(For related story and factbox click [ID:nT183553] [ID:nT17213])
June 10 Japan, the world's fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has set a 2020 target to cut emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels, a target to be achieved solely by domestic low-emission efforts, Prime Minister Taro Aso said.
Aso's emphasis on domestic efforts was aimed at clarifying the difference between the new target and Japan's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, which includes emissions credits from abroad and from forest conservation to offset domestic emissions.
The Japanese government as well as steel and power companies have been major buyers of emissions offsets from abroad in the past few years as the purchases were meant to play a key part in Tokyo's plans to meet its Kyoto goal.
Under the Kyoto pact Japan committed itself to cut emissions by 6 percent below 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period. Of the total, a 5.4 percent cut is set aside for the Japanese government's promised spending on emissions credits from clean projects abroad and forest conservation at home.
The new 2020 target is equivalent to a cut of 8 percent below Japan's 1990 emission levels, and the fresh cuts would be achieved solely by so-called "clean water" efforts, including enhancing renewable energy sources, in particular solar power.
In its fiscal year to March 2008, Japan saw its emissions rise 2.4 percent to a record 1,374 million tonnes in carbon dioxide equivalent as offices and households increased emissions and power companies failed to meet pollution reduction goals.
For a graphic of Japan's CO2 emissions, click on: here
Japan aims to cut emissions to meet its Kyoto commitments in two ways.
The government plans to spend on domestic forest conservation while investing in clean energy projects abroad, which generates credits to offset emissions, and buying surplus emissions rights from the other industrialised countries committed to Kyoto.
Tokyo has already procured a total 95 million tonnes of such offsets from abroad, compared with its plan to buy 100 million tonnes over the five-year Kyoto period. [ID:nT180173]
The other step is to seek voluntary pledges on emissions cuts by major industry sectors, including electricity generators and steel makers.
Unlike the European Union, Japan has been reluctant to impose a mandatory cap on companies' emissions because of past efforts by industry to conserve energy.
Following is a rough guide to measures being implemented by Japan to cut CO2-equivalent emissions (per year, average):
- Forest conservation - 48 million tonnes
- *Kyoto mechanism - 20 million tonnes
- **Electric power - about 100 million tonnes, including
38 million tonnes via *Kyoto
- ***Steel - 10-15 million tonnes, including
12 million tonnes via *Kyoto
- remaining emission cuts are up to other industrial sectors and households.
* The Kyoto mechanism refers to a United Nations scheme which allows rich-nation polluters to fund emission cuts in poorer or former communist countries and put them towards domestic carbon reduction targets or sell them for a profit.
** The electric power industry has a voluntary target to reduce CO2 emissions to 0.34 kg per kilowatt-hour, down 20 percent from the 1990/91 level.
But preliminary industry data showed their emissions for the first Kyoto year to March 2009 averaged 0.45 kg per kilowatt hour, which means the sector still has to reduce emissions by around 100 million tonnes a year, based on the sector's estimated power generation of 931 billion kilowatt hours a year between 2008/09 and 2012/13. [ID:nT261487]
The electric power industry said in May the sector's purchase of offsets via the Kyoto mechanism totalled 190 million tonnes for delivery over the 2008-2012 Kyoto period.
*** The steel industry said in May it had bought a total 59 million tonnes of offsets via Kyoto mechanism to help meet the sector's voluntarily pledged emissions target. (Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Michael Watson)