TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is not seeking an exemption from its Kyoto Protocol pledges to cut greenhouse gases, a government official said on Tuesday, despite a nuclear safety crisis that could hamper efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuels.
Japan remains committed to achieving reduced emissions in the 2008-2012 period averaging 6 percent less than its 1990 level, said Takehiro Kano, director of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He dismissed as groundless a report in the Nikkei financial daily that Japan would ask other signatories to the protocol for an exemption from its Kyoto obligations after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month severely damaged its Fukushima nuclear complex, a key source of power for the Tokyo area.
“We have neither made such a decision nor started negotiations with overseas participants,” Kano said, adding that Japan had met its emission reductions obligations in the first two years of the five-year protocol period.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano also said on Tuesday that Japan was still concentrating its energies on assessing the impact of the disaster and proceeding with recovery efforts, and had not considered any measures or made any decisions on its greenhouse emissions target.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated coastal areas of northeast Japan and knocked out Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, triggering radiation leaks and prompting new safety measures at Japanese reactors.
The protracted nuclear crisis has cast doubts over ambitious longer-term carbon emissions targets, which rely heavily on boosting nuclear power generation.
Tokyo has not said explicitly that it will consider backing away from its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, but a revision of energy policy in light of the Fukushima crisis could pave the way for a review of its emissions goals.
For the short term, the possibility of Japan declaring the equivalent of a force majeure against its 2008-2012 commitments has not been a focus at U.N. climate talks in Bangkok, which aim to agree on steps to ramp up the fight against global warming.
Delegate comments toward Japan have emphasized sympathy in the aftermath of the disaster, which has left nearly 28,000 dead or missing.
A senior delegate from Indonesia, ravaged by a 9.1 quake and tsunami in 2004, said the world should help Japan avoid declaring force majeure.
“They are not left in the cold. We will help them in achieving their target,” said Agus Purnomo. Indonesia could help with forestry projects, with bilateral offset deals, for example, he said.
Japan has been on course to meet the Kyoto emission-reduction goal on average over the five years to March 2013, however, as indicated when the government curbed buying of U.N.-backed emission offsets from abroad in the past year to one-tenth the volume it bought a year earlier.
But Tokyo Electric, Japan’s biggest power supplier, appears set to rely more on oil and gas, increasing its CO2 emissions for years to come unless there is a change in the country’s energy policy and related infrastructure for electricity supply.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said Japan needs to debate its energy policy based on an examination of the Fukushima crisis, with a focus on renewable energy sources as an alternative to nuclear power.
Japan is the world’s third-biggest operator of nuclear power plants after the United States and France, and before the quake nuclear reactors supplied 30 percent of its power demand.
The loss of Tokyo Electric’s two Fukushima plants alone reduces Japan’s total power capacity by about 4 percent.
Additional reporting by David Fogarty in Bangkok; Editing by Edmund Klamann