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Japan to propose obligatory framework to tackle plastic marine pollution at G-20 Osaka

Plastic waste is seen washed up on the beach at Odaiba Seaside Park in Tokyo's Minato Ward in this June 3, 2017 file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will propose and seek agreement on an obligatory action framework to tackle plastic marine pollution at the June summit of the Group of 20 major countries and regions to be held in Osaka, western Japan, according to people familiar with the decision.

Abe plans to announce the initiative in his speech on Jan. 23 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, expressing his determination to establish a common understanding that a "worldwide effort" is needed to fight plastics pollution. The premier wants to assume a leading role in tackling the problem, which has attracted global concern.

In the Davos speech, the prime minister will call for understanding and support for the framework by stating that the Osaka summit should serve as a springboard to widen efforts to contain plastic pollution across the world. The government will begin discussions with participants in the June meeting on the Japanese initiative.

The framework will detail required countermeasures to fight the pollution, such as collection and management of waste as well as the development of plastic products that degrade in sea water. The initiative is designed to encourage action by requiring countries to publish annually countermeasures they took and their achievements.

Curbing plastic pollution in the oceans has become a major international issue. In the summit of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries, five of the participants agreed on the Ocean Plastic Charter, which includes numerical targets such as the introduction of 100 percent reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastics by 2040.

The United States opposed the charter out of concerns for restrictions on the domestic industries, and Japan failed to sign up as the government explained that it could not win support from the business community in time. The two countries thus faced tough criticism from environmental protection groups and other organizations. Learning from this experience, the government of Japan intends to come up with a framework agreeable to all G-20 participants.

Many G-20 members are emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia with higher economic growth rates, and Japanese government officials think that too much focus on numerical targets to fight plastic pollutions would make it difficult to reach a consensus. The government is thus considering an arrangement in which countries can choose programs freely from a list of detailed countermeasures to be included in the framework, depending on their economic situations.

Meanwhile in his Davos speech, Abe will announce a plan to fight global warming by lowering the production cost of hydrogen to 10 percent or less of the current level and below the price of liquefied natural gas by 2050. The premier also intends to reveal a plan to invite scientific and technological leaders from across the G-20 to Japan to seek innovations such as using greenhouse gasses as resources.

(Japanese original by Yu Takayama, Political News Department)

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