* Report that Tokyo seeking exemption dismissed as groundless
* Kyoto pledges 6 pct of 1990 emission levels in 2008-2012
* Longer-term target of 25 pct cut by 2020 may be reviewed (Adds details, background)
By Risa Maeda
TOKYO, April 5 (Reuters) -
Japan is not seeking an exemption from its Kyoto Protocol pledges to cut greenhouse gases despite the effect on power supplies of last month’s earthquake and tsunami, a government official said on Tuesday.
Japan remains committed to its pledge to cut emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period, said Takehiro Kano, director of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He dismissed as “groundless” a report in the Nikkei financial daily that Tokyo had decided to seek an exemption from its Kyoto obligations and had asked for agreement from other signatories to the protocol.
“We have neither made such a decision nor started negotiations with overseas participants,” Kano said, adding that Japan sufficiently met its emission-cut obligations in the first two years of the five-year Kyoto period.
Penalties for failure by developed countries to meet their Kyoto pledges include requirements to deepen emission cut targets in the future.
“We, Japan as a whole or both private and public sectors, maintain our efforts to achieve the goal,” Kano said in a telephone interview.
The earthquake and tsunami on March 11 devastated coastal areas of northeast Japan and knocked out Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, triggering radiation leaks and prompting the government to impose new safety measures against a similar disaster. [ID:nL3E7F42CD]
Other nuclear and thermal power plants also closed due to the quake and tsunami, and Tokyo Electric, known as TEPCO, lost 23 percent of its generating capacity, although some thermal plants have restarted operations. At least four of Daiichi’s six reactors will be scrapped.
Japan’s protracted nuclear safety crisis has also cast doubts over its pledge to make ambitious cuts in carbon emissions by the end of the decade, which relied heavily on plans to boost nuclear power generation.
Tokyo has not said explicitly that it will consider backing away from its longer-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. But the government’s revision of energy policy in light of the Fukushima crisis could pave the way for a review of its 2020 emission reduction target. [ID:nLDE7331FX]
Underlining the likelihood that Japan was on course to meet the Kyoto emission cut goal on average over the five years to March 2013, the government curbed buying of U.N.-backed emission offsets from abroad in the past year to one-tenth of the volume it bought a year earlier. [ID:nL3E7F10QI]
Data on greenhouse gas emissions in the third Kyoto year for Japan between April 2010 and March 2011 are to be announced later this year.
The areas covered by TEPCO and the utility in the region worst-hit by the tsunami, Tohoku Electric Power Co , account for 40 percent of the nation’s power consumption.
Tohoku Electric is expected to restart its quake-affected nuclear plant in Miyagi after safety checks, while TEPCO will rely more on power stations using oil and gas, increasing its CO2 emissions for years to come unless there is a change in the country’s energy policy and related infrastructure for electricity supply.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said Japan needs to debate its energy policy based on studies of the Fukushima disaster, and a focus is on renewable energy sources as an alternative to nuclear power.
Japan is the world’s third-biggest operator of nuclear power plants after the United States and France, and before the quake it met 30 percent of power demand with nuclear reactors. The loss of TEPCO’s two Fukushima plants alone reduces Japan’s total power capacity by about 4 percent. (Editing by Michael Watson)