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Kuril islands sovereignty not for discussion, Russia tells Japan | Russia News

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Moscow’s sovereignty over a chain of islands seized from Japan at the end of World War II is not up for debate, the Russian foreign minister has said after meeting his Japanese counterpart, adding that disagreements between the countries still obstruct the path to a peace deal.

The dispute over the islands, known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has been a major obstacle in the face of a potential treaty to formally end the war. 

“We’ve brought the attention of our friends from Japan to the fact that the questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Monday following the talks in Moscow with Taro Kono.

“I won’t hide that we still have significant divergences. To start with, the positions were diametrically opposed and we have said this more than once,” he added.

Speaking at the start of the talks, Kono, the Japanese foreign minister, said the two countries needed to solve the territorial problem to set the stage for expanded economic and other ties.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Takeshi Osuga said during a separate briefing in Moscow the two ministers had a “serious and frank exchange”. He would not comment on specifics and said Russian and Japanese diplomats would continue discussions on the issue.





 

Setting stage for Putin-Abe meeting

Lavrov had warned during their meeting that Japan would be ill-advised to unilaterally fuel speculation without a final deal in place, according to a transcript of opening remarks. 

“We must work on a peace treaty professionally, without trying to distort the agreements reached at any intermediary stage and without escalating divisive unilateral rhetoric in the public space,” Lavrov said during the meeting.

“But the political will of our leaders to fully normalise between Russia and Japan prompts us to activate this dialogue,” he said.

His comments appeared to reflect Moscow’s efforts to temper Japanese expectations of an imminent deal on the dispute over the islands, which were seized by the Soviet army in the final days of World War II.

They also set a tough stage for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Moscow for peace treaty negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

Abe has recently expressed hope that this year will mark a breakthrough in solving the dispute and spoke about an imminent change in the islands’ status – remarks that angered Moscow.

Regional focus

The disputed Kuril islands, one of which lies less than 10km from Japan’s Hokkaido, consist of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and Habomai. Three are inhabited while Habomai is a group of islets with only the presence of a border patrol.

Putin and Abe agreed in November to accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return two of the islands to Japan, but Lavrov’s sombre tone on Monday indicated that Japanese expectations of a quick breakthrough were premature.

After his talks with Kono, the Russian diplomat said he also drew his counterpart’s attention to a statement by Abe’s political aide suggesting that solving the territorial dispute with Russia would help efforts by Japan and the United States to deter China.

Lavrov called the statement “outrageous”, adding that it raised new questions about the independence of Japanese foreign policy.

“We wondered whether Japan could be independent given such reliance on the US and we were told that Japan would act proceeding from its national interests,” Lavrov said. “We would like to hope it will indeed be so.”

He said the Soviet Union proposed returning the two islands to Japan before Tokyo struck a military alliance with the US in 1960.

Lavrov noted that Russia remains concerned about the US military buildup in the Pacific, including the deployment of US missile defence components that he said create security risks for Russia and China.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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