Japan to propose environmental conference at G-7

In a fresh initiative aimed at demonstrating Japan’s resolve to help preserve the environment, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will propose to host an international conference addressing water problems in developing countries possibly by autumn, government sources said May 19.

Hashimoto will make the proposal at the annual summit of top leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized economies — the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — plus Russia to be held in Denver between June 20 and 22, the sources said. The global environment is expected to be high on the agenda.

In Denver, the G-7 and Russian leaders will agree on the importance of addressing water problems in developing countries and pledge to consider at the expert-level what specific assistance measures industrialized countries and international organizations can — or should — take to help resolve the problems, the sources said. While demand for freshwater is rising in the developing world in tandem with the rapid population growth, there is growing concern about deterioration of quality due to industrial and agricultural wastes, the sources said. The deterioration is affecting health — especially that of children.

The U.S. has shown a strong desire to deal with the issue of children’s health at the Denver summit as part of discussions on global environmental problems. At a meeting in Miami earlier this month, the environment ministers from the G-7 and Russia also agreed to strengthen their countries’ environmental regulations for the health of infants, who are the most vulnerable to pollutants. Hashimoto will propose an international conference on water problems to help accelerate discussion on specific ways to ensure the stable supply of fresh water in the developing world, the sources said.

The Denver summit will be followed immediately by a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in late June to review the progress made on environmental protection efforts since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. In December, the more than 150 countries that signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit will hold a conference in Kyoto to set new targets for reducing the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.