• Kyodo

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Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell in fiscal 2019 for the sixth straight year to reach their lowest level since comparable data became available in fiscal 1990, partly due to the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute, the Environment Ministry said Tuesday.

The equivalent of 1.213 billion tons of carbon dioxide was emitted in the year through March 2020, down 2.7% from a year earlier to rewrite the previous low recorded in fiscal 2018, according to preliminary data.

The ministry attributed the drop to declines in production in the steel industry and others affected by the U.S.-China trade war, and expansions of renewable energy.

Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, Japan aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 26% in fiscal 2030 compared with fiscal 2013.

With total emissions falling 14% in fiscal 2019 from fiscal 2013, the ministry believes the reduction target is attainable if the current pace of decline in greenhouse gas emissions continues.

However, the ministry thinks Japan cannot achieve its longer-term goal of cutting emissions to net zero by 2050 “unless all sorts of measures are taken.”

There have been calls for steps such as raising the fiscal 2030 target in order to meet the longer-term goal, which is on a par with pledges by other economies including the European Union and the U.K.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to establish a ¥2 trillion fund for firms developing green technologies as part of efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and spur economic growth.

In fiscal 2019, electricity consumption by Japan’s steel and machinery industries fell along with a decline in their exports to China, which were affected by a trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Meanwhile, the share of electricity generated in Japan using renewable sources rose to 18% on the back of an increase in solar power.

Nuclear power generation accounted for just 6%, as many nuclear plants remained offline under stricter safety regulations implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The ministry said emissions in fiscal 2019 saw almost no impact from the coronavirus outbreak, but said the situation needs to be monitored.

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