissions by one-quarter from 1990 levels.

The new target, which accounts for idling the country's nuclear reactors after the worst atomic accident in a generation, represents about a three per cent rise over levels in 1990, the base year for the Kyoto Protocol, according to the environment ministry.

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

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

The previous target had almost no road map for achieving the goal outside of increasing Japan's dependence on now-shuttered nuclear power, Tokyo said, calling its new blueprint "an aggressive diplomatic strategy on climate change".

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

Japanese environment minister Nobuteru Ishihara is expected to announce the new target next week at a 12-day UN climate conference in Warsaw which kicked off on Monday.

"This is Japan's new international commitment,... which will be registered at the United Nations," a foreign ministry official said Friday.

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