Japan’s emissions reach record high

It seemed like Japan was improving its carbon-emitting ways: The country, which is the world’s fifth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, reduced its emissions by 1.3 percent about two years ago. But just as environmentalists started to feel a little pride swelling in their little, green hearts, Japan disappoints us all: Data released yesterday shows that the country’s emissions rose by 2.3 percent last year, a record high. Once again, our hopes were crushed.

The country blames its increased emissions on the shutting down of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which was damaged in a July 2007 earthquake. Utilities responded by beefing up production at coal, oil, and natural gas plants, all of which emit tons upon tons of greenhouse gas emissions—nuclear power emits none. (However, nuclear power does come with its own potential dangers to the earth and human health, especially given the fact that Japan is prone to earthquakes. Just sayin’.) The setback means that Japan may not meet its reduction goals established in the Kyoto Protocol.

From a Reuters story:

With developing countries already questioning Tokyo’s political will to rein in emissions and top CO2 polluters China, the United States and India free from Kyoto’s 2008-2012 targets, Japan’s actions will be seen as a milestone as governments struggle to agree on a successor to the protocol next year.


Analysts said immediate action was called for if Japan was to cut emissions by the estimated 13.5 percent needed to hit its 2008-2012 target under Kyoto of just under 1.2 billion tones, down 6 percent from 1990 levels.

If Japan’s really serious about meeting its Kyoto goals, it would institute some mandatory reduction measures. As of right now, all of Japan’s emissions reductions efforts are voluntary—implementing stricter limits like carbon caps or taxes on the country’s industries would certainly help push emissions way down. Unsurprisingly, Japan’s major industries like manufacturers and steelmakers resist mandatory reductions on greenhouse gas emissions.

Even Prince Charles wants Japan to ratchet up its environmental efforts, calling for the country to work towards creating a low-carbon economy. If horrific climate change warnings from the world’s top scientists don’t get Japan to listen, perhaps a request from His Royal Highness will.