Japan faces critics, conflict on environment issues at G20

G20 host Japan hopes world leaders will endorse a deal on marine plastic waste and find common ground on climate change, but its own environmental record is under increasing scrutiny.

Activists say Japan has fallen behind on reducing plastic consumption and is caving to US pressure to water down language on climate change to achieve a unanimous statement on the issue.

Japan, chair of this week’s Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, has already secured agreement from environment ministers on a marine plastic waste deal that will be endorsed this week.

The deal commits G20 members to reducing plastic waste but includes few details on how that will be achieved, proposing only voluntary steps and yearly progress reports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month the issue would be “one of the most important themes of the G20”, adding that Japan “hopes to play a leadership role”.

But while campaigners say the agreement — the first on the issue bringing together rich and developing nations — is a “first step”, they argue it should be more ambitious.

“Legally binding international rules with clear timelines and goals” are needed, Yukihiro Misawa, plastic policy manager of environmental group WWF Japan, told AFP.

Experts welcomed part of the agreement that calls for research to better understand where plastic is coming from and how to tackle it.

“Scientific knowledge should be the foundation of an international deal, so that’s good,” professor Atsuhiko Isobe of Kyushu University’s Center for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research told AFP.

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