Fukushima plant in Japan (image source: @Asahi Shinbun)

On June 6th, according to Jiji press, Japan is likely to abandon its mid-term GHG reduction target.

On March 12th, the earthquake and Tsunami attacked the Fukushima nuclear power plant and serious radioactive leak has been taking place since then in Japan. Both electric power companies and the Japanese Government eloquently insisted on the ‘perfect safety’ of nuclear power plants from natural disasters such as earthquake, Tsunami and typhoon for a long time. However, the ‘safety myth’ was too easily broken by the ‘March 12th’ disaster. Consequently, though no governors in the prefectures which own large nuclear power plants suggest closing nuclear power plants, they strongly insist that nuclear power plants which do not currently operate due to regular inspection must not start to operate again until appropriate safety measures are to be implemented. Further, Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan, ordered Chubu electric power company to stop the operation of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant as the plant is located in the possible area within which the Tokai earthquake will be originated from.

This situation clearly indicates that Japanese strategies for global warming will fail or possibly already have failed. In September 2010, the former prime minister, Kunio Hatoyama, proudly announced that the mid-term GHG reduction target of Japan is 25%. One of the main strategies to achieve this is ‘switch from thermal energy to nuclear energy’. That is, in order to reduce GHG emissions dramatically, the Government plans to raise the ratio of nuclear energy in the electricity supply from 30% in 2005 to 53% in 2030 by building or rebuilding more than 14 nuclear power plants.  It is now apparent that this plan is unachievable, leading to the expected increase in the amount of GHG emissions by 166 million tons or 13%, compared to the 1990 level. It may be still theoretically possible to achieve the target by replacing thermal energy by renewable energy. However, this may be practically difficult because renewable energy is unstable in electricity supply and costly, which is often strongly proposed by industries especially Nippon Keidanren. Though a Scandinavian model is sometimes proposed by some citizens’ groups to promote renewable energy, the model cannot be applied to Japan which has many metropolitan cities such as Tokyo and Osaka; the Tokyo metropolitan area owns about 34,394 thousand people, while the Copenhagen metropolitan area has 1,870 thousand people. Further, insufficient human resources to advance renewable energy, in political, business and academic sectors,  are devastating in Japan.

Though Kan has not made it clear to abandon the mid-term target, Jiji Press discloses that though the target was to be included in the bill for the basic law for prevention of global warming which has been sent to the Diet, it is to be deleted from the bill. Although such a ‘backward’ decision of Japan will be internationally criticized, Japan needs to accept it because its plan and strategies are seriously flawed.

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