Japan's gas emissions fall, but still far from Kyoto Protocol targets

Japan's greenhouse gas emissions fell slightly last fiscal year, but the country is far from achieving its target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a government report said Friday. Japan released about 1.329 billion tons of greenhouse gases in the year ending March 31, down 0.8 percent from the previous year, according to the Environment Ministry.

The report came after a nationwide campaign this summer that had many of Japan's public servants and businessmen shedding their customary suits and ties in a concerted effort to cut down on air conditioner use.

But Japan must speed up reductions if it intends to meet targets set in the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in February this year.

Under the U.N.-brokered agreement, Tokyo is committed to cutting collective emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Climate scientists say these gases trap heat from solar radiation that bounces off the Earth's surface, keeping it within the atmosphere and gradually boosting the planet's temperature. The effect is similar to how a greenhouse retains the sun's heat.

The report attributed the small decrease in Japan's emissions to a recovery in operation rates at its nuclear power plants, which provide about a third of the resource-poor country's energy, the AP reports.

Although the Japanese government has been aggressively pushing nuclear power as an alternative source of energy, many of the country's reactors have been running at under capacity after a series of safety violations, reactor malfunctions and accidents.

Public confidence in nuclear energy was badly shaken after an accident at a reprocessing plant outside Tokyo in 1999, which killed two workers and exposed hundreds of people to radioactivity.

Then in August 2004, a corroded pipe carrying boiling water and superheated steam burst at a reactor in Mihama, west of Tokyo, killing five workers. No radiation was released in that accident.


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