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Business

Japan scraps climate goal to plug post-Fukushima energy gap

Japan has drastically scaled back its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tokyo says the move is needed to meet energy demand after its nuclear reactors were shut in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a new greenhouse gas emissions target calling for reductions of 3.8 percent by 2020 from their 2005 levels, the government in Tokyo announced Friday.

The revision was made because an earlier goal of a 25 percent emissions cut from 1990 levels had become unrealistic, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo. The move was inevitable after Japan had been forced to close its 50 nuclear plants following the 2011 earthquake that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

“Given that none of the nuclear reactors are operating, this was unavoidable, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

Japan's new emissions target marks a dramatic turnaround in climate policy, actually representing an increase in emissions by 3 percent over 1990 - the year of reference for reductions laid down in the so-called Kyoto Climate Protocol singed in 1997.

However, the loss of its nuclear power industry, which accounted for 26 percent of the country's electricity, has increased the use of coal, oil and gas for power generation. As a result, emissions in the fiscal year ending in March were up 2.8 percent on the year before, reaching their second highest level ever with 1.2 billion tons.

At the current world climate summit held in Warsaw, Japan's decision was met with consternation.

Noting that the move might have a devastating impact on the negotiations, World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Japan representative Naoyuki Yamagishi told Reuters news agency that it could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries.

Su Wei, the deputy chief of the Chinese delegation is quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying that he didn't have words to describe his dismay.

uhe/hc (AP, dpa, Reuters)