OSAKA — With a United Nations conference on global warming just around the corner, a citizen’s group is calling for existing energy-saving technologies to be more widely used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
If comprehensive energy-saving measures are carried out in all sectors of society through economic incentives and regulatory measures, Japan will be able to achieve a 9 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from the 1990 level by 2010, exceeding its target of 6 percent, the group said in a report.
“The technologies assumed to calculate this are already available,” said Yoichi Mizutani, an associate professor of Shizuoka University and director of the Citizens’ Alliance for Saving the Atmosphere and the Earth.
“What is necessary is the political will to implement them,” he said.
During the Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP3, held in Kyoto in December 1997, world leaders adopted a protocol that sets legally binding targets for industrialized countries to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2010, with each nation committing to its own target.
No industrialized countries, however, have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise around the world.
While Japan’s target was set at 6 percent under the protocol, the amount of greenhouse gases released in Japan actually increased more than 5 percent from 1990 levels.
At COP6, to be held between Nov. 13 and 24 in The Hague, world leaders will discuss specific rules and mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases.
Among other things, they will discuss to what extent a country can rely on alternative, nondomestic measures — such as purchasing surplus “emission credits” from other countries and earning credits by helping finance cleaner technologies in developing countries — to achieve its own target.
Environment groups see these nondomestic measures as loopholes and are calling on industrialized countries to carry out domestic initiatives more vigorously.
Since COP3 in Kyoto, the Japanese government has carried out some measures, such as drawing up an outline that shows how Japan can meet the reduction target and creating a law that requires that the central and local governments draw up action programs to reduce greenhouse gases.
Japan’s reduction scenario, which is based on a plan to construct 20 new nuclear plants, is already a failure, environment groups say.
In the face of growing opposition to atomic power, they say — especially after the major accident in September 1999 in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture — even experts who promote nuclear power are skeptical about a plan to construct so many nuclear plants.
Even if that number is not achieved, however, Mizutani said Japan could achieve its targeted reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by making better use of financial resources hitherto poured into nuclear power projects.
The results of a simulation, detailed in the CASA report, is based on the assumption that existing nuclear plants are phased out as they reach their durability limit of 30 years, and “this shows that Japan doesn’t have to rely on the construction of nuclear plants (to achieve the reduction target),” Mizutani said.
“If the government decides to phase out nuclear power plants, the vast amount of money being spent on the plants could instead be spent on promoting clean energy, such as solar and wind power,” he said.
Pointing to the increasing construction of coal-fueled power plants in recent years, Mizutani also called for the introduction of a carbon tax to curb the use of environmentally harmful power sources, such as coal.
By combining various policy measures, including deregulation and economic incentives, Japan could reduce carbon dioxide output from the electricity sector by 14 million tons, which is about 20 percent less than the government’s calculations, he said.
The report also details energy-saving technologies and policy measures that should be introduced in other sectors, such as in industry, the transport sector and households.
Applauding the CASA report, Environment Agency official Kazuhiko Takemoto said the government will draw up specific measures to abide by the Kyoto Protocol after examining the result of the COP6 talks.
In an effort to reflect the views of different sectors in the COP6 negotiations and to generate public awareness, the Environment Agency will hold a “town meeting” and a panel discussion on global warming on Nov. 3 in Kyoto.
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