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After Fukushima, Japan backpedals on plans to curb emissions

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It's now been over two years since a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused critical damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. And as Japan continues to struggle with prolonged and costly repairs, the devastating event has now spurred yet another consequence: officials say they'll no longer be able to meet goals for reduced greenhouse gas emissions as a result.

In an announcement expected to seriously hinder ongoing UN climate change talks in Warsaw this week, Japanese leaders said that in light of the Fukushima disaster, they could no longer rely on nuclear power to curb emissions. The country, one of the biggest polluters in the world, had previously aimed to reduce greenhouse gasses by 25 percent compared to 1990 emissions levels. Now, leaders say that by 2020 they expect to see emissions increase by 3 percent over 1990 levels instead.

"Anyone doing the math will find that target impossible now."

Nuclear power had previously provided around 30 percent of Japan's energy. Following the Fukushima disaster, however, that amount plummeted to nil and fossil fuel use reached all-time highs. And with cleanup efforts an ongoing mess, and public wariness over nuclear energy a persistent problem, officials still don't know when the Fukushima reactors will be back up and running. "Anyone doing the math will find that target impossible now," said Nobuteru Ishihara, Japan's environment minister. "The current government seeks economic growth while doing our best to meet emissions targets."

In Warsaw, delegates from 190 countries are currently trying to hash out a plan to replace the expired Kyoto Protocol and curb global greenhouse gas emissions. Japan's new target has the potential to limit aggressive commitments from other countries. And as the fifth largest emitter of carbon dioxide worldwide, Japan's inability to reduce those emissions will make a global goal tougher to achieve. Japanese leaders did, however, pledge $110 billion towards the development of renewable energy in their own country, and another $16 billion to help developing countries reduce their pollution levels.