Japan Needs Longer Look at Oceans Plastics Charter After G-7 Summit

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By James Munson

Japan didn’t know how it would be affected by signing onto a pledge by major industrialized nations to reduce plastic in the oceans, so it declined, a top official from Japan’s embassy in Canada said June 11.

The U.S. and Japan didn’t sign the Oceans Plastics Charter—a wide-ranging promise to reduce pollution and relieve battered marine ecosystems—on the closing day of last week’s G-7 meeting in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, while the European Union and the remaining five G-7 countries signed the charter.

The U.S. hasn’t explained its decision, but Japan’s representatives in Canada, in an interview with Bloomberg Environment, said they need more information about how Japan would be affected.

More to Learn

“[The charter] expects the countries to institute a wide range of regulatory measures around plastic goods, including various commonplace goods in our lives,” Japanese Minister Yasunari Morino said in an interview.

“We need to look at the implications of this document for how it will affect our lives and industry. And also we believe that all countries, not only G-7 but all countries including developing countries, need to be involved in the discussion efforts to tackle this global issue.”

Morino said Japanese officials don’t know enough about the charter to say what could be changed to win Japan’s support.

Plastics Pledge

The Oceans Plastics Charter is technically an annex that belongs to the much larger Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas, and Resilient Communities that the G-7 countries released on June 9. The charter includes 23 actions that signatories will take to implement a “resource-efficient lifecycle management approach” to plastics, it says.

Canada, the European Union, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy agreed to make all plastics recoverable, reusable, or recyclable by 2030, to use procurement programs to reduce plastics, and to make plastics packaging more reusable—among other efforts—by signing the charter.

Japan plans to raise the oceans plastics issue when it hosts the G20 in Osaka next year, Morino said.

The White House didn’t return a request for comment on the Oceans Plastics Charter.

Talks to Continue

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was “disappointed” Japan didn’t sign the charter after months of lobbying by Canadian officials and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at international meetings such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, her spokesperson Caroline Theriault said June 11 in an interview with Bloomberg Environment.

The G-7 countries’ environment, energy, and oceans ministers are scheduled to meet in September in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to hash out some of the details of the charter, Theriault said.

Canada’s plastics and chemical industries already have pledged to make all plastics recoverable, reusable, or recyclable by 2030, but the federal government has to make sure the infrastructure and collection policies needed to handle those changes are ready, Chemical Industry Association of Canada President and CEO Bob Masterson said in an interview with Bloomberg Environment.

For example, many buildings and condos in major Canadian cities still don’t offer recycling, Masterson said.

Federal government officials in Ottawa must bring Canada’s provinces and territories into agreement in much the same way that they have been coordinating various carbon emission reductions targets across the country, Masterson said. He urged federal leaders to be mindful of the differences between big cities and rural areas when dealing with plastics.

“What works in a metro city like Toronto is not necessarily going to work in a rural town in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.

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