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Japan Weighs Climate Economics

I just met with a staffer from the Japanese Embassy to talk about climate change. Japan, despite being the location for the historic Kyoto accord, has had a hard time making good on the pledge it signed there.

Under the accord, Japan agreed to cut emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels. Emissions instead are up 8.7 percent.

To be fair, Japan already has pretty low emissions per GDP. Cars and houses tend to be small there, and about a third of the country's power comes from nuclear. So reducing emissions will be challenging.

The world's largest economies are still trying to come up with a new set of emissions targets. The long-term goal is to cut emissions 80 percent by 2050. No agreement on a medium-term target.

A recent economic analysis by the Japanese government says it could reduce its emissions to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. But it would take a 0.6 percent hit to GDP. That may not sound like much, but a few percentage points is the difference between an economy that is humming along and one stuck in the mud.

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