Japan Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase
Japanese greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2007-2008, thereby making it more difficult for Japan to achieve its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol Climate Convention. Japan has the world's second-biggest economy behind the United States.
This information raises new questions about the effectiveness of Japan's reliance on voluntary industry steps to curb air emissions. Unlike the European Union, Japan has been reluctant to impose a mandatory cap on emissions from companies because industry had made past efforts to conserve energy.
Japan has pledged to cut emissions of gases blamed for global warming by 6 percent from the 1990 level. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan must cut its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. In short, Japan must target emissions of 1.186 billion tons a year over the next 5 years starting in 2008. Initial government data showed greenhouse gas emissions had risen from 1.371 billion tons from 1.34 billion tons, a 2.3% increase during fiscal year 2007-2008 totaling a record 1.371 billion tons in CO2 equivalent.
According to data compiled by the Environment Ministry, emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide increased 8.7 percent since 1990. Output of carbon dioxide increased 2.6 percent to 1.305 billion tons in the year that ended in March 2008, or 14.1 percent since 1990, according to the report from the Ministry. Methane emissions fell 1.6 percent to 23.1 million tons.
In order to meet its Kyoto target, Japan must cut emissions by 9.3 percent to 1.254 billion tons a year until 2012, with the remaining reductions to be achieved by the government through alternative methods such as carbon credits. As the world's 5th largest emitter, it appears that Japan may be required to accelerate its purchase of U.N. carbon offsets in order to meets its global obligation.
The world's largest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, operated by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) had to suspend operations after a July 2007 earthquake.
That problem contributed to the 2-3 % increase in emissions the past fiscal year after a 1.3 % reduction during the previous year. The Japanese nuclear plant utilization rate dropped to 60.7 percent of capacity in the year ended March, 2008 from 69.9 percent a year earlier according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. Tokyo Electric's nuclear plant operating rates fell to 44.9 percent of capacity from 74.2 percent.
The outlook for Japanese emissions remains unclear as the TEPCO plant has remained closed indefinitely, whereas the global economic slowdown may restrict energy usage by the world's No.5 emitter.