Japan's greenhouse gas emissions fell to record low in year to March 2020

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from a factory during the sunset at Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki, Japan, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.7% to a record low in the 2019 financial year that ended March 2020, government figures showed on Tuesday, thanks to growing use of renewable energy and lower energy consumption by manufacturers.

Japan’s sixth straight annual drop comes against a surge in global greenhouse emissions to a new record last year.

Emissions in the 2019 financial year dropped to 1.213 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent from 1.247 billion tonnes the previous year, to hit their lowest since the 1990 financial year, when Japan began compiling data on greenhouse gas emissions, preliminary environment ministry data showed.

Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest carbon emitter, has set a goal to trim emissions by 26% from 2013 levels to 1.042 billion tonnes by 2030. The latest figure represents a reduction of 14.0% from 2013 levels, data showed.

Japan’s effort toward decarbonisation is expected to accelerate as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has recently set an ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, earlier than the nation’s initial target of “as soon as possible after 2050”.

The nation’s emissions had surged after the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima led to the closure of atomic power plants and boosted reliance on fossil fuels, but have turned lower since a peak of 1.41 billion tonnes hit in the 2013 year.

Nine reactors have been restarted, although many have been temporarily shut this year for maintenance and mandatory upgrades to protect them against terrorist attacks.

In the 2019 financial year, renewable energy accounted for 18.0% of electric power generation of 1.028 trillion kilowatt hour (kWh), up 1.1 percentage points on the year.

Nuclear energy came in at 6.2%, flat from a year earlier, while thermal power formed 75.8%, down 1.1 percentage points, industry ministry data showed.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi, editing by Ed Osmond