Caught in crisis, Tokyo weighs cutting ambitious emissions target


Japan may backpedal on its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter, an official said Wednesday, dealing a further blow to already deadlocked global warming talks in Doha.

In 2009, Japan promised it would slash its planet-warming emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 — provided other major polluters, including China and the United States, also make sharp reductions.

The target was one of the most ambitious of any industrialized nation and won plaudits from environmentalists.

But officials say with a huge rise in the use of fossil fuels since the Fukushima nuclear disaster left the nation’s atomic energy program in limbo, the pledge will be difficult to fulfill.

“Japan is discussing how to achieve its pledge of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, including the possibility of revising it,” said Shuichiro Niihara, an Environment Ministry official.

“The goal was set before the nuclear accident last year, but even with nuclear power generation, it was going to be very difficult to realize,” he said.

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami sparked a triple-meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, generating widespread distrust of a technology previously used to provide around a third of the country’s electricity.

The compulsory goal of cutting emissions by 6 percent by 2012 is, however, likely to be reached, Niihara said.

Average emissions between 2008 and 2010 were 10.9 percent lower — if carbon trades with developing countries and forest sinks are taken into account.

Carbon trading is a system in which caps are put on emissions from a company, an industry or a country. Unused pollution allowances can be sold to those wishing to exceed their allocation.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged negotiators at climate talks in Doha on Tuesday to put aside their quarrels and act with urgency to find the money and agree on mechanisms to tackle the global warming “crisis.”