Japan reverses 'unfeasible' 2020 CO2 targets

15th November 2013

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The Japanese government has announced it will not cut carbon emissions on 1990 levels by 2020, as Canadian government praises Australian PM's attempt to repeal carbon tax

As representatives from UN governments meet in Poland to begin negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto agreement, three of the world’s major economies have signaled they are reining back on ambitions to cut greenhouse-gases (GHG).

The Japanese government has confirmed it is abandoning its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions by 25% on 1990 levels, with its chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga labeling the target set by the preceding administration as “totally unfounded”.

The move is partly prompted by the closure of all of Japan’s nuclear power plants for safety and maintenance checks following the Fukishima disaster. Nuclear facilities generated 25% of the Japan’s electricity and the country is now importing huge amounts of fossil fuels to meet energy demand.

The government has set a new 2020 target based on having no nuclear power in future. This will see carbon emission cut by just 3.8% on 2005 figures, resulting in annual emissions 3% higher than in 1990.

UK energy secretary Ed Davey described the announcement by the Japanese government as “deeply disappointing” , and urged it to reconsider the decision.

“This announcement runs counter to the broader political commitment to tackle climate change, recently reaffirmed by G8,” he said. “As the world’s third largest economy, Japan needs to be at the forefront of taking ambitious action.

“I appreciate the difficult political task that the government of Japan has in realigning the country’s domestic energy policies in the wake of [Fukishima]. But a shift of this magnitude at this time represents a major step backwards. In the UK, we are clear that nuclear is an integral part of our low-carbon energy mix. I would also underline the opportunities that energy efficiency and renewable energy afford in determining Japan’s future energy mix.”

In a more positive move, Suga reaffirmed its long-term emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050, and Davey called on the Japanese government to set an ambitious 2030 target to signal how it is going to achieve this.

Meanwhile, the newly elected prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, has introduced a bill to repeal the country’s carbon tax, which imposes a levy on Australia’s most polluting firms. Under the tax, which was introduced by the previous government on 1 July 2012, organisations must pay AUS$24 per tonne of carbon emitted.

Abbott pledged to scrap the tax as one of his campaign policies, and argues that the result of the general means the electorate agrees that the tax should be repealed. In a discussion on the tax last week, Abbot said: “I am utterly determined – and the new government is absolutely committed – to the repeal of the carbon tax.

“By any standards, the recent election was a referendum on the carbon tax and the Australian people unequivocally said let’s get rid of this thing.

“The carbon tax is costing jobs. It’s raising households’ cost of living. It’s making business less secure. It’s damaging our competitiveness. That’s why it’s got to go and as far as I’m concerned, it will go as quickly as possible.”

While the bill to repeal the carbon tax is expected to be passed by the lower house of the Australian parliament, where Abbott’s ruling coalition has a majority, the tax cannot be abolished unless the senate also agrees, and both the Labour party and the Green party oppose the change.

Abbott’s attempts to repeal Australia’s carbon tax has received support from the Canadian government, which pulled out of its commitment under the Kyoto protocol during the UN negotiations in Durban two years ago.

“Carbon taxes raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries, and electricity,” said Paul Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s prime minister. “Canada applauds the decision by Tony Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. It will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.”

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