Environment and energy ministers from the G-20 economic bloc adopted a voluntary global framework for combating plastic pollution at a meeting in Japan June 16, ahead of the formal G-20 summit of leaders in late June.
This year's G-20 gatherings are hosted by the Japanese government, which had identified plastic in the ocean as a target for action. Tokyo said in agenda documents ahead of the meeting that it wanted to discuss ways to stop leakage into the ocean and look at how innovation can help that.
According to news reports, the G-20 ministers issued a statement that "marine litter, especially marine plastic litter and microplastics, is a matter requiring urgent action given its adverse impacts on marine ecosystems, livelihoods and industries including fisheries, tourism and shipping, and potentially on human health."
Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada reportedly called the G-20 framework a "major achievement," but the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature criticized the agreement for failing to neither set concrete targets nor set up binding measures to enforce commitments countries will make.
"Despite discussions at G-20 demonstrating that plastic pollution is rightly being brought to the top of the international agenda, the outcome fails to reflect the severity of the issue," WWF said. "It's increasingly clear that solving this growing crisis requires a strong legal international treaty similar to the likes of the Montreal Protocol to combat depletion of the ozone layer."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who attended the meeting, said in a statement that the group had "very productive" talks on marine litter, waste management, water infrastructure and access to clean drinking water.
He reportedly told the summit that the U.S. government did not see a need for bans on single-use plastics.
In late May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, announced a strategy to cut disposable plastic waste by 25 percent by 2030, including having retailers charge for plastic bags. Abe's plan would also expand the use of bioplastics and completely recycle plastics from discarded appliances and car parts by 2035.
Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 10 unveiled a plan to ban "harmful" single-use plastics.