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Japan in Hot Water Over Kyoto
[Analysis] GHG emissions in fiscal 2006 were 6.4% above fiscal 1990 levels
Hisane Masaki (hmasaki)     Print Article 
Published 2007-12-04 03:27 (KST)   
This is the second part of a four-part article. Read part one.  <Editor's Note>
In early November, the Environment Ministry said in a preliminary report that Japan's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaled 1.341 billion tons CO2 equivalent in fiscal 2006, down 1.3 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 6.4 percent from fiscal 1990.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan must reduce its annual GHG emissions by 6 percent to 1.185 billion tons CO2 equivalent on average during the Kyoto Protocol's "first commitment period" of 2008-2012 from 1.261 billion tons CO2 equivalent in 1990.

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Under the current government plan, the 3.8 percent portion of the targeted 6 percent reduction is to be achieved by carbon "sink" plantation projects at home and the 1.6 percent portion -- or about 20 million tons CO2 equivalent -- is to be achieved by the government's purchases of emission credits. The remaining 0.6 percent portion is to be achieved by GHG reduction efforts by companies and households.

The preliminary report on fiscal 2006 emissions shows that Japan must actually slash its GHG emissions by 7 percent from the fiscal 2006 levels if it is to reach its Kyoto goal.

Of the six GHGs controlled by the Kyoto Protocol, CO2 accounted for 95 percent of Japan's total GHG emissions in fiscal 2006. CO2 emissions amounted to 1.275 billion tons, down 1.3 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 11.4 percent from fiscal 1990. Emissions of all the other controlled five GHGs, including methane and N2O, in fiscal 2006 declined sharply from the fiscal 1990 levels.

CO2 emissions resulting from energy generation, such as burning fossil fuels for electricity and consuming gasoline for running cars, totaled 1.184 billion tons, or 92.9 percent of the nation's total CO2 emissions, in fiscal 2006. CO2 emissions resulting from energy generation in fiscal 2006 were down 1.4 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 11.8 percent from fiscal 1990.

Of the nation's total CO2 emissions resulting from energy generation in fiscal 2006, 455 million tons came from the industrial sector, such as factories, up 0.6 percent from fiscal 2005 but down 5.6 percent from fiscal 1990. The transport sector produced 254 million tons of CO2, down 0.9 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 17.0 percent from fiscal 1990. Office buildings and other commercial facilities produced 233 million tons of CO2, down 2.6 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 41.7 percent from fiscal 1990. The household sector emitted 166 million tons of CO2, down 4.4 percent from fiscal 2005 but up 30.4 percent from fiscal 1990.

According to estimates released in early August by a joint council of the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japan's GHG emissions are likely to rise by a minimum of 0.9 percent and a maximum of 2.1 percent in fiscal 2010 from the fiscal 1990 levels because the economy is expected to grow stronger than expected earlier. This means Japan might actually need to make an additional cut of between 1.5 percent and 2.7 percent, or between about 20 million and 34 million tons CO2 equivalent per annum, possibly all through government credit purchases.

Based on the new estimates for fiscal 2010 GHG emissions, the Finance Ministry said in late October that the government might eventually have to spend at least 220 billion yen and up to 1.2 trillion yen on credits to achieve Japan's Kyoto goal. The ministry's estimates for credit purchase costs are based on the lowest and highest transaction values in the European Union's past emissions trading -- of $9 and $36 per ton, respectively.

The joint council, comprising the Environment Ministry's Central Environment Council and METI's Industrial Structure Council, is reviewing the government's program to attain the Kyoto target, which was adopted soon after the Kyoto Protocol took effect in February 2005. The joint council is expected to issue a final report by the end of the year that contains additional measures to reduce GHG emissions. Based on the final report, the government plans to revise the 2005 program next March.

Highly alarmed by the August estimates for fiscal 2010 GHG emissions, the government has pressed domestic industries to do more to produce less such gases. For Japan to reach its Kyoto goal, each of most major domestic industries has mapped out a voluntary action plan to cut GHG emissions.

The nation's 21 industries raised their voluntary GHG reduction targets and pledged at the joint council of the Environment Ministry and METI in October to make additional emission cuts totaling about 20 million tons CO2 equivalent per annum, the amount seen as the minimum necessary, based on the council's August estimates for fiscal 2010 emissions, for Japan to achieve its Kyoto target.

Still, the council's August estimates themselves are widely seen as being overly optimistic. Even some council members question the credibility of the estimates, which do not fully take into account an anticipated effect on nuclear power generation of a powerful earthquake that hit Niigata Prefecture, central Japan, in July.

The 6.8-magnitude temblor damaged and shut down indefinitely the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world's largest nuclear power station in terms of output capacity. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power, estimates that the suspension will lead to a 2 percent rise in Japan's GHG emissions in the current fiscal year alone.

Resource-poor Japan, which imports almost all of its oil and natural gas, attaches great importance to nuclear power as a key to ensuring national energy security, as well as to reducing GHG emissions. Japan is already the world's third-largest nuclear power nation, after the United States and France, in terms of the number of civilian nuclear reactors. At present, Japan's nuclear plants supply about 30 percent of the country's electricity, significantly up from just 6.5 percent three decades ago.

The electric power industry's action plan for GHG emission reductions, which is reflected in the current government program to achieve Japan's Kyoto target, sets a specific goal of reducing CO2 emissions intensity (emissions per kwh of energy used by the end user) by approximately 20 percent from the fiscal 1990 level to about 0.34 kg-CO2/kwh by fiscal 2010.

The 20 percent reduction target is based on the assumption that nuclear power plants will operate at more than 80 percent of capacity. But the actual operation rate is now stuck below 70 percent because of a series of accidents and mishaps at many plants -- and their cover-ups by power companies. In fiscal 2006, the rate was 69.9 percent, compared with 84.2 percent in fiscal 1998.

The Environment Ministry said that if the operation rate of nuclear power plants had been at the same level as fiscal 1998, Japan's GHG emissions in fiscal 2006 would have been 1.302 billion tons CO2 equivalent, up only 3.3 percent from the 1990 levels, instead of up 6.4 percent as preliminarily reported.
Hisane Masaki is a Tokyo-based journalist, commentator and scholar on international politics and economy. This is the second part of an article that originally appeared on Asia Times on Nov. 30. Two more parts will come later.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Hisane Masaki

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