Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions for fiscal year 2020 hit a new high

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Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions hit a new low in fiscal 2020 for the third consecutive year due to reduced economic activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the expansion of the use of renewable energy, the government announced on Friday.

National emissions in fiscal year 2020 totaled 1.15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, down 5.1% from fiscal year 2019 for the seventh consecutive annual decline and the most low since comparable data became available in fiscal year 1990, the environment ministry said.

The ministry cited lower energy consumption caused by manufacturers’ production cuts and a decrease in passenger and freight traffic amid the pandemic as factors contributing to the reduction in emissions.

“The time has come to further accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and a thorough implementation of energy saving measures in light of the situation in Ukraine and the current (energy) environment,” said Environment Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi at a press conference.

Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, launched in late February, exposed the risks of resource-poor Japan’s dependence on energy imports from Moscow.

Emissions in the year to March 2021 marked an 18.4% decline from the level in fiscal 2013, which Japan is using as a baseline year to pursue a 46% reduction by fiscal year 2030, primarily due to improved energy conservation and the resumption of nuclear power plant operations.

Japan had previously requested a 26% reduction from the base year.

By gas type, CO2 emissions fell to 1.04 billion tonnes, down 5.8% from the previous year, while those from hydrofluorocarbons, which replace ozone-depleting substances as refrigerants, continued their upward trend, rising 4.0%.

The industrial sector reduced its energy-related CO2 emissions by 8.1% compared to the previous year, while these emissions fell by 10.2% in the transport sector.

Households saw their emissions increase by 4.5%, likely because people spent more time at home during the pandemic.

The energy conversion sector, which includes power plants and petroleum refineries, reduced its emissions by 8.4% compared to the previous year, as emissions from the manufacture of petroleum products fell.

The removal of greenhouse gases by forests and other “carbon sink” measures has continued its downward trend in recent times, standing at 44.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over the past in fiscal year 2020. The government plans to replace old trees, which are less efficient at absorbing carbon, with younger ones.

When the gases absorbed by forests and other measures of carbon sinks are subtracted from total emissions, the figure rises to 1.11 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, a drop of 21.5% compared to the level of fiscal year 2013, according to the ministry.

Yamaguchi said he plans to submit the figures to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Friday as the country’s greenhouse gas inventory.

Together with the United States and other countries, Japan aims to become carbon neutral – an economy with zero net greenhouse gas emissions – by 2050.


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