Article Courtesy: Point Carbon (Oct. 04, 2011)

Japan’s government on Monday blocked a move that would have permanently banned nuclear power plants from supplying carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), despite domestic opposition to its battered atomic industry.

Sources told Point Carbon News that Japanese and Indian delegates attending U.N. climate negotiations in Panama this week ob-jected to a proposal to scrap talks over whether atomic plants in poor nations can earn CO2 credits under a new global deal to replace or succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

A 2001 law prevents countries from using credits from nuclear plants to meet Kyoto targets, and as such no atomic-based emission reduction projects have been registered by the U.N.

“When the chair (of the meeting) asked if the option to allow nuclear in the CDM could be dropped, Japan raised its flag and India followed,” said Naoyuki Yamagishi, a policy analyst with green group WWF.

The move drew criticism from WWF, who said that the Japanese power industry’s inability to deal with the aftermath of a partial meltdown of the Fukushima reactors in March should prevent the country from building nuclear plants in poorer countries.

“If they cannot do it at home there is no question they can do it in foreign countries,” said Yamagishi, adding that nuclear waste from the plants will have to be dealt with by developing countries themselves.

It is thought Japan is keen to include nuclear in the mechanism to help bolster export markets for its nuclear technology. No-one was available for comment from Japan’s delegation attending this week’s climate negotiations in Panama City.

TURBULENT

The calls to allow nuclear under the CDM come at a turbulent time for Japan’s nuclear industry and its power companies.

Tokyo Electric Power, owner of the failed reactors, may have to fork out $60 billion in compensation after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit its plant in March, making 80,000 people homeless and sparking fears about radiation in the water supply.

The meltdown has left public opinion on nuclear power at an all time low with 70 percent of Japanese supporting a phase-out of atomic plants, which account for 30 percent of the country’s electricity supply.

The country’s new government has conceded building new nuclear plants will now be very difficult, but it has stopped short of backing a phase-out.

The disaster has also raised questions over Japan’s plans to fund and build Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant under a bilateral deal that could see the country receive carbon credits to meet a target to cut emissions 25 percent under 1990 levels by 2020.

CROSSROADS

Globally the nuclear industry is at a crossroads.

The German government plans to phase out its fleet of 18 reactors over the next 11 years as a direct result of Fukushima, while other countries, including Taiwan, are examining a future without nuclear.

But while the lure of atomic energy is on the wane in Germany, nuclear power accounts for over 40 percent of power supply in around 10 countries, mostly in Europe.

And nuclear energy’s relatively low operating cost and near-zero emissions has prompted other nations to eye atomic energy to help cut their emissions or lift millions out of poverty.

The UK government is expected to build several new reactors, and earlier this year passed a carbon floor price to make the technology competitive with coal- and gas-fired stations.

China plans to build more than 30 atomic plants, while India is eyeing a fivefold increase in capacity by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, South Africa, one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters, plans to build six atomic plants over the next 20 years, while Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya are eyeing the technology, meaning offsets from atomic energy, if approved, could be plentiful.

NEW MARKETS

However, green groups say the issue is not one of supply when it comes to offset credits, but of demand.

Over 190 nations have gathered in Panama City to draft a roadmap to a new climate treaty that could be signed off at U.N. climate talks in South Africa starting next month.

Part of that plan could involve changes to the $1.5-billion dollar CDM scheme, including a decision to expand it to carbon capture and storage and nuclear facilities.

It could also provide further details on new CO2 markets, such as a forestry-based scheme to help stop logging and a sectoral crediting or trading mechanism that will try to clean up the world’s heavy industry and power sector.

But demand for credits could be poor, as U.N. analysis of rich country pledges suggest the targets amount to just an 18 percent cut under 1990 levels by 2020, far short of the 25-40 percent target that scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change

Japan has pledged to cuts its own greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and has stuck by its target despite its nuclear woes.

But without deeper targets, green groups say the carbon market is meaningless.

“The whole existence of the CDM lies in the existence of the targets,” said Yamagishi.

Without a guarantee of markets, some countries may water down pledges further, he warned.

“If the (market) framework doesn’t continue, I don’t think Japan will continue with its 25 percent target.”

The talks end on Friday.