Environmental Policy

The Basic Environment Plan - Part II

PART II. PRINCIPLES OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

  • Section 1.Basic Concepts
    • 1. Desired relationship between people and the environment
    • 2.Long-term objectives
      • 2.1. Environmentally sound material cycle
      • 2.2. Harmonious coexistence
      • 2.3. Participation
      • 2.4. International activities
  • Section 2. Long-Term Objectives
  • Section 3. Developing Comprehensive Indicators

Section 1. Basic Concepts

Humankind has been receiving benefits from the environment and in doing so has been imposing a great burden upon it. The environment is limited and is made up of various ecosystems which exist only through the maintenance of delicate balances. Moreover, it is the common birthright of both present and future generations.

Recent population increases and expansions in human activities, however, have led to over-exploitation of natural resources and a substantial increase in the amount of waste generated. The scope of these activities has exceeded the environment's capacity to absorb them and has resulted in pollution and the burdens of nature. A substantial expansion of human activities, which transformed traditional agricultural civilizations into the industrial civilizations of the post-Industrial Revolution era and then to the modern industrial societies of today, is largely to blame. It is feared that the accumulation of environmental burdens inflicted by present human activities is threatening the global environment and consequently, human life. It is likewise feared that the impact of these activities will become irreversible and be passed on to future generations.

There are still many unknown elements regarding the characteristics and value of the environment. However, anxiety over its degradation and awareness that preventative measures are necessary to for its conserve has become common. One point upon which all countries agree is the necessity of attaining a state of sustainable development. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for developed countries, including Japan, which have been imposing great burdens upon the Earth's environment, to review their behavioral patterns.

Furthermore, developed countries, must work out their plans together and, under a global partnership, must take affirmative steps to structure foreign aid so as to meet actual needs in developing countries. These mutual efforts should be promoted internationally. In Japan, people are realizing that their materialistic attitudes are resulting in an environmental crisis and there is an popular movement demanding modifications. It is not easy to change the norms of socioeconomic systems or current lifestyles. It is, nonetheless, necessary. All sectors of society must carry their fair share of the burden to incorporate the needs of the environment into the economic system.

It must be remembered, that humankind's ability to lead healthy and cultured lifestyles is entirely due to the abundant blessings of the Earth's environment. These blessings are meant to be enjoyed by both present and future generations. Likewise, as joint owners of this limited environment, people have an obligation to maintain it so that it might last far into the distant future. Inheriting the wisdom of our ancestors, who lived within the means of their environment, it is essential to question the present civilization and change production and consumption patterns to sustainable ones.

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Section 2. Long-Term Objectives

The aforementioned section covers the basic ideas of environmental policy. The following discussion will introduce the long-term goals of this policy. Briefly, they are: (1) closed material circulation, (2) harmonious coexistence, (3) participation, and (4) international effort. To build the desired relationship between people and the environment, comprehensive measures shall be promoted.

1. Desired Relationship Between People and the Environment

The environment is finite and is the life support system of humankind. In the environment, materials circulate between air, water, soil and living creatures. They break down and reassemble in a constant process that is characteristic of nature's circulation of materials. The ecosystem is formed by many delicate balances. In order to conserve a rich, sound environment, it is necessary to maintain both the entire system and each individual, component, system in healthy condition. To achieve this, precautionary measures employing scientific knowledge should be applied to avoid serious, irreversible negative impacts on the environment. To harmoniously coexist with nature, nature's own material circulation should be utilized. In this way, a system incorporating closed material circulation will emerge from everyday socioeconomic activities.

2. Long-Term Objectives

The ultimate goal of this Plan is to attain a state of sustainable development while continuing to conserve a healthy and rich environment. The following four iv. objectives must be secured to reach this ultimate goal.

2.1. Environmentally Sound Material Cycle

Burdens on the atmosphere, water and soil are caused by interference with nature's circulation of materials. To reduce these burdens, our socioeconomic system must be based upon nature's circulation of materials. Thus, things removed from the Earth, such as raw materials and energy, must pass cleanly through our socioeconomic system at every stage, from production, through the stream of commerce, to consumption and finally to disposal. Plans to limit the occurrence of waste and to properly dispose of it are essential. This Plan aims to create such a system.

2.2. Harmonious Coexistence

The atmosphere, water, soil, wildlife, people and their behavior, mutually effect one another. It is necessary to work on appropriate methods to conserve the environment depending on the special way that it was formed. Such methods include conserving invaluable nature, maintaining and conserving secondary nature, environmental restoration and wildlife conservation management. Planning the wise use of nature, while simultaneously providing places and opportunities to come in contact with it, will ensure a rich exchange between human beings and nature. This Plan shall ensure the maintenance and restoration of a healthy ecosystem and a harmonious coexistence between nature and human beings.

2.3. Participation

To create a socioeconomic system with closed material circulation and state of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, comprehensive policies must be developed with long range views. This means that the environment must be considered at every step. Wasteful, 'disposable' lifestyles must be reviewed and people's values and conduct must be reformed. Every sector of society needs to fully understand the relationship that exists between humankind and the environment. It is essential that each sector also voluntarily and actively participate in efforts to utilize the environment wisely and to reduce burden to it. It is further necessary that the cost be fairly spread throughout society. This can be accomplished by employing the Polluter Pays Principle ("PPP"). Under this principle, contributions are made depending on the amount of burden imposed on, or benefits received from the environment, by each individual or group.

2.4. International Activities

Current global environmental problems are a concern of everyone. No one country can solve these problems alone. Therefore, it is necessary for all nations to join together in the effort. Japan's economy is closely interdependent with the rest of the world. With one of the larger economies, Japan benefits a great deal from the global environment and at the same time influences it greatly. All sectors of society, including the government, shall promote international cooperation with a view to maintaining a healthy global environment. By fully utilizing the experiences and technologies that overcame severe domestic pollution in the past, Japan shall strive to make significant contributions, appropriate to its position in the global society.

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Section 3. Developing Comprehensive Indicators

The Basic Environment Plan sets long-term objectives for building a sustainable society, to attain a socioeconomic system of "sound material cycle", "harmonious coexistence" with nature, "participation" and "international activities", and provides future direction of measures to achieve these objectives. It is desirable to specify comprehensive indicator/indicators which show the progress of these objectives and the relation between the objectives and measures, in order to ensure effective implementation of the measures. Whereas studies and research have been carried out extensively both domestically and abroad, at this point, there are not enough results to incorporate the indicators in this Plan. Therefore, the Government will immediately begin working on development of the comprehensive indicators and utilize the results in implementing and reviewing the Plan.

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