Japan pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The Japanese government said on Tuesday it would reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2030, to achieve a new international set of standards to combat climate change to be inked at a global summit later this year, despite a number of issues remaining on the horizon.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he plans to take a ” leading role” in the international drive to combat climate change and said he would elucidate on Japan’s commitment to reducing its emissions at a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations starting Sunday in Germany.

“I will take a leadership role towards realization of a fair and effective framework in COP21, explaining Japan’s position on the emission target at the Group of Seven summit in Germany opening this weekend,” Abe said, adding that Japan’s commitment will be finalized and submitted to the United Nations in July.

Abe described Japan’s plans to cut its emissions as “an ambitious target” that was “comparable” and not inferior to that of other countries.

The Japanese leader said in a cabinet meeting Tuesday that the latest commitment “reflects the Abe administration’s goals of lowering reliance on nuclear power” as much as possible, adding that “efforts would be maximized to save energy” and “the introduction of renewable energy also promoted and utilized to every extent possible.”

Japan’s most recent commitment based on 2013 levels, however, has been railed against as being unambitious by other countries and environmental groups since first floated in May, as the new target is only an 18-percent cut compared with the Kyoto Protocol base year of 1990.

And while Japan has raised its target from at least 25 percent by 2030 eyed in late April, up from an earlier suggestion of 20 percent, the amount is still less than the minimum targets eyed by other major developed countries, including the United States, which has pledged to cut its own emissions by as much as 28 percent from its levels in 2005, by a deadline of 2025.

The European Union, meanwhile, has set a target of slashing its emissions by 40 percent from levels in 1990, by 2030.

Japan initially tapered its emissions targets, due to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and the need to take all of its commercial nuclear reactors offline and burn fossil fuels to produce power for the nation, while other industrialized nations agreed to slash their combined emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Since the nuclear disaster, the burning of coal and gas by plants in Japan has hit the second-highest level since record keeping began in the year ended March 2014, and the impact of the carbon emissions has been of concern to the industry ministry and the wider global community.

Japan is still the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, but the nuclear disaster has made it difficult for Japan to definitively set a date by when it will reduce its emissions, although both local and international environmental groups have said that the nation’s efforts are inadequate.

Kiko Network, a Tokyo-based environmental campaigning group, has highlighted that fact that Japan’s new target would equate to just a 17-per cent reduction when compared with the Kyoto Protocol base year of fiscal 1990.

The protocol is the international treaty, which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and currently serves as a worldwide body for combating global warming.

The Kyoto Protocol, however, will likely be replaced by the international community at the next UNFCCC to be held in Paris in last November, but prior to that Abe has said he will announce, concussively, Japan’s carbon emissions target reductions and dates at the G7 meeting in Germany next week.

Although only 38 nations have fully pledged their post-2020 commitments for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday that Japan will have to significantly ramp up its investment in renewable energy sources and infrastructure if it is to meet the industry ministry’s expert panel’s energy mix by 2030, of 22 to 24 per cent of the nation’s total electricity demand, which is double the current levels.

Despite the medley of issues facing Japan, including current safety concerns of one fifth of Japan’s energy still coming from nuclear power generation, other international parties’ and local environmental groups’ disdain for Abe’s conservative greenhouse gas emission reduction plans, and energy experts’ suggestions that the government’s future energy mix targets are quixotic, Abe’s top spokesperson said unreservedly that the government’s plans will be formalized forthwith.

“After soliciting public comments, we will formally submit the plan in mid- to late-July to the United Nations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary said Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

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