U.S. emissions cuts a ‘bold step,’ Japan says

Bloomberg

The United States’ proposed cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions from its power plants is a bold step to tackle climate change, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara says.

“There are many states that are dependent on coal power,” Ishihara said at a news conference in Tokyo. “We hope the U.S. will make progress toward the EPA targets.”

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released plans to cut emissions from power plants by an average of 30 percent from 2005 levels.

The stance by Japan, which in November watered down its own targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, stands in contrast to the European Union’s view that the U.S. must go further. The EPA proposal is the most comprehensive climate-protection plan yet from President Barack Obama’s administration.

“All countries, including the United States, must do even more than what this reduction trajectory indicates,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement from her office in Brussels on Monday.

The EPA’s program starts to set in place policies the U.S. will bring to discussions this year with 190 nations on how to limit pollution after 2020. While it gives Obama ammunition to show that other nations also need to act, the limits set out by the EPA cover only about a third of emissions by 2030.

Envoys to the climate talks organized by the United Nations hope to conclude an agreement next year that would apply to all nations instead of just the rich industrial ones.

Japan’s ability to deal with emissions is complicated by the shuttering of the nation’s 48 operable nuclear reactors in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Without nuclear reactors, Japan relies on fuels such as oil, gas and coal for almost 90 percent of its electricity generation, compared with about 60 percent before the disaster.

Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, according to the International Energy Agency.

The resource-poor country is pushing for the development of coal plants that emit less carbon dioxide. Japan has been criticized for funding coal plants abroad. In April, when Obama was visiting Japan, nongovernmental organizations requested that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discuss ending public financing for overseas coal power projects.

Australia, while welcoming Obama’s program, said countries would follow their own paths. The Liberal-National government in Australia, which has the largest per-capita fossil-fuel emissions among rich nations, aims to kill off the world’s highest emission tariffs brought in by the prior Labor administration.

“We welcome constructive action to cut emissions,” Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in an e-mailed statement. “Each country can play its role but no single model will suit every country. The U.S. is taking its own approach and we respect that.”

The U.S. achieved carbon cuts by boosting energy generated from natural gas, his office said. Australia has pledged to cut emissions from its economy 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. That would mean a 12 percent reduction from a 2005 baseline.