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'Slap in the Face': Japan Uses Fukushima Nuclear Disaster to Ditch Carbon Targets

Green groups blast world's fifth worst carbon polluter for backpedaling on its promise amid climate talks

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

The Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki City, near Tokyo, Japan. Japan is the fifth worst carbon polluter in the world. (Photo: Bloomberg News)Japan announced Friday it is breaking its pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2020—citing the Fukushima meltdown as the reason it will not keep to previously stated climate commitments.

Green groups expressed outrage that Japan—the fifth largest carbon polluter in the world—used a nuclear crisis to shrug off a climate catastrophe in the midst of the UN climate talks now underway in Poland.

“The world urgently needs ambitious emissions reductions. Instead, industrialized countries are now going backwards after dragging their heels for two decades. This is unacceptable." –Jagoda Munic, Friends of the Earth International

“Tokyo’s announcement comes as a slap on the face of the planet and the people," declared Dipti Bhatnagar, International Coordinator of the Climate Justice & Energy program, Friends of the Earth International. "Japan has today made a mockery of the Southern countries who expected to hear that rich countries like Japan cut their emissions."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced in Tokyo that Japan will adjust its climate goals to a 3 percent increase —a far cry from the initially promised 25 percent reduction.

"Our government has been saying... that the 25 percent reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn't feasible," he stated.

At the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Hiroshi Minami, Japan's chief negotiator, blamed the shift on the Fukushima meltdown. "The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level," he said.

Given Japan's status as the third largest economy in the world, its abandonment of its climate commitments does not bode well for efforts to reach an agreement at the climate talks, the AP reports.

The Japanese government's reduced emission targets are only the latest to spur outrage at the UN talks this week. On Thursday, Canada and Australia were lumped together as members of the "carbon cartel" for backpedaling on their commitments.

“The world urgently needs ambitious emissions reductions. Instead, industrialized countries are now going backwards after dragging their heels for two decades. This is unacceptable,” said Jagoda Munic, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“As one of the world’s largest CO2 emitters, Japan has a responsibility to help lead the world in reducing emissions,” Kelly Dent, climate change spokeswoman at U.K. charity Oxfam, said in an statement emailed to Bloomberg.

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