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Environment and energy ministers from the Group of 20 countries wrap up their two-day meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on Sunday. They have agreed to the outlines of a new international framework to tackle marine plastic waste. | KYODO
National /  Politics G20 energy ministers agree at meeting in Japan to outlines of framework to tackle marine plastic waste by Eric Johnston
Staff Writer

KARUIZAWA, NAGANO PREF. –  Environment and energy ministers from the Group of 20 agreed to the outline of a new international framework in order to tackle the problem of marine plastic waste, at their meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on Sunday.

The actions, though not legally binding, are the first of their kind. They call upon the G20 nations to share information on their policies, plans and measures to identify the best practices for preventing and reducing plastic litter discharge into the world’s oceans.

In addition, the framework calls for international collaboration in a number of areas related to environmental damage due to such waste. These include using resources more efficiently, developing better waste management and water treatment practices and technologies, and creating more environmentally sound products and designs.

“Each country will take voluntary measures and will report on their activities periodically,” said Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada at a news conference Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

Japanese officials said the first G20 meeting to discuss these issues will take place before Japan’s presidency expires in November.

The agreement did not specifically refer to reducing “single-use plastics,” which often end up as marine plastic. Harada said it was implied, and that each country was committed to not producing unnecessary things. As the G20 includes countries with vastly different levels of wealth and technological development, he added, it was important that developed, developing and emerging countries have the same standards and objectives in working on solving the plastic issue.

In addition to marine plastic waste, a separate agreement by the G20 energy ministers called for greater energy security, a call that comes after last week’s attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, there were calls to accelerate the introduction of various renewable energies — especially hydrogen. The ministers promised to step up existing international efforts to utilize hydrogen, which has long been a goal of Japan in particular.

On fossil fuels, the ministers called for using more liquid natural gas, which produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal. But despite international pressure on the G20 to get out of coal, the ministers continued to show support for coal investment, especially in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and usage (CCU) technologies.

Japan has come under particular fire for continuing to support coal domestically and for building coal plants in other countries. But Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said current economic and energy realities meant coal was still necessary, but that better technology can help reduce its emissions. “It’s inevitable that in some countries, coal thermal has to be used. … Japan’s coal thermal power, compared with conventional coal thermal power, has fewer carbon dioxide emissions and we should provide and implement it in developing countries, “he said. “With innovation CCS and CCU, coal emissions can be captured, stored, used, or recycled,” he added.

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