Japan slashes climate goal, meets international frustration

• November 15, 2013
Japan slashes climate goal

Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan, Creative Commons: Kansai Electric Power Co. via IAEA Imagebank, 2007

Japan drastically weakened its climate change commitments today, drawing widespread international condemnation at UN climate change talks and beyond.

Japan is the world’s third largest economy and fifth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but today its government announced a new emissions reductions target to cut greenhouse gases 3.8% by 2020 based on 2005 levels.  Not only does this replace what was once an outstanding international goal of a 25% cut by 2020 based on 1990 levels, it actually amounts to a 3% rise on 1990 levels — effectively annihilating Japan’s climate ambition.

The criticism from foreign ministers, negotiators and NGOs has been stinging and has raised fears that Japan’s entry into the “low ambition coalition” – joining Australia, Canada and Poland – could send next week’s round of climate talks into a tailspin.

The European Union and its 28 Member States express disappointment at the significant weakening of Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 announced earlier today…[we] call on Japan to consider the implications of the new target for Japan’s contribution to international mitigation action. — Statement by the European Union

The Japanese delegation tried to save face by announcing extra funds for climate finance, but this diversionary gesture has been labelled moot, as serious mitigation efforts are being kicked aside.

Japan’s dramatic U-turn on its emissions target commitments is a slap in the face for poor countries who are right now struggling to cope with changes to their climate, and who will face yet more extreme and unpredictable weather in the future. — Kelly Dent, Oxfam

Japan’s decision to slash its 2020 carbon reduction target flies in the face of the latest scientific evidence from the IPCC as well as the reality of the climate impacts we are seeing around the world.

I don’t have any words to describe my dismay at that announcement. — Su Wei, China’s lead climate negotiator

Japan based its decision to drastically reduce its climate commitment on flawed arguments over the impact of its nuclear shutdown. Commentators are not convinced by Japan’s argument that the 2011 nuclear shutdown can justify the severe degradation of their ambition.

Campaigners drew attention to Japan’s absurd new emissions reduction target by pretending that the target was a prank by Japan, and tweeting to the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office that they were still anticipating the announcement of  Japan’s #RealReduction:

Nuclear power only represented around 10% of the nation’s primary energy and the country has a huge untapped potential for renewables and energy efficiency. NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF have published reports advising the Japanese government on how it can prosper without nuclear power and fulfil strong climate commitments.

Japanese officials, much like Australian, Canadian and Polish officials, know what is required of them to keep global warming below the internationally agreed threshold of 2°C and they know from the latest UN “Emissions Gap Report” that we need urgent greenhouse gas reductions. But all they have delivered is excuses for inaction on serious mitigation and climate finance.

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TckTckTck is the online hub for the Global Call for Climate Action. The GCCA represents an unprecedented alliance of more than 400 nonprofit organizations from around the world. Our shared mission is to mobilize civil society and galvanize public support to ensure a safe climate future for people and nature, to promote the low-carbon transition of our economies, and to accelerate the adaptation efforts in communities already affected by climate change.

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