15 Nov 2013

Japan to slash greenhouse gas reduction target

8:43 pm on 15 November 2013

Japan is to significantly slash its greenhouse gas reduction target in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It will now aim to achieve a 2020 target of 3.8% below 2005 levels, replacing a previous commitment to reduce emissions by 25% from 1990 levels, the BBC reports.

The moves come with all of Japan's nuclear power plants currently offline - forcing the country to increase its burning of fossil fuels.

The move was announced in Tokyo by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The new target represents a 3% rise over 1990s emissions levels, a comprehensive turnaround from the 25% reduction target.

But Mr Suga said the previous target - set under a government led by the now-opposition Democratic Party - had been "totally unfounded".

"Our government has been saying... that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn't feasible," he said.

Speaking at United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw, Japan's chief negotiator said the move was based on new circumstances.

"The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level," Hiroshi Minami said.

Acknowledging the move would attract criticism, he said the target could be adjusted if the nuclear situation changed.

Before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan generated more than a quarter of its power from nuclear energy, the BBC reported.

But since the disaster, its 50 reactors have been mostly idled for safety checks or scheduled maintenance, amid a public backlash against nuclear energy.

Japan's last operating nuclear reactor, at Ohi, was turned off in September and analysts say the country will be without nuclear power until December at the earliest.