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US and Japan Refuse to Sign G7 Pact Against Plastic Pollution

The G7 summit ended up being particularly tumultuous this past weekend, intensifying  disputes between the US and its closest allies and turning what is usually a staid diplomatic event into a battleground for national interests.

Members were unable to even agree on a pact about plastic pollution at the summit held in La Malbaie, Quebec, in Canada on June 7 and 8, according to the Globe and Mail.

The United States and Japan both refrained from signing the charter, which calls on countries to reduce single-use plastics, prevent plastic from entering the world’s oceans, clean up existing plastic pollution, and invest in technologies for monitoring the impacts of the problem.

Take Action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

The G7 Ocean Plastics Charter was signed by representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the European Union, all of whom vowed to join the global fight against plastic waste.

“We ... commit to move toward a more resource-efficient and sustainable approach to the management of plastics,” the pact reads.

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A footnote in the document clarifies the US position.

“The United States strongly supports healthy oceans, seas, and resilient coastal communities,” the statement reads. “The United States has announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and reserves on the climate-related language in the Blueprint.”

In other words, the US is opposed to global agreements that mention climate change, as evinced in the country’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

It’s unclear why Japan chose not to sign the measure, according to the Globe and Mail.

Canada, as the host country, committed $100 million to fight plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, the Globe and Mail reports.

Read More: Even the Most Remote Region in the World Is Polluted With Plastic

“This is good news not only for the environment, but also for businesses, who can stand to benefit from reducing the costs associated to plastic use,” Trudeau told reporters on Saturday.

The United Nations applauded the introduction of the charter, but urged participants to take greater action.

“The facts are clear. Our oceans are a mess,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a G7 outreach event. “Plastic waste is now found in the most remote areas of the planet. It kills marine life and is doing major harm to communities that depend on fishing and tourism.”

Read More: India Will Ban All Single-Use Plastics by 2022

“We all need to do so much more, not just on plastic waste but on all ocean issues,” he added. “Make no mistake, we are in a battle. And we are losing on every front.”

The global effort against plastic pollution has been gaining momentum in recent years and more than 60 countries have taken action on the issue so far.

plastic in the oceanImage: Jedimentat44/Flickr.

As Guterres emphasized, the movement has focused on the world’s oceans, which are polluted with more than 8 million tons of plastic every year, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into a body of water every minute.

Plastic has been shown to kill animals ranging from whales to coral and breaks down into small, toxic microplastics that are consumed in large quantities by marine creatures.

Read More: These 3 Teens Figured Out a Brilliant Way to Recycle Styrofoam

The G7’s Ocean Plastics Charter is relatively uncontroversial in its demands, echoing what multinational companies and environmental groups have both recognized.

And even though President Donald Trump refused to sign the agreement, states, cities, and companies across the US are fighting plastic pollution in their own ways.

For example, single-use plastic straws and bags are beginning to be banned throughout the country.

Global Citizen campaigns to end the production of single-use plastics and you can take action on this issue here.