Global 1.5˚C Target will Not Be Possible Unless More Countries Commit to Reducing Plastic and Other Waste, Study Find
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 October 2021
300+ Organizations in 70+ Countries Sign Open Letter Demanding Leaders Stop Burning and Dumping and Transition to a Just Circular Economy
Glasgow, United Kingdom– An analysis published today by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) finds that more than a quarter of countries’ climate plans are neglecting an essential climate strategy: reducing waste, despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifying waste management as one of three sectors with the greatest potential to reduce temperature rise in the next 10-20 years.
As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, national governments agreed to submit plans that
explain what strategies their country will employ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 1.5˚C target. These plans are called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, and many countries submitted updates this year in preparation for the annual UN climate talks (COP 26). GAIA’s researchers analyzed the 99 NDCs updated since 2020.
- Plastic is made from 99% of fossil fuels, and by current projections will consume 13% of the 1.5C carbon budget by 2050, yet only 11 countries propose bans or restrictions on the use of plastic, and none propose to restrict the production of plastic.
- Almost 40% of countries include waste-burning (“waste-to-energy”), pyrolysis and gasification, chemical recycling, etc.) in their plans, undermining climate goals. Burning 1 tonne of waste produces roughly the equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Separate collection of organic waste followed by composting is the most effective means to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 81 times more powerful than CO2 (over 20 years). Fortunately 35 countries propose these strategies, but wider adoption is critical.
- Only 12 countries discuss environmental justice, gender and equity, informal workers, or community engagement for the waste sector, missing the chance to fight poverty and create thousands of good jobs.
Over 300 GAIA member organizations around the world have signed an open letter to COP-26 delegates, demanding that they close the emissions gap to ensure temperatures do not rise above 1.5ºC, exclude “waste-to-energy” incineration from climate plans, stop petrochemical expansion, fossil fuel extraction, and reduce plastic production, and avoid schemes like carbon trading and offsets under the guise of a “net zero” framework. World leaders must also hold the petrochemical and plastic polluter companies accountable for plastic pollution and climate change. Just today the Break Free From Plastic movement released their annual global Brand Audit report, finding that Coca Cola Company and PepsiCo are ranked as the world’s top plastic polluters for the fourth consecutive year.
Emma Priestland, Global Corporate Campaigns Coordinator for Break Free From Plastic states, “The world’s top plastic polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging. We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels, including the significant amount of fossil fuels that are or will be turned into plastic.”
The good news is that hundreds of cities have found that the reduction of GHG emissions in the waste sector can be maximized through zero waste strategies, a comprehensive waste management approach that prioritizes waste reduction and material recovery; through policy and business strategies to drive redesign of products and delivery systems; and increasing access to reuse, repair, recycling, and composting. The open letter advocates real zero targets where greenhouse gas emissions are phased out completely, and an investment in a zero waste circular economy. This would include transitioning from a single-use to a reuse-based approach to products and packaging, as well as robust social protection and income for waste pickers and workers.
Dr. Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at GAIA, states: “With the climate crisis growing more urgent and deadly every day, governments are missing an important chance to employ zero waste as a common-sense, affordable strategy toward zero emissions and a sustainable economy. Ending bad practices such as the burning of waste and the overproduction of plastic will create new job and business opportunities in reuse, repair, recycling, and organics treatment.”
- Wasted Opportunities: A review of international commitments for reducing plastic and waste-sector GHG emissions
- Similar conclusions were reached in a recently published academic paper in the Yearbook of International Environmental Law.
- BRANDED: Holding Corporations Accountable for the Plastic & Climate Crisis
- Plastic is Carbon: Unwrapping the ‘Net Zero’ Myth
- Further resources and a COP26 events calendar can be found at no-burn.org/cop26-plasticburns.
Claire Arkin, Global Communications Lead
email@example.com | +1 (856) 895-1505
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped.