Japan proposes to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2030

Japan proposes to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2030
A man looks at smoke emitted from a factory area in Kobe, western Japan May 25, 2008.

TOKYO - Japan said it was proposing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 as its contribution to a global summit on climate change in Paris later in the year.

Media reports earlier this month said the country was looking at a 25 per cent cut from 2013 levels, up from an earlier target of about 20 per cent.

Japan, the world's No.5 emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide, has however previously watered down emissions targets as the shutdown of its nuclear plants after the 2011 Fukushima disaster forced its utilities to burn record amounts of gas and coal to generate power.

The country's latest proposal, issued by the industry and environment ministries, includes a target to reduce emissions by 25.4 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

But government officials said they would prefer to use 2013 as a baseline, which implies a higher reduction target than other major developed countries.

If 2013 becomes the baseline, Japan's 26 per cent emissions cut would be higher than an 18 to 21 per cent cut by the United States by 2025 and a 24 per cent cut by the European Union by 2030, the proposal showed.

The European Union has said it is looking to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030, while the United States is proposing a 26 to 28 per cent cut from 2005 levels by 2025. From 1990 levels, Japan's target would represent a mere 18 per cent cut.

"It's not fair to pick 2013 as baseline since it would ignore all those efforts made by other countries to cut emissions since 1990," said Kumiko Hirata, coordinator of environmental group Climate Action Network Japan.

"Japan is trying to make its target look bigger by selecting 2013 as a base, when the country emitted so much greenhouse gas," she said.

Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions rose to 1.41 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, the second-highest on record, in the year through March 2014, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power after the indefinite closure of nuclear power plants. That was up 10.8 per cent from 1990.

Hirata said Japan will be blamed by global communities not only for a low target, but also for a series of plans by Japanese companies to build coal-fired plants at home.

Japan's target for emission cuts is based on a proposed new power generation mix for 2030, unveiled by the industry ministry on Tuesday.

The government wants to make nuclear energy account for 20 to 22 per cent of Japan's electricity mix, versus 30 per cent before Fukushima, with renewable energy making up 22 to 24 per cent, liquefied natural gas for 27 per cent and coal 26 per cent.

"Japan should set a higher emissions cut target as renewable energy ... can make up bigger portion," Yukari Takamura, professor at Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Nagoya University, said.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Environment have been holding joint panel meetings on the emissions target since last October.

Japan is looking to finalise the plan as soon as possible and announce its carbon emissions targets at the Group of Seven meeting in Germany in early June.

The Paris summit starting in November aims to finalise an agreement as part of efforts to limit global average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

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