Japan previously took measures to prevent global warming based on the premise that nuclear power generation, which does not emit carbon dioxide, accounted for 30 per cent of all electricity generated in the nation.
But after the onset of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, nuclear reactors around the country were shut down. The move has cast a shadow over the government's efforts to address global warming because it is difficult to gauge to what extent nuclear power generation can recover its percentage of total electricity generated in the nation.
According to the Environment Ministry, Japan's greenhouse gas emissions increased to 1.34 billion tons in fiscal 2012, up 7 per cent compared to the figure before the nuclear crisis, stemming from Japan's increased dependence on thermal power generation to make up for the lack of nuclear power generation.
In November last year, the government set a new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fiscal 2020 by 3.8 per cent compared to the fiscal 2005 figure, assuming nuclear reactors will remain offline. The international community criticised the new target as a shocking rollback, given the 3 per cent increase compared to the fiscal 1990 figure.
The proportion of future nuclear power generation was also excluded from the Basic Energy Plan endorsed by the Cabinet in April. Unless the percentage of nuclear power generation is decided, making reduction targets in 2020 and thereafter will be difficult.
A senior Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry official said the government is faced with the dilemma of being unable to easily show the proportion of nuclear power generation.
"The proportion of nuclear power generation and the restart of nuclear reactors are critical issues that might split public opinion," he said.
The Basic Energy Plan says the introduction of renewable energy sources, which do not emit carbon dioxide, should be promoted. But renewable energy sources currently account for less than 2 per cent of total electricity generated in Japan, excluding hydroelectric dams and other large-scale hydroelectric systems.
The extent to which hydroelectric power generation can be increased remains unclear because of generation costs and the future course of reform of the electricity system.
A senior official at the Environment Ministry expressed his concerns and said, "Japan will ruin the international community's efforts [against global warming] if it keeps wasting time and fails to submit its reduction targets in 2020 and thereafter."Speech