Japan is taking heat this week for dramatically lowering its emissions goals, but it's not as if the country suddenly stopped caring about climate change. The island nation's spiking dependence on fossil fuels can be traced to the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant — and the subsequent closures of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors over safety concerns.
Nuclear made up more than a quarter of Japan's power supply before the disaster, and replacing it with coal and natural gas has pushed the country's emissions pace back up. The international community isn't happy about Japan's revised greenhouse-gas targets, but the new goals are a function of a beleaguered power system that is still adjusting to post-tsunami reality. Here's how we got here:
2007-2010 — Japan's emissions fall nearly 7 percent (including a 16-year low in 2009), though some of that is attributable to the global recession.
Sept. 16, 2009 — Japan's parliament confirms Yukio Hatoyama as the country's new prime minister; Hatoyama affirms campaign pledges to lower Japan's emissions 25 percent by 2020 (from 1990 levels). By comparison, the U.S. has pledged to cut emissions 17 percent over that same timeframe.