TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 1.3 percent in the year ended in March partly due to a warm winter, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, but a rebound this year threatens to make Tokyo’s Kyoto goal still harder to reach.
A Ministry of Environment official declined to comment, saying the government was still compiling the figures. The ministry’s report is due to be released shortly.
Japan is the world’s fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, behind the United States, China, India and Russia, and is the only one of these which is under pressure to meet a greenhouse gas emissions limit.
The Yomiuri paper reported Japan’s emissions at 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in the financial year 2006/07, exceeding the country’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, to be met by 2008-2012, by some 150 million tons a year.
Tokyo is expected to make up the difference and meet its goal set under the international treaty agreed in its own city of Kyoto, chiefly by buying carbon offsets from developing countries.
The Kyoto treaty is already under strain from Canada’s admission that it won’t meet its target and by lagging reductions in European countries.
The United States didn’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while the pact didn’t set emissions targets for China and India.
Japan has a difficult battle because its industry and households are already some of the world’s most energy efficient, while its power sector has few alternatives to high-carbon coal and natural gas.
In addition a government spokesman said the indefinite closure of the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, was driving up fossil fuel use, raising carbon emissions.
“We need to start operating nuclear reactors as soon as possible while ensuring safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
The Yomiuri paper said energy-based CO2 emissions rose 4.8 percent in the three months to June, compared to a year earlier.
Japan’s 2006/07 emissions were 6.3 percent above the Kyoto baseline year 1990 of 1.26 billion tons CO2 equivalent, the newspaper reported, citing Environment Ministry data.
Under Kyoto Japan has to cut emissions by an average of 6 percent compared to 1990 levels between 2008-2012.
Tokyo has resisted any moves toward a carbon tax or a mandatory cap-and-trade system, such as the European Union’s, to penalize polluters. Instead it is promoting voluntary industrial cuts and subsidies for new energy and forest conservation.
The private sector is expected to shoulder only a small portion of the required emissions cut.
The government will have to do the rest, for example through forest planting and conservation, and especially by funding clean energy projects in developing countries, getting carbon offsets in return under Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism
For example, Japan aims to buy 20 million tons a year of carbon offsets under the U.N.-administered trading scheme.
A government estimate in August showed that Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions would be 12 million tons or more above 1990 levels, by 2010, depending on economic growth.
But that now looks optimistic, as emissions from households are rising and the use of low-carbon renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, is far short of that planned.
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