Image courtesy of Britannica
Could Japan be attempting to shirk its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by purchasing lower-grade carbon credits? Having pledged to cut emissions to 6% below 1990 levels, the country is now racing to make ends meet as it currently still 8% above. Japan plans on buying carbon credits from Hungary and Russia - a move likely to set off a storm of criticism and make it the world's largest buyer of credits in the process.
The main sticking point lies in the fact that credits from these countries do not actually result in emissions cuts; because targets to cut emissions under the Kyoto accord were set relative to 1990 levels - a period during which eastern European nations lost most of their industry due to the Soviet Union's collapse - Russia and Hungary's emissions today are much lower than they were back then. As a result, they now have huge numbers of (cheap) carbon credits known as "assigned amount units" (AAU). Unlike AAUs, "certified emissions reductions" (CER) - credits awarded to sustainable projects in developing countries by the U.N. - do actually result in measurable emissions cuts (and are therefore much more costly). Though Japan has so far committed to buying close to 350m tons of CERs, it has indicated it has no further plans to purchase more, attributing the switch to the "crazy prices" being fetched by them.
Toshihiro Mitsuhashi, director of the trade ministry's office for the promotion of the Kyoto protocol, cited the interests of its country's taxpayers and the non-committal of countries like the U.S., India and China to cutting emissions as reasons for its unwillingness to pony up for the CERs.
Mitsuhashi certainly has a point; however, that hardly excuses the fact that Japan has so far made little progress in meeting the (admittedly) fairly ambitious goals it set for itself under Kyoto. Given that Japan has taken such a firm stance on climate change, it would be a pity for it to dash all the international goodwill it's built by making such an ill-informed decision.
Via ::Financial Times: Japan to start buying cheap carbon credits (newspaper)