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Japan’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rose 3.9% on Nuclear Shutdowns

Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions for the year ended March 31 rose 3.9 percent from the prior year on the increased use of fossil fuels in power plants after the Fukushima nuclear disaster shut all but two atomic reactors.

Excluding so-called carbon credits that can be used to offset greenhouse gas output, emissions increased to 1.307 billion metric tons in the 12 months or 3.6 percent higher than 1990 levels, according to Ministry of the Environment figures released today.

Under the Kyoto Protocol targets set in 1997, Japan committed to cut greenhouse gases by 6 percent from 1990 in the term from 2008 to 2012 when the first Protocol target period expires. Japan’s announcement today came as talks among envoys from more than 190 nations in Doha, Qatar, to negotiate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions seemed headed for a stalemate.

The ministry said that taking into account the absorption of carbon dioxide by forests and credits earned for offsets outside the country, Japan cut emissions in 2008 through 2011 by an average 9.2 percent.

“It is not impossible to achieve the goal” of a 6 percent cut, Kentaro Doi, a ministry official in charge of climate change, said at a press briefing in Tokyo.

Nuclear power plants, which emit virtually no greenhouse gases, provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The government shut down all 50 of the nation’s reactors for safety checks with 48 still offline due to mass public demonstrations against restarts.

As a result, Japan nine atomic utilities were forced to turn to gas-, oil- and coal-fired power plants to keep the world’s third-largest economy running. The utilities face a bill of about 6.8 trillion yen ($82.7 billion) for fuel this fiscal year, almost double that in the 12 months before the disaster.

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