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Japan CO2 Emissions Inch Down, But Far From Target

Japan CO2 Emissions Inch Down, But Far From Target
TOKYO - Japan made some progress in cutting greenhouse gases last fiscal year mainly due to increased use of nuclear power, but the country fell well short of its target for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the government said.

Japan's Environment Ministry said in a preliminary report on Friday that the country emitted 1.329 billion tonnes of gases blamed for global warming in the fiscal year to March 31, 2005, down 0.8 percent from the previous year.

However, the emission volume was 7.4 percent higher than that in 1990. The UN Kyoto Protocol requires Japan to reduce its CO2 emissions by 6 percent from that year's level by 2008-2012.

The government attributed the small decline in CO2 emissions to a recovery in nuclear power plant operation rates, which averaged 68.9 percent last fiscal year, versus the previous year's 59.7 percent.

Still, last year's operation rate was well below normal mainly because of delays to the restarts of nuclear power generators run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), Asia's biggest utility. A Japanese nuclear power plant usually runs at just above 80 percent of its capacity.

Shutdowns of nuclear power stations have led to increased use of higher-emission fossil fuel plants.

Nuclear plants owned by TEPCO, which is responsible for almost one tenth of Japan's CO2 emissions, have been slow to recover to the normal 80 percent operation level since 2003.

In that year, TEPCO was forced to shut all of its nuclear units after admitting it had falsified nuclear safety documents for more than a decade.

In June, TEPCO said it had cut its CO2 emissions by 14 percent in the year to March 2005 to 109.2 million tonnes from the previous year because the average utilisation rate at its 17 nuclear units had recovered to 61.7 percent from 26.3 percent.

The report by the ministry also showed Japan's emissions of dense greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) fell 27 percent in the year to March from the previous year, while emissions of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) increased by 9.8 percent.

HFCs are a byproduct of the material HCFC often used in refrigerators, and PFCs are typically produced in the semiconductor manufacturing process. Both gases are thousands of times more potent than CO2.

Such increases in CO2 emissions are a dilemma for Kyoto-leader Japan. But they give trading houses and financial institutions opportunities in the emerging CO2 market, which Barclays Capital has predicted could grow to 40 billion euros ($48.5 billion) a year.

Japanese trading firms, including top-ranked Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co., as well as utilities such as TEPCO have invested in overseas projects to secure CO2 credits for their own use in cutting emissions and for resale to other firms.

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