Japan's Pollution Problems Worsen

(AP) Japan's greenhouse gas emissions surged last year, the government said in a report Wednesday, putting the country even further behind in its struggle to meet obligations under the Kyoto international climate change pact.

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming spiked 2.3 percent to 1.37 billion tons in the 2007 fiscal year, according to an annual report released by the Environment Ministry.

The report blamed the rise in emissions on the closing of Japan's largest nuclear energy plant last year following a magnitude 6.8 quake in July 2007 and on low rainfall that hobbled hydroelectric power generation. This increased reliance on coal and gas-powered electric plants, which produce more greenhouse gases.

Japan's nuclear plants, which have suffered from accidents and safety problems over the years, were operating last year at only 60 percent of their full capacity, said Environment Ministry official Mayuko Hattori. Proponents of nuclear power cite low carbon emissions as an ecological benefit.

The country's largest nuclear power plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in northern Japan, suffered extensive damage in last year's quake and has since been out of service.

"If the nuclear power plant had been in business as usual, the results wouldn't have been so bad, though the prospect of meeting our target is still severe," Hattori said.

"It would be extremely difficult to make the Kyoto target without the utmost effort (to cut emissions) by power companies," she added.

Under its "Cool Earth" initiative to achieve the emission reduction targets under the Kyoto accord, Japan has pledged to reduce its gas emissions by between 60 percent and 80 percent, but has not set a specific target.

The Environment Ministry on Monday announced a new project to promote solar energy generation at train stations, airports, schools and other public facilities.

The report cited Japan's power generation as the main culprit in the emissions increases, noting emissions by that sector alone grew 3.6 percent last year and are up 17.7 percent from 1990.

Other sectors did better. Transport sector emissions fell by 1.6 percent from a year earlier, while emissions grew 2.2 percent in the service sector and 3.6 percent in the industrial sector, the report said.

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