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Japan’s CO2 emissions hit record as fossil fuel consumption rises

Japan’s greenhouse-gas emissions rose to a record in the year ended March as the closure of nuclear power plants increased fossil fuel consumption.

Emissions rose 1.6 per cent to 1.395 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent from a year earlier, preliminary data published by the Ministry of Environment on Thursday shows. That was up 1.3 per cent from 2005 and up 10.6 per cent from 1990.

The world’s fifth-biggest emitter said last year that it was targeting a 3.8 per cent cut by 2020 from 2005 levels. That amounts to a 3 per cent increase from a UN benchmark year of 1990 and the reversal of its previous goal of a 25 per cent reduction.

Only two of Japan’s 48 nuclear reactors were operating in the first half of the past fiscal year. The others were shut on safety concerns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant northeast of Tokyo.

Nuclear power had accounted for 26 per cent of Japan’s electricity generation. Its loss has forced the country to import natural gas and coal, increasing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocates a return to nuclear energy but says he wants to reduce Japan’s reliance on it over time.

The process of restarting reactors will begin next year at the earliest. Some will never come back online due to safety concerns. 

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