Last year, Japan announced that it would abandon its goal to reduce emission by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. Many observers were quick to make a direct connection between this decision and the de facto nuclear phase out that followed the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But is this actually an adequate explanation for Japans failure to meet its climate goals?
Japan is the fifth largest energy consumer of the world. Since the island nation has almost no domestic fossil fuel resources, it depends almost exclusively on imports to meet its demand for oil, gas, coal and uranium. From an energy security perspective, this situation properly has to be described as nightmarish. As a reaction to the oil shocks of the 1970s, Japan has been diversifying its conventional energy mix, as well as the origins of the imports.
Looking at the development of per capita energy consumption of fossil fuels shows that energy consumption has actually increased by roughly 25% between 1985 and 2005. This implies that a strategic focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation wasn’t an important pillar of Japanese energy policy during that 20 year period. At least it is clear that Japanese energy policy wasn’t successful at improving the dire energy security situation fundamentally.
This look at the data also reveals that Japan has managed to keep fossil energy consumption roughly at pre-recession levels, despite shutting down most of its nuclear power stations since 2011. In light of conventional wisdom about Japan’s soaring fossil fuel consumption, this is quite remarkable.
Since carbon emissions are the result of burning fossil fuels, the failure to meet the original emission reduction target must thus be seen as a failure of Japans energy policy during the last 20-30 years. Using Japan’coas nuclear crisis as an explanation (or even scapegoat) for this failure would seem like the next big possible mistake. Such a move would only distract from implementing real solutions for Japans energy security concerns, as well as its carbon reduction goals.
Source: Renewables International. Reproduced with permission.