Bloomberg News Online, Reuters News, and various newswires reported on November 15, 2013 that Japan announced a dramatic switch in their carbon emissions policies in Warsaw, Poland, during a United Nations (U.N.)-sponsored climate talks summit. The Japanese government cited the reason for the turnaround in the country’s carbon emissions policy was due to the closure of all its nuclear energy plants, and the resultant need to rely on other forms of fossil fuels to cope with the shortfall, following the March 2011 Tsunami disaster, which caused a nuclear disaster at Fukushima Nuclear Plant, and nearly devastated the entire island nation.
In its report outlining the detailed plans, the Japanese government decided on November 15, 2013 that the country plans to target a 3.8 percent emissions reduction by 2020 versus the 2005 levels. The latest move amounts to a 3.0 percent rise from a U.N. benchmark year of 1990, and the reversal of the previous target of a 25.0 percent reduction. As a result of the impending new policy changes, Japan faced various harsh criticisms in Warsaw, where some 190 nations are meeting from November 11-22 to work on global climate pact, due to be signed and agreed in 2015. Several countries, including the European Union (EU) have expressed their disappointment over the latest changes announced by the Japanese government. Japan is in quite a challenging position, given that it did not follow through its previous environmental policy stance of maintaining reasonable carbon emissions standards, and work towards finding a common ground along with the rest of the global governments in working out a comprehensive reform plan on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.
Several analysts and environmentalists have also expressed their dismay regarding Japan’s latest announcement, and has criticised the country over its latest policy stance. One of the climate change spokeswoman at the UK charity, Oxfam, was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying that, “As one of the world’s largest CO2 emitters, Japan has a responsibility to help lead in reducing emissions.” Other including analyst, Jonathan Grant, who is also the current sustainability and climate change director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP responded through email to Bloomberg News, saying that, “The decision highlights the awkward compromises that many countries are making between affordable, reliable, and low carbon energy; But the shift away from nuclear is towards natural gas rather than cold , or renewables, so the carbon intensity of Japan’s economy is still around the average for industrialised economies: higher than Europe, but lower than America, Australia, and China.”
The overall reversal of Japan’s carbon emissions policy did spark off various debates over individual country’s responsibility to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect the well-being of the environment. However, one should also understand the reasons for Japan’s environmental protection stance. The latest announcement by the Japanese government is seen as setback for implementing comprehensive carbon emissions standards, and forced other nations to shoulder the burden coming from the slow rise in global temperatures, falling sea levels, and environment damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Japan has a lot of explanation to do, following the reversal of its environmental policy reforms. It should be basic role of any nation to avoid the devastating impacts caused by greenhouse gas emissions. China was seen as a heavily emitter of greenhouse gases since the Kyoto agreement was signed in 1997, which did not include curbs on developing nations. Japan cited its own reasons for making this change in its carbon emissions policies, citing that time is critically needed to help the country resolve its energy consumption woes, following the shutdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. The country has ordered a complete halt in nuclear energy consumption, and has relatively few natural resources that might help to supplement the loss of a reliable energy source such as nuclear energy.
China has also criticised Japan over its latest environment policy, but there are questions over China’s criticisms on Japan as the country is still largely seen as one of the leading global emitters of greenhouse gases, and came out of it relatively unscathed. However, the country should be concerned over its smog and pollution levels, particularly in the urban regions of the country, which nearly halted various economic activities, caused flight delays, and reduced working hours caused by the burning of fossil fuels, namely coal, during the cold season.
In all, the two Asian nations of China and Japan are expected to play a significant role during the latest round of U.N.-sponsored climate change talks. There are no reasons to walk away or reduce its previous targets following the recent climate devastation caused by Typhoon ‘Haiyan’ on Philippines. Asian nations, including China, and Japan should step up to the table and work towards achieving the global targets. Critics might also be watching how Japan manages its ongoing energy shortfalls and China on its smog reduction policies.