Photo/IllutrationJapanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, left, and Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada applaud after announcing a joint statement in a meeting of energy and environment ministers of G-20 countries in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on June 16. (Norihiko Kuwabara)

KARUIZAWA, Nagano Prefecture--With the world's oceans under threat of plastic pollution, energy and environment ministers of the Group of 20 countries have agreed to set up a framework to report and share measures to reduce marine plastic waste.

The ministers adopted a joint statement, including the agreement, at the close of their two-day meeting here on June 16.

Under the framework, member countries will periodically report their measures to decrease the volume of marine plastic waste, including recycling and collection, and share information on those efforts.

They will also support development of technologies to measure and monitor current levels of plastic pollution in the ocean and influences caused by it.

The member countries will hold the first meeting for information sharing by the end of November when Japan’s presidency over the G-20 expires.

“It was good that overall rules were created among developed countries, developing countries and emerging countries,” Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada said in a news conference after the meeting.

As for climate change, another major theme, the ministers failed to resolve the conflicts between the United States and other countries and regions over the Paris Agreement, which sets international rules on measures against global warming.

The joint statement only stated that countries participating in the Paris Agreement will re-confirm that they will carry out agreed-upon measures.

The expression was made as the G-20 countries paid consideration to the United States, which has expressed its intention to leave the Paris Agreement.

Regarding the energy field, the G-20 countries agreed to recognize the importance of energy security, saying that concerns are growing.

The ministers were apparently mindful of the attack on a Japanese company-run tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on June 13.

Concerning nuclear energy, the statement read that it is important to cooperate internationally on such challenges as decommissioning of nuclear power plants and final disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

According to the Japanese industry ministry, the G-20 countries agreed to set up a venue for consultations. The first meeting is scheduled to be held in Paris in October.

As for expansion of the utilization of hydrogen, which Japan is engaged in, the joint statement said that the G-20 countries will strengthen international efforts to develop it as a clean, reliable and safe energy source.

TO PREVENT U.S. FROM BEING ISOLATED

As for climate change, Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko said after the two-day meeting, “We were able to fully refer to the Paris Agreement (in the statement). In addition, we were able to write about decarbonization and clean technologies. From our standpoint, we give ourselves high marks."

However, the reality was different.

In the two-day meeting, the topic that created the biggest conflict was climate change.

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, defended the United States’ intent to leave the Paris Agreement in an interview with other media, including The Asahi Shimbun, on June 16.

He said that the stance of not abiding by the Paris Agreement does not mean that the United States is not taking climate change seriously.

The initial draft of the joint statement, shown by the Japanese government, did not include mention of the Paris Agreement.

“There was political consideration that we should not isolate the United States,” a related source said.

However, the European Union argued that the joint statement should again refer to the Paris Agreement.

The assertion was based on a standpoint that the statement should not be a step backward from the declaration issued at the G-20 summit held in Argentina in December 2018.

The Japanese government attempted to prevent the United States from being isolated, aiming to work out a statement that could be accepted by both the United States and the EU.

Eventually, it reached an expression without naming the United States that the countries and regions noted their re-confirmation of their commitment to fully carry out the Paris Agreement.

(This article was written by Norihiko Kuwabara, Hiroki Ito, Ichiro Matsuo and Rintaro Sakurai.)