At United Nations climate talks in Warsaw on Friday, Japan, much to the dismay of UN members, announced it is slashing its greenhouse gas emissions target after the Fukushima disaster all but destroyed the country’s nuclear power industry.
The Japanese government has decided instead to shoot for a 3.8% emissions cut by 2020. This is a 3% rise from the UN benchmark year of 1990 and the reversal of the previous target of a 20% reduction.
Japan defended the change, stating it was unavoidable after the March, 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster when 50 plants were closed amid safety concerns. At the time, nuclear power accounted for over 26% of Japan’s electricity generation. The loss of nuclear power has forced the once environmentally forward-thinking country to import coal and natural gas. Greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed as a result.
Among those most concerned about Japan’s failure to meet its original target were China, the EU, and environmentalists.
190 nations are meeting in Warsaw from November 11-22 to craft a global climate pact, due to be agreed upon by 2015. To many of the countries, including China, a known culprit of CO2 emissions, Japan’s new target is considered very troubling.
Japan’s announcement cast a bigger pall over the already uneventful Warsaw talks, since no major countries have announced more ambitious goals to cut emissions, despite emphatic warnings from scientists about the risks of more droughts, floods, heat waves, and rising sea levels.