Japan’s decision to slash its greenhouse gas emissions target was met with international criticism at the climate change talks in Warsaw.
The Japanese government aims to cut its carbon emissions target from 25% to 3.8% by 2020. The reversal comes amid a nuclear shutdown following the Fukushima meltdown triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“Our government has been saying . . . that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo.
All of Japan’s 50 nuclear plants, which accounted for 26% of the country’s electricity generation, remain offline. Japan was forced to import natural gas and coal, causing its greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket.
“Given that none of the nuclear reactors is operating, this was unavoidable,” said Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara.
International climate negotiators and environmental groups expressed frustration over Japan’s new policy at the UN Climate Change Conference, where some 190 nations are meeting to work on a global climate pact due to be agreed on in 2015.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres voiced “regret” at the Abe administration’s move.
“Japan is a highly advanced economy . . . They have made impressive advances in both in increasing their efficiency as well as solar energy investments, and our sense is that Japan can and will continue those and will soon see that the current 3.8% target is actually conservative,” Figueres said at a separate briefing.
The Euopean Union urged Abe’s government to consider the consequences of its action, while China vented its “dismay.”
Climate Action Network, a global network of more than 850 NGOs, decried the turnaround as a “bad joke”.
“This move by Japan could have a devastating impact,” said Naoyuki Yamagishi of environmental campaign group WWF Japan. “It could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries.”
Japan’s chief negotiator at the UN talks, Hiroshi Minami, assured that his country “still ambitious on climate change.”
“The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our amibition level,” Minami told reporters.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Oxfam International/Flickr