LONDON Japan will still try to meet its binding emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol despite the earthquake in March that set back its nuclear sector, a key source of low-carbon energy, a senior government official said.
Japan, one of nearly 40 countries that committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 2008-2012 under Kyoto, has to contend with the unexpected impact of the quake and a tsunami that has shut down most of its low-carbon nuclear power.
The country had no plans now to claim force majeure, a move that would excuse it from commitments due to events outside its control, said Akira Yamada, Japan's chief negotiator at U.N. climate talks in Germany next week.
His country was also committed to supply $15 billion of climate aid to developing countries through 2012, despite the expensive reconstruction effort underway at home, he added.
"At this stage, at this stage, we are not thinking about this so-called force majeure," he told Reuters, referring to Japan's Kyoto target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent compared with 1990 levels from 2008-2012.
"Now we are making every effort to realize the reconstruction of our country so it's still a bit difficult to judge what impact this disaster (will have on) our efforts, however we are still making every effort to achieve this 6 percent reduction."
Tokyo was so far on track to meet the target, taking into account its performance in 2008 and 2009, he added.
Currently Japan is operating just 19 of its pre-crisis tally of 54 reactors, after a March 11 quake sparked a meltdown and radioactive release at its Fukushima nuclear plant, leading to rising demand for natural gas.
The net effect on carbon emissions is still uncertain as several coal plants are also still offline. Coal is the most carbon-emitting source of power, and switching to gas would therefore lower net emissions.
In addition to its Kyoto target, like other industrialized countries Japan has made a non-binding pledge to cut greenhouse gases by 2020. As a voluntary target, the prospect of applying force majeure was irrelevant in that case, said Yamada.
In a separate commitment under long-running U.N. climate talks, Japan has pledged to supply $15 billion in so-called "fast-start" finance from 2010-2012, amounting to half of all such pledges from industrialized countries, to help developing nations cope with climate change.
Japan would honor that commitment, said Yamada.
"Even though now Japan is facing a very difficult situation ... on fast-start finance we are sure that we can accomplish our pledge."
U.N. climate talks resume at a two-week meeting in Bonn, Germany, from June 6-17, after a conference in Mexico at the end of last year agreed a limited deal to try to arrest rising greenhouse gas emissions.
(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, editing by Anthony Barker)