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Japan is reconsidering plans to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 25% by 2020 due to a rethinking of its energy future, and the country is worried that it is spending too much on carbon-credit programs, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Japan currently plans to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 25% by 2020.

Japan’s doubts, prompted in part by its nuclear disaster in March, come at a time the European Union is questioning whether it should press ahead with plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if others don’t follow suit.

“We don’t want to give a wrong message to the international community, that’s why I’m talking about the possible revision now,” said Kazushige Nobutani, director of the Global Environmental Affairs Office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Japan had expected that growth in its nuclear sector would help it meet its emission targets, but now just 10 of its 54 reactors are operating.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said he wants to phase out nuclear power by not building new reactors.

Mr. Nobutani’s comments come a little more than a month before climate-change negotiators will meet in Durban, South Africa, to try to hammer out ways to combat global warming. Expectations for breakthroughs are low, following failures in Copenhagen and Cancun in 2009 and 2010.

Now, “Japan will decide if it wants to stick to the [25%] target,” announced in 2009, Mr. Nobutani said.

Efforts to draw up a binding treaty to cut carbon emissions and a successor to the 1992 Kyoto Protocol on climate change have faltered largely because of the refusal of the U.S. and major developing countries to agree on terms.

“Japan’s wealth has been draining out” due to buying carbon credits from East European countries and China, Mr. Nobutani said.

METI estimates Japan has paid as much as ¥800 billion ($10.4 billion) to buy 400 million metric tons of carbon credits.

The U.S. says it won’t sign a new pact unless China, India and other large economies accept compulsory emissions reductions under the same standards.

“We do not believe conditions are right for a mandate in Durban for a legally binding agreement,” Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said on Oct. 8.

The EU, a leader in climate-change efforts, is wobbling in its commitment.

“If coordinated action on climate among the main global players fails to strengthen in the next few years, the question arises how far the EU should continue with an energy system transition oriented to decarbonization,” according to a draft of its Energy Roadmap 2050 reviewed by The Wall street Journal.

On Tuesday, International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol warned that “the door may be closing if we do not act very boldly and urgently.”

The Wall Street Journal, 19 October 2011