Japan confirms dip in greenhouse gas emissions

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TOKYO, Nov 5 (Reuters) Japan curbed its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 per cent last year, government data confirmed today, putting the Kyoto Protocol's biggest contributor only marginally closer to its goal.

Japan is the world's fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, behind the United States, China, India and Russia, and is the only one of the five that is under pressure to meet a greenhouse gas emissions limit.

Preliminary Ministry of Environment data showed the country's emissions of greenhouse gases were 1.341 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in fiscal 2006/07, thanks in part due to an exceptionally warm winter that curbed energy use.

A local newspaper had reported similar figures last week.

Emissions had risen by 0.2 per cent in the previous fiscal year.

The 2006/07 emissions, mostly CO2, exceeded the country's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, to be met by 2008-2012, by some 155 million tonnes a year.

Japan's progress toward meeting that goal is considered critical to the success of the protocol, which is under strain from Canada's admission that it will not meet its target and from lagging reductions in European countries.

The United States didn't ratify Kyoto, while the pact didn't set emissions targets for China and India.

Under Kyoto Japan has to cut emissions to 1.186 billion tonnes on average in the five years starting next year, down by 6 percent from 1.261 billion tonnes in the benchmark year of 1990.

The 2006/07 volume also surpassed the government's latest greenhouse gas emissions forecast for 2010 of 1.273 billion to 1.287 billion tonnes in CO2 equivalent, depending on economic growth.

NEW POLICY IN WORKS Japan, the only Asian country with a Kyoto reduction target, is now considering a new policy, to be drafted by December and finalised by next March, on how to further cut emissions.

In attempting to meet that aim, Tokyo has resisted any moves toward a carbon tax or a mandatory cap-and-trade system, such as the European Union's, to penalise polluters. It is instead relying on voluntary measures and overseas investments.

The trade ministry has renewed its effort in recent months to convince the biggest industries to take on board voluntary cuts, winning promises from 21 industries -- from chemical makers to electronics to paper manufacturers -- to reduce a total of about 20 million tonnes more CO2 equivalent than previously planned.

Japan currently aims to reduce some 20 million tonnes a year of emissions in CO2 equivalent by funding overseas clean energy investments via Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which gives an investor credit for helping reduce emissions.

The government began investing directly in CDM projects in fiscal 2006/07, when it set aside 5 billion yen (.54 million) and entered forward contracts to buy 6.3 million credits, or 6.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, during the 2008-2012 period.

Japan has secured 12 billion yen in its 2007/08 budget to fund CDM projects, and is seeking to more than double it to 32 billion yen in 2008/09, about enough to buy some 11 million credits based on current CER (certified emissions reduction) prices traded in London.

REUTERS SZ KN1135

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