Japan’s carbon cuts may include offsets

Japan’s target for a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 could include purchases of carbon credits from abroad, the country’s new environment minister said on Thursday.

“I’d like to reiterate our party’s stance that we could use measures including the Kyoto mechanism,” Sakihito Ozawa, told a news conference, referring to a scheme to supplement domestic efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This Reuters story is not terribly surprising. The country’s new target was going to require a lot of effort (see “Japan’s new prime minister promises to slash CO2 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 “” with domestic emissions trading, clean energy subsidies”). That’s especially true given that Japan is some 10% above 1990 levels as of last year. No doubt that’s one reason Japan had already made the climate pledge conditional on China, India.

Still, it’s not like Americans can criticize the Japanese, given our too weak target (see “EIA stunner: By year’s end, we’ll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 “” halfway to climate bill’s 2020 target”). Here’s more:

The new government is currently working to cut emissions domestically and by investing in clean energy projects abroad which generate credits to offset emissions. It is also buying surplus emissions rights from other industrialized countries.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama last week pledged to forge ahead with the target to slash emissions despite resistance from industries worried about the impact on the economy.

He has said the target, much tougher than that of the previous government defeated in an election last month, is needed for Japan to play a bigger negotiating role in U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The talks will try to work out a new agreement on reducing emissions to succeed the current Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012.

Ozawa reiterated Hatoyama’s stance that Japan’s new target also hinged on a deal on goals being agreed by major emitters.

But he declined to give details on how Japan would try to meet the target, including a plan to launch a domestic emissions trading market with compulsory volume caps on emitters.

Japan, the world’s fifth biggest emitter, is under pressure for tougher climate policies after its emissions rose 2.3 percent to a record in the year to March 2008, putting the country 16 percent above its Kyoto Protocol target [of a 6% cut from 1990 levels].

The new energy, trade and industry minister Masayuki Naoshima told a separate news conference that the new emissions reduction target may also include domestic forest conservation.

This is one more reason Copenhagen needs to clean up the Clean Development Mechanism.