Japan may have difficulty reaching its greenhouse gases-reduction goal under the Kyoto Protocol if its economy grows at a pace of around 1 percent annually, according to a recent study by a team of environment experts from Japan and Britain.

At that pace of economic growth, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to increase by nearly 5 percent by 2012 from the 1990 level, said experts at Japan’s Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and the University of Surrey in England.

This contrasts sharply with the government’s emissions-reduction plan compiled in April, which projects the increase of carbon dioxide emissions can be kept at 0.6 percent over the period.

The plan is scheduled for review in fiscal 2007.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires Japan to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 6 percent by 2012 from the 1990 level.

The latest study indicates that 1 percent annual economic growth would force Japan to step up efforts further to reduce emissions or acquire more emissions credits.

Under the Kyoto agreement, signatories can trade portions of their allowances of greenhouse gas emissions, allowing countries that pollute more heavily to buy excess credits from other nations.

The research team devised a method to estimate energy consumption per capita based on domestic data from the past 100 years, with technological innovations, economic growth and other factors taken into consideration.

The method assumes the proportion of nuclear-power generation and use of natural gas remain unchanged from current levels.

If the gross domestic product expands about 1 percent each year in the period, carbon dioxide emissions will rise to around 1.2 billion tons, or up 5 percent from 1990, the study shows.

Past trends also have shown that slight increases in energy prices will not lead to a curb in consumption, the report says.

“Unless energy consumption patterns change substantially, there will be an inevitable increase in emissions in the short-term,” IGES researcher Yasushi Ninomiya said.

“In order to abide by the (Kyoto) Protocol, it is necessary to make preparations to secure emission credits equivalent to reduction amounts at an early stage to be able to meet (Japan’s) goal,” he said.

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