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G20 Academies of Sciences urge measures to tackle marine plastic pollution

A purple hermit crab carries a piece of plastic garbage as its shell on the uninhabited British Henderson Island in the South Pacific in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lavers)

TOKYO -- Representatives from the national academies of sciences of member nations adopted a joint statement urging the Group of 20 major countries and regions to take measures against increasing marine plastic waste and climate change, at the Science 20 summit held in Tokyo on March 6.

A statement titled "Threats to Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, and Conservation of the Ocean Environment" was jointly drafted under the leadership of the Science Council of Japan. The report was submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will later propose the suggestions at the June G20 summit to be held in the western city of Osaka.

The G20 Academies of Sciences called for countries to take immediate action with international cooperation in the statement that consists of six pillars, including: the establishment of more recycling and energy efficient practices at city and local levels; the intensification of actions that aim to reduce stress on ecosystems such as overfishing and pollution; the creation of a data storage and management system that ensures open access to scientists globally; and the enhancement of research infrastructures.

The move comes as some researchers expect microplastic waste -- plastics that break down into small pieces due to ultraviolet rays and waves upon entering the ocean -- floating in the Pacific Ocean to increase approximately twofold by 2030 and reach fourfold by 2060. Such waste can cause potential harm to the ecosystem if the amount entering the ocean continues to increase at this rate.

There is an urgent need to adopt such measures especially in East Asian countries, which are assumed to face serious marine plastic pollution, due to the amount of plastic waste emission and ocean currents.

"I hope for each country to take action based on the statement as countries like China, India and Indonesia that face marine pollution issues are members of the G20," stated Science Council of Japan Vice-President Kazuhiko Takeuchi.

It was the first time for Japan to host the S20, which was established in 2017 to provide science-based recommendations for the G20 summit.

(Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Science & Environment News Department)

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