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Saturday, June 2, 2012
Ministry sees 20-27% emissions cuts by 2030
Estimates depend on nuke reliance rate; power-saving steps said critical
Japan could cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 20 and 27 percent by 2030 if it relies solely on domestic measures and based on the nation's reliance on nuclear power, projections by the Environment Ministry show.
In addition, the estimates indicate the nation will likely have to renege on a pledge to cut heat-trapping emissions 25 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels.
The figure is now predicted to decline to between 6 and 12 percent by the end of the decade because of the nuclear crisis.
Even if the government were to purchase carbon trading permits overseas under an envisioned cap-and-trade system, achieving the 25 percent pledge would still be uncertain.
The estimates were submitted this week to the Central Environment Council, the ministry's top advisory body, which will examine them to assess the current emissions reduction target and an appropriate nuclear power rate based on total energy supply.
The council will examine a new reduction goal in light of the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the subsequent idling of all reactors nationwide, and the government's Energy and Environment Council is expected to finalize it after public discussions on the matter, ministry officials said.
The ministry drew up five scenarios under which atomic energy constitutes between zero and 35 percent of the nation's total power generation by 2030. The industry ministry's Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy also provided input.
The ministry then calculated the amount of heat-trapping emissions that could be reduced if only domestic measures are introduced, and based on the premise that renewable energies will play a far more prominent role in the nation's new power sector policy, the officials said.
According to the projections, emissions could be cut 25 percent by 2030 if all nuclear plants are abolished, but the figure would rise to 27 percent if atomic energy accounts for 20 percent of total power generation and more aggressive power-saving measures are introduced.
But steps to encourage consumers to save power are seen as critical. For example, even if the nuclear reliance rate rises to 35 percent by 2030, the emissions goal would still decline to 24 percent if the government implements few power-saving initiatives. As the reliance rate rises, the emission targets decline. In the ministry's worst-case scenario, the goal would dip to 20 percent.
On the 2020 target, emissions are projected to be reduced 11 percent assuming there is zero nuclear power generation, and 12 percent with a 20 percent atomic energy dependence rate. However, the figure would fall to just 9 percent even with a 35 percent nuclear rate unless major electricity-saving campaigns are launched.
Atomic energy accounted for 26 percent of Japan's total electricity supply in fiscal 2010, which ended in March 2011.
Swimming spot limits
The Environment Ministry will introduce more stringent radioactivity limits covering swimming spots.
The threshold for radioactive cesium will be set at 10 becquerels per liter, substantially less than the current 50 becquerels specified by provisional standards. The new limit was approved Monday by a government advisory panel.
Municipalities will use it to decide whether to allow the public access to beaches, rivers or lakes popular with swimmers.
A water quality survey conducted by the ministry between September and March detected no traces of radioactive cesium or iodine at 47 swimming spots in Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant, and the three nearby prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Ibaraki.