TOKYO - A slumping economy pushed down Japanese CO2 emissions from burning fuels by a record 6.7 percent in the year to March 2009, the trade ministry said on Friday, but the country is still far from meeting its Kyoto Protocol obligations.
Improvements in energy efficiency in Japan, the world's fifth-biggest emitter, and a shift to non-fossil fuels contributed to less than 10 percent of the decline.
Japan's Kyoto commitments are to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1.19 billion tonnes in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent on average in the five years starting from the last fiscal year, down 6 percent from 1990/1991 levels.
CO2 created from burning fuels, which are largely affected by industrial activity, account for about 90 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 from chemical reactions and other processes account for about 5 percent and the remainder is made up of other greenhouse gasses, such as hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
In the year to March 2008, Japan saw its greenhouse gas emissions rise 2.4 percent to a record 1.37 billion tonnes in CO2 equivalent, final government data showed in April.
The preliminary data on Friday showed that CO2 emissions from fuel fell 6.7 percent to 1.14 billion tonnes in fiscal 2008/2009 from a year earlier when a record 1.22 billion tonnes were emitted.
This is not an ideal way for the economy to join hands with the environment in a sustainable manner, said Takashi Ishizaki, director of the ministry's energy policy planning office.
The decline in CO2 emissions was mainly attributed to a record 6.8 percent decline in Japan's final energy consumption in the past fiscal year, when the world's No.2 economy shrunk by 3.2 percent and the number of people who lost their jobs rose by a hefty 640,000.
I don't think (CO2 emissions) are peaking out because if and when the economy picks up, it is highly likely we will see CO2 emissions rising, Ishizaki said in a news conference.
Unlike in the EU where companies being bound to compulsory emission caps play a key role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Japan's plans to meet its minus 6 percent reduction goal are based on voluntary emission cuts by major industries.
The plans also include buying of emissions offsets from abroad via the Kyoto Protocol's market schemes.
(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Joseph Radford)