• Kyodo

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The central government proposed to a panel of experts on Thursday that the country reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by fiscal 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels, as the international community aims to reach a new agreement at the end of the year to address climate change.

The panel convened under the Environment Ministry and the industry ministry largely approved the plan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to finalize the goal soon and present it at a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations planned for June in Germany.

Critics say the new reduction goal is lower than the targets proposed by other major industrialized countries, urging Japan, the world’s fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, to further boost efforts to tackle the problem.

The government decided to add fiscal 2013 as a base year given greenhouse gas emissions increased in that year since utilities fired up more coal-fired power plants in the absence of nuclear power generation following the onset of the crisis at Tepco’s Fukushima No.1 plant.

An Environment Ministry argued that Japan’s target is just as ambitious as those submitted by other countries, saying: “It is not at all easy to reduce 26 percent in 15 years.”

The government plans to submit to the United Nations two figures based on different base years — reduction targets of 25.4 percent from fiscal 2005 levels and 26 percent from fiscal 2013 levels.

To that end, Japan will reduce its reliance on coal-fired power plants and promote renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, looking to make such clean energy account for up to 24 percent of total electricity output in 2030, almost double the 11 percent averaged during the decade before the triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Tokyo aims to bring many of the nation’s idled nuclear reactors back online. While nuclear energy remains widely unpopular across the country it emits no greenhouse gases.

The government would like 20 percent to 22 percent of Japan’s total energy mix to come from nuclear by 2030. It also aims to promote hybrid vehicles, energy saving and carbon absorption through forests to fulfill the goal.

Japan currently has a goal of trimming emissions by 3.8 percent by fiscal 2020 compared with fiscal 2005 levels. In the long term, it has pledged to curb emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. But some experts at Thursday’s panel meeting questioned whether the proposed new target is ambitious enough to achieve such a cut.

Countries are seeking to create a new framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the current international framework for fighting global warming, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, to be held in Paris in November and December.

Under the 1997 protocol, major emitters such as the United States, China and Japan are not legally committed to emissions cuts during the period from 2013 to 2020.

As of April, seven countries and one region have submitted their new reduction goals. The 28-nation European Union has set its reduction goal at 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, and the United States between 26 percent and 28 percent by 2025 compared with 2005 levels.

Japan has been lagging behind other countries in setting a reduction goal amid uncertainty over its future energy policy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which saw all of the country’s nuclear reactors idled by the end of September 2013.

Others including China — the biggest greenhouse gas emitter — Brazil, India and Australia have yet to submit their post-2020 reduction goals.

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