Civil Society Groups Dismiss Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s Online Consultations As Neither Meaningful Nor Inclusive

Civil society groups from across Asia, Europe and Latin America are staging the first-ever virtual walkout during a session about the future direction of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) energy sector financing. The AIIB is currently in the process of updating its 2018 Energy Sector Strategy and has invited public comment on a proposed draft between April 8th and June 3rd. However, today’s one-hour online session together with a similar session scheduled for one hour tomorrow, are the only time slots the Bank has opened for groups from around the world to directly raise questions and concerns to staff over the course of the eight week consultation period, leaving no time for meaningful engagement and discussion.  

Tanya Roberts-Davis, Energy Policy and Campaigns Strategist from the NGO Forum on ADB explained: “It is absolutely imperative that the AIIB, an international financial institution bankrolling large-scale infrastructure projects that have significant impacts on people, economies and the environment across the entire range of borrowing member countries, engage in a transparent, inclusive, publicly accountable process for updating their strategic framework guiding future energy investments. Indeed, by the Bank’s own calculations, energy accounts for nearly one-third of its project financing. Yet, only now –  after repeated calls from civil society groups to the Bank’s management – and a mere two weeks before the end of the period of public input, are we being ‘invited’ to one-hour time slots for submitting brief comments on the draft update of the Energy Sector Strategy. We refuse to consider such a restrictive platform as a space for genuine, meaningful, inclusive discussions, dialogue and debate.” 

The group of organizations from diverse social sectors made the decision to join the AIIB’s consultation session scheduled today in order to read out a collective statement of denunciation,  before staging the online walkout, while others will convey a similar message by boycotting the process entirely. 

As Vidya Dinker from the Indian Social Action Forum affirmed: “We are tempted to be as dismissive of the AIIB’s process as the Bank has been of any principles of meaningful consultation or due diligence. However, our commitments to advancing the concerns of affected communities and to keep AIIB accountable mean we shall be there today to clearly say yet again what we have said before to the Bank – to call them out and state that these token ‘consultations’ cannot be used to legitimize what has been an extremely listless and disrespectful process. Any updated Energy Sector Strategy that AIIB adopts without due course correction will be unacceptable and at variance with their stated obligations.”

Maia Seeger from Sustentarse in Chile further explained: “The AIIB is just beginning to finance energy projects in Latin America. Over the years, our countries in this region have been affected by the development of mega-energy infrastructure carried out without proper consultation, with huge impacts on Indigenous Peoples, communities and the environment. We are therefore highly concerned about the resources the AIIB will be allocating to expand mega-energy projects in the region, for instance, if it will include resource-intensive green hydrogen plants in Chile. In light of the malpractices we have seen regarding AIIB consultation processes to date, we can only expect the investments will lead to increasing socio-environmental conflicts in the future.”

Nora Sausmikat from Urgewald, based in Germany, asserted: “As a triple-A rating multilateral bank devoted to financing the ‘infrastructure of tomorrow” shareholders and the management should not stick to outdated crisis evoking technologies. It is time to listen to science and the people, as requested during the last six years. The updating of the Energy Sector Strategy needs to take into account the voices of the people – now – and in a meaningful manner!

Mayang Azurin from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives-Asia Pacific elaborated further: “We urge the AIIB to resolve the flagrant inconsistencies in investment practices in its current support to Waste-to-Energy (WTE) projects. It’s time for the AIIB to rule out direct and indirect support for this toxic and carbon-intensive technology either as a form of power generation or waste management and clearly exclude it from eligibility for financing under the updated Energy Sector Strategy. In line with this positioning, we urge the Board to reconsider any further support for currently financed WTE projects in the Maldives and Turkey. In addition, the AIIB must avoid becoming further entangled in future investments in the sector by immediately withdrawing the proposed financing for WTE projects through financial intermediary on-lending to China Everbright Limited. Let’s be clear, such support undermines not only national ambitions to pursue a low-carbon energy trajectory but also international commitments to ban the production of the very pollutants that Waste-to-Energy projects emit, contaminating the air, soil and water our survival depends upon.”

For the think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) in the Philippines, genuine consultation with stakeholders and experts should guide AIIB to climate-aligned financing directions that hold no preference for fossil fuels. Gerry Arances of CEED further emphasized that: “In its proposed 2022 Energy Sector Strategy, AIIB peddles the myth of fossil gas and LNG’s supposed role as a transition fuel for Asia, and even as a contributor to energy security. But massive gas expansion brings a methane boom that will cause us to miss our climate goals, and will trigger more costly electricity prices even as they are already at an all-time high. AIIB cannot boast of being ‘lean, clean, and green’ if it cannot even take a firm policy to divest from fossil gas and focus on renewable energy. More so, AIIB must address the glaring gaps in its policy implementation which lead to investments that directly contradict its own commitments to the Paris Agreement.” 

Echoing this sentiment, Kate Geary from Recourse (UK/Netherlands) concluded: “At a time when the AIIB has committed to align its investments with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it is vital that the bank gets its energy investments right. This means moving out of fossil fuels and into supporting sustainable renewable energy, to improve energy access across Asia, especially for poor communities. A true consultation would open space for those most affected by climate change to share their concerns and propose alternatives – instead, AIIB has chosen to effectively close the door on their engagement.

Background Information:

Open letters jointly signed by civil society organizations across Asia, Europe and Latin America have raised questions and concerns about the AIIB’s process for updating its Energy Sector Strategy and have been submitted on several occasions since January 2022. A sample of these letters can be read here: https://www.forum-adb.org/aiibcommunications These letters have called for the AIIB to: 

  1. Post translated draft texts of the proposed Energy Sector Strategy Update in major languages of regional and non-regional members;
  2. Schedule online interactive discussion sessions held in different time zones and languages
  3. Engage  in focussed discussions with civil society groups on specific types of project-related concerns (such as on financing for hydropower dams or gas power projects) as well in country-specific contexts where AIIB energy sector investments have been most concentrated to date; 
  4. Accepting written input in major languages of member countries;  and
  5. Proactively responding to the range of concerns about the risk of reprisals experienced by outspoken community members in project-affected areas.

The full statement of denunciation made by civil society groups to the AIIB during the  May 19th Session can be read here: : 

https://www.forum-adb.org/post/collective-statement-for-the-energy-sector-strategy-update

Press Contact: 

Tanya Lee Roberts-Davis, Energy Policy and Campaigns Strategist, NGO Forum on the ADB| Email: tanya@forum-adb.org   

Dennis T. Paule, Communication and Support Liaison Officer, NGO Forum on ADB l Email: dennis@forum-adb.org 

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest GHG emitter in the world. To make matters worse, the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), an organization that recommends where money should go to fight climate change, is considering supporting burning waste in cement kilns instead of financing green building alternatives. Far from fixing the industry’s climate impact, financing cement kiln waste-burning would just replace one fossil-based fuel with another (plastic waste is made of fossil fuels), causing toxic pollution that threatens public health, human rights, and the planet. If CBI moves forward as planned, millions of dollars meant for climate mitigation will prop up one of the world’s most climate-polluting industries. A public letter signed by a community of scientists, practitioners in the field of waste management, policy-makers, and environmental NGOs demands that CBI not move forward with this disastrous plan.


The World is On Fire. It’s Time to Stop Burning Things.

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175+ Civil Society Organizations Speak Out Against CBI Climate Financing Criteria

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 APRIL, 2022

New York, NY, USA– Today, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) released a public letter signed by over 175 civil society organizations in 35+ countries denouncing the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) for considering the inclusion of burning of waste as “alternative fuels” in cement kilns (often called  waste co-incineration or co-processing in cement kilns) as part of its climate financing recommendations. If CBI moves forward as planned, millions of dollars meant for climate mitigation will prop up one of the world’s most climate-polluting industries. 

“Once again, the Climate Bonds Initiative has revealed itself as a polluting industry puppet rather than a reliable voice that can drive a rapid transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy. We urge the CBI to take our input into account and stop providing climate-friendly credentials to waste incineration in cement kilns, which is exactly the opposite of what climate action should look like,“ says Mariel Vilella, Director of the Global Climate Program at GAIA. In January 2020, Ms. Vilella publicly resigned from CBI’s Waste Management Technical Working Group (TWG) in protest of its refusal to exclude waste incineration from its financing criteria outside the EU. 

The letter submitted to the CBI, signed by a community of scientists, practitioners in the field of waste management, policy-makers, and environmental NGOs, presents the main reasons why climate bonds should not be given to waste incineration in cement kilns:

  • Burning waste in cement kilns creates toxic pollution and climate injustice. Cement plants do not have the means to filter volatile heavy metals or persistent organic pollutants. Frontline communities (predominantly low-income communities, communities of color, and communities in the Global South) suffer the most severe impacts of cement kiln pollution. 
  • Burning waste in cement kilns would replace one form of fossil fuel with another, therefore failing to reduce GHG emissions. The type of waste cement kilns want to burn is plastic, and plastic is made of 99% fossil fuels. 
  • Giving incentives to burn waste in cement kilns will make the world more wasteful. Providing climate bonds will legitimize the cement industry’s reliance on waste-burning as a business model, perversely creating a consistent demand for waste.

The cement industry has a notorious climate footprint– 45% of all GHG emissions from the industrial sector are from making cement. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest GHG emitter in the world. 

 To be serious about reducing the GHG footprint from the cement industry, the Climate Bonds Initiative must explore financing all available low-carbon construction alternatives for cement. 

GAIA members representing communities suffering from the impacts of the cement industry have a message for CBI: “Giving climate bonds to the cement industry for co-incineration is the moral equivalent of giving awards to people who have committed a crime,” states Ricardo Navarro of Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology, El Salvador. 

Contact

Claire Arkin, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), claire@no-burn.org 

###

As organizations addressing climate change around the world, we urge the Climate Bond Initiative to adopt a new approach to climate bonds for cement kilns. Rather than promoting waste burning and other ineffective adaptations that will fail to reduce the tremendous climate footprint of the cement industry, we ask Climate Bond Initiative to use its clout to develop standards for innovative, toxic-free, low-carbon construction materials and approaches as an alternative to cement.

Disappointingly, the Climate Bond Initiative (CBI) has proposed climate financing criteria for the cement industry that encourages municipal waste, including plastic, to be burned in cement kilns as an alternative fuel. However, a substitution of fuels will not solve the threat that the cement industry poses: at least half of the cement industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are released from limestone as it is heated to form the glue that holds concrete together.[1] Tinkering around the edges, like burning municipal waste as fuel, will simply not achieve the GHG reductions needed for this sector.

The climate impacts from cement production are staggering: 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide is from cement production.[2] As described in the new IPCC report, “Cement and concrete are currently overused because they are inexpensive, durable, and ubiquitous, and consumption decisions typically do not give weight to their production emissions.”[3] At the same time, the new IPCC report has given dire warnings that “the human toll of climate change is unequivocal and growing”. To be serious about reducing the greenhouse gas footprint from the cement industry, we must urgently explore all available low-carbon construction alternatives for cement. Otherwise, cement will continue to be one of the largest industrial greenhouse gas contributors.

However, the approach of certifying waste burning (especially plastic waste) in cement kilns will only deviate the building sector from the critical transformation to low-carbon building material:

  • Widespread burning of waste in cement kilns would replace one form of fossil fuel with another. Plastic is a key component of the waste stream that the cement industry seeks to burn, and 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels. The carbon footprint of plastic from extraction, production, and burning of plastic waste is essential to consider: “By 2050, the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons—10-13 percent of the entire remaining carbon budget.”[4] Furthermore, just as coal which has to be mined and transported to the kiln, the energy used to produce and process waste is tremendous.
  • Widespread burning of waste in cement kilns would create a “lock-in effect” for waste generation itself, thus affecting global waste reduction targets and deep decarbonization targets. The cement industry’s reliance on waste-burning as a business model will create a consistent demand for waste and therefore lock in a wasteful economy (and the climate footprint that comes with it. Widespread use of waste to fire cement kilns would perpetuate plastic production and resulting climate pollution. Furthermore, sourcing waste is an unfair business model for governments. While the economics vary, governments would likely need to provide subsidies or payments for producing or using waste-derived fuels.
  • Burning waste creates toxic pollution with the most severe impacts to the public health and environment of vulnerable communities, in a clear exacerbation of climate injustice. From communities in Cameroon,[5] India,[6] Brazil,[7] Slovenia,[8] and Mexico,[9] to Australian plastic waste exports bound for burning in Indonesia,[10] communities around the world have documented extensive pollution threats from waste burning in cement kilns. Cement plants do not have the means to filter volatile heavy metals (mercury, thallium, cadmium, etc.) present in waste, nor persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans (PCDD/PCDF), which are toxic and persistent in the environment, traveling long distances and accumulating in the food chain.

It is for all these reasons that we urge the Climate Bond Initiative to adopt a new approach to the cement industry. Wholesale movement into low carbon building materials is a crucial path to ending the cement industry’s disastrous climate-forcing carbon footprint.

Signed:

Organizations:

12 Pueblos Originarios de Tecámac 

350 Pilipinas

Abibinsroma Foundation

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Aliansi Zero Waste Indonesia

All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM)

All Our Energy

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia

Amigos de la Tierra

Animals Are Sentient Beings Inc

Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance (APPA)

ASD-Bangladesh

Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l’Environnement (ANSEN)

Bali Waste Platform

Ban SUP

BAN Toxics

Barranquilla+20

Bay Area – System Change not Climate Change

Beyond Extreme Energy

Beyond Plastics

Bio Vision Africa (BiVA)

BIOS

Blue Dalian

Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Californians Against Waste

CAMINANDO POR LA JUSTICIA ATITALAQUÍA

Caminando por la justicia Atitalaquia 

Carbon Market Watch

Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia

Centre de Recherche et d’Education pour le Développement

Changing Markets Foundation

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG)

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls

Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans

CleanAirNow

Climate Action for Lifelong Learners (CALL)

Colectivo Ecologista Jalisco, A.C.

Colectivo Región Tolteca

Colectivo VientoSur

Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC

COMITE PRO UNO

Consumers’ Association of Penang

CUMA MEXICO 

Deer Park Institute

Dibeen for Environmental Development

Dovesdale Action Group

Downwinders at Risk

Earth Ethics, Inc

Eco Sitio

Ecology Center

ECORE

ECOTON

Ecowaste Coalition of the Philippines

Eko krog

Ekologi brez meja

Environics Trust

Environment and Social Development Organization

Environmental Defence Canada

Environmental Education Center (PPLH Bali)

Environmental Protection Society Malaysia

Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area

Florida Rising

Food Empowerment Project

Frente de Comunidades Unidas de Tizayuca 

FreshWater Accountability Project

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Friends Of The Earth Slovakia

fundacion Aguaclara

Fundación Apaztle

Fundación El Árbol

fundación Lenga

Fundación para la defensa del ambiente (FUNAM)

GAIA/BFFP

Gallifrey Foundation

Gita Pertiwi

Grassroots Environmental Education

GREEN AFRICA YOUTH ORGANIZATION

Green Knowledge Foundation

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice

Greenpeace USA

GreenRoots, Inc

Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Grupo Atotonilli

Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia

Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation (HECAF360)

HECAF 360

Humusz Szövetség

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law

Inland Ocean Coalition

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Instituto ATEMIS Brasil

Instituto Pólis 

International Rivers

Kagad Kach Parta Kashtakari Panchayat

Khanchendzonga Conservation Committee KCC

Korea Zero Waste Movement Network

KRuHA – people’s coalition for the right to water

LIDECS

Living Laudato Si’ Philippines

Locust Point Community Garden

Long Island Progressive Coalition

M H K Electrical

Mcag

Methane Action

Midlothian Breathe

Montana Environmental Information Center

Mother Earth Foundation Philippines

MoveOn.org Hoboken

Nagrik Chetna Manch

Nexus3 Foundation

NGO Forum on ADB

Noarc21

North american Climate, Conservation and Environment(NACCE)

North Range Concerned Citizens

Núcleo Alter-Nativas de Produção da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum

Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE)

Pelican foundation

Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Plataforma antiincineracion de Montcada I Reixac 

Pragya Seeds Nepal

Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

PROSALUD APAXCO

RAPAL Uruguay

Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA

Red Regional de Sistemas Comunitarios y Comités por la Defensa del Agua ( la Escuelita del Agua) .

Réseau Action Climat

Revista Brújula MX

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

Sahabat Laut (Friends of the Sea)

Sistema de Agua Potable de Tecámac Estado de México, AC?

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Society for Wetland Biodiversity Conservation Nepal

Solar Wind Works

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Sunflower Alliance

Surfrider Foundation

Sustainable Environment Development Initiative

Sustainable Thornton Heath

SWaCH

Taller Ecologista

Terra Advocati

The Corner House

The Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement – Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik

The Last Beach Cleanup

The Last Plastic Straw

The People’s Justice Council

Trash Hero Indonesia

Turtle Island Restoration Network

United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)

Valley Watch, Inc.

VšĮ “Žiedinė ekonomika”

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) / Friends of the Earth Indonesia

WALHI Jawa Barat

WALHI North Sumatra

Waterway Advocates

West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs

Westchester Allliance for Sustainable Solutions

Woman And Child Development Organization (APARAJITA)

WomanHealth Philippines

Work on Waste USA (AEHSP)

Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB)

Za Zemiata – Friends of the Earth Bulgaria

ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável

Zero Waste Association of South Africa

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste France

Zero Waste Ithaca

Zero Waste Latvija

Zero Waste Montenegro

Zero Waste North West

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste Washington

Individuals:

Alida Naufalia, YPBB

Ann Fahey

Babet de Groot, University of Sydney

Carole Shorney

Chitra Agarwal

Christine Primomo, Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena Coeymans

Claudia Marquez

Colin Vettier

Consuelo Infante

Desmond Alugnoa, Green Africa Youth Organization

Dr. Katie Conlon

Edward Swayze, TC Democratic Committee, Zero Waste Ithaca

Héctor Cordero

Ian Morris, Sustainable Thornton Heath

Jane Leggett, Stop the Edmonton Incinerator

Jean Ross, Vote Climate

John alder, build back better

Jorge Daniel Hernandez

José Arquimidez Aguilar Rodríguez

Karl Held, The Climate Mobilization, Montgomery County MD Chapter

Laura Haider, Fresnans Against Fracking

Lauriane Veillard, Zero Waste Europe

Lisa Ross, Zero Waste Columbia

Louise Krzan

Maeve Tomlinson

Maeve Tomlinson

Mai The Toan, Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment

Marco Ramirez navarro

María Merced  González

Marie Hallwirth, Zero Waste Austria

Maritza mendoza, GreenLatinos

Mark Webb

Martin Franklin

Melly Amalia, Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB)

Moniva Rosas

Navin Rao, Birla Institute of Management Technology

Parus Shah

Patrice Gallagher, Frederick Zero Waste Alliance

Paty Gonzalez

Prashant Vaze , Senior Fellow of Climate Bonds Initiative

Prerana Dangol, HECAF 360

Pushpan Murugiah

René Romero

Riikka Yliluoma, Climate Strategies Lab

Rosi Martínez

Sangeetha Pradeep, Thanal

Sher Zaman, Democratic Commission for Human Development

Shrawasti Karmacharya, HECAF360

Shyamala Mani, Public Health Foundation of India and National Institute of Urba

Sikshu Dewan Sikshu ESPAY

Sister Joan Agro, Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Sophia Mahoney-Rohrl, Sunrise Bay Area

Souleymane OUATTARA, Climate Action Network West and Central Africa

STEPHANIE SUSSMAN, Zero Waste Columbia

Susan Park, University of Sydney

Suzannah Glidden, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE)

Sydney Charles

Xuan Quach, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance

~ENDNOTES~
[1] NRDC (2022), Cut Carbon and Toxic Pollution, Make Cement Clean and Green, https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sasha-stashwick/cut-carbon-and-toxic-pollution-make-cement-clean-and-green
[2] BBC (2018), Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about, https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844
[3] IPCC (2022), Sixth Assessment Report, Chapter 11 – Industry, p 7, https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg3/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_Chapter11.pdf
[4] CIEL (2019), Plastic and Climate, p 1, www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Plastic-and-Climate-Executive-Summary-2019.pdf
[5] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010), HolcimReport: A scandal research, https://www.greenpeace.ch/static/planet4-switzerland-stateless/2020/11/306f5644-lafargeholcimreport-gp_execsummaryen_greenpeace_4nov2020.pdf
[6] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010)
[7] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010)
[8] Goldman Prize (2017), 2017 Goldman Prize Winner Uroš Macerl, www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/uros-macerl/
[9] Zero Waste Europe (2017), In Mexico: time to end ‘sacrifice zones,’ zerowasteeurope.eu/2017/12/in-mexico-time-to-end-sacrifice-zones/
[10] Nexus3 and IPEN (2022), Refuse-Derived Fuel In Indonesia, ipen.org/documents/refuse-derived-fuel-indonesia

Como organizaciones que se ocupan del cambio climático en todo el mundo, exhortamos a la Iniciativa de Bonos Climáticos a adoptar un nuevo enfoque para los bonos climáticos de los hornos de cemento. En lugar de promover la quema de residuos y otras adaptaciones ineficaces que no lograrán reducir la tremenda huella climática de la industria del cemento, pedimos a la Iniciativa de Bonos Climáticos que utilice su influencia para desarrollar normas para materiales y enfoques de construcción innovadores, libres de tóxicos y bajos en carbono, como alternativa al cemento.

Por desgracia, la Iniciativa de Bonos Climáticos (CBI) ha propuesto criterios financieros climáticos para la industria del cemento que fomentan la quema de residuos municipales, incluido el plástico, en los hornos de cemento como combustible alternativo. Sin embargo, una sustitución de combustibles no resolverá la amenaza que representa la industria del cemento: al menos la mitad de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero de la industria del cemento proceden de la piedra caliza cuando se calienta para formar el pegamento que mantiene unido el hormigón. La quema de residuos municipales como combustible, simplemente no logrará las reducciones de GEI necesarias para este sector. 

El impacto climático de la producción de cemento es asombroso: El 8% del dióxido de carbono del mundo procede de la producción de cemento. Como se describe en el nuevo informe del IPCC, “el cemento y el hormigón se utilizan actualmente en exceso porque son baratos, duraderos y omnipresentes, y las decisiones sobre su consumo no suelen tener en cuenta sus emisiones de producción.” Al mismo tiempo, el nuevo informe del IPCC ha advertido de forma funesta que “el coste humano del cambio climático es inequívoco y creciente”. Si nos tomamos en serio la reducción de la huella de gases de efecto invernadero de la industria del cemento, debemos explorar urgentemente todas las alternativas de construcción con bajas emisiones de carbono disponibles para el cemento.  De lo contrario, el cemento seguirá siendo uno de los mayores contribuyentes industriales de gases de efecto invernadero. 

El planteamiento de certificar la quema de residuos (especialmente los residuos plásticos) en los hornos de cemento sólo desviará al sector de la construcción de la transformación crítica hacia un material de construcción bajo en carbono:

  1. La quema generalizada de residuos en los hornos de cemento reemplazaría una forma de combustible fósil por otra. El plástico es un componente clave del flujo de residuos que la industria del cemento pretende quemar, y el 99% del plástico se fabrica con combustibles fósiles. Es esencial tener en cuenta la huella de carbono del plástico procedente de su extracción, producción y quema: “Para 2050, las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero procedentes del plástico podrían alcanzar más de 56 gigatoneladas — 10-13% de todo el presupuesto de carbono restante.” Además, al igual que el carbón que hay que extraer y transportar al horno, la energía utilizada para producir y procesar los residuos es tremenda. 
  2. La quema generalizada de residuos en los hornos de cemento crearía un “efecto de bloqueo” para la generación de residuos en sí misma, afectando así a los objetivos globales de reducción de residuos y a los objetivos de descarbonización profunda. La dependencia de la industria del cemento en la quema de residuos como modelo de negocio creará una demanda constante de residuos y, por lo tanto, fijará una economía derrochadora (y la huella climática que conlleva). El uso generalizado de residuos para alimentar los hornos de cemento perpetuaría la producción de plástico y la consiguiente contaminación climática. Además, el abastecimiento de residuos es un modelo de negocio injusto para los gobiernos. Aunque los aspectos económicos varían, es probable que los gobiernos tengan que conceder subvenciones o pagos por producir o utilizar combustibles derivados de residuos.
  3. La quema de residuos genera una contaminación tóxica con graves impactos para la salud pública y el medio ambiente de las comunidades más vulnerables, en un claro agravamiento de la injusticia climática. Desde las comunidades de Camerún,  India, Brasil,  Eslovenia, y México, hasta las exportaciones de residuos plásticos australianos destinados a la quema en Indonesia,  las comunidades de todo el mundo han documentado amplias amenazas de contaminación por la quema de residuos en los hornos de cemento. Las fábricas de cemento no disponen de medios para filtrar los metales pesados volátiles (mercurio, talio, cadmio, etc.) presentes en los residuos, ni los contaminantes orgánicos persistentes (COP) como las dioxinas y los furanos (PCDD/PCDF), que son tóxicos y persistentes en el medio ambiente, recorriendo largas distancias y acumulándose en la cadena alimentaria.

Por todas estas razones, exhortamos a la Iniciativa del Bono Climático a adoptar un nuevo enfoque para la industria del cemento.  El cambio masivo hacia materiales de construcción con bajas emisiones de carbono es un camino crucial para acabar con la desastrosa huella de carbono de la industria del cemento.

Signed:

Organizations:

12 Pueblos Originarios de Tecámac 

350 Pilipinas

Abibinsroma Foundation

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Aliansi Zero Waste Indonesia

All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM)

All Our Energy

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia

Amigos de la Tierra

Animals Are Sentient Beings Inc

Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance (APPA)

ASD-Bangladesh

Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l’Environnement (ANSEN)

Bali Waste Platform

Ban SUP

BAN Toxics

Barranquilla+20

Bay Area – System Change not Climate Change

Beyond Extreme Energy

Beyond Plastics

Bio Vision Africa (BiVA)

BIOS

Blue Dalian

Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Californians Against Waste

CAMINANDO POR LA JUSTICIA ATITALAQUÍA

Caminando por la justicia Atitalaquia 

Carbon Market Watch

Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia

Centre de Recherche et d’Education pour le Développement

Changing Markets Foundation

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG)

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls

Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans

CleanAirNow

Climate Action for Lifelong Learners (CALL)

Colectivo Ecologista Jalisco, A.C.

Colectivo Región Tolteca

Colectivo VientoSur

Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC

COMITE PRO UNO

Consumers’ Association of Penang

CUMA MEXICO 

Deer Park Institute

Dibeen for Environmental Development

Dovesdale Action Group

Downwinders at Risk

Earth Ethics, Inc

Eco Sitio

Ecology Center

ECORE

ECOTON

Ecowaste Coalition of the Philippines

Eko krog

Ekologi brez meja

Environics Trust

Environment and Social Development Organization

Environmental Defence Canada

Environmental Education Center (PPLH Bali)

Environmental Protection Society Malaysia

Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area

Florida Rising

Food Empowerment Project

Frente de Comunidades Unidas de Tizayuca 

FreshWater Accountability Project

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Friends Of The Earth Slovakia

fundacion Aguaclara

Fundación Apaztle

Fundación El Árbol

fundación Lenga

Fundación para la defensa del ambiente (FUNAM)

GAIA/BFFP

Gallifrey Foundation

Gita Pertiwi

Grassroots Environmental Education

GREEN AFRICA YOUTH ORGANIZATION

Green Knowledge Foundation

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice

Greenpeace USA

GreenRoots, Inc

Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Grupo Atotonilli

Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia

Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation (HECAF360)

HECAF 360

Humusz Szövetség

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law

Inland Ocean Coalition

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Instituto ATEMIS Brasil

Instituto Pólis 

International Rivers

Kagad Kach Parta Kashtakari Panchayat

Khanchendzonga Conservation Committee KCC

Korea Zero Waste Movement Network

KRuHA – people’s coalition for the right to water

LIDECS

Living Laudato Si’ Philippines

Locust Point Community Garden

Long Island Progressive Coalition

M H K Electrical

Mcag

Methane Action

Midlothian Breathe

Montana Environmental Information Center

Mother Earth Foundation Philippines

MoveOn.org Hoboken

Nagrik Chetna Manch

Nexus3 Foundation

NGO Forum on ADB

Noarc21

North american Climate, Conservation and Environment(NACCE)

North Range Concerned Citizens

Núcleo Alter-Nativas de Produção da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum

Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE)

Pelican foundation

Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Plataforma antiincineracion de Montcada I Reixac 

Pragya Seeds Nepal

Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

PROSALUD APAXCO

RAPAL Uruguay

Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA

Red Regional de Sistemas Comunitarios y Comités por la Defensa del Agua ( la Escuelita del Agua) .

Réseau Action Climat

Revista Brújula MX

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

Sahabat Laut (Friends of the Sea)

Sistema de Agua Potable de Tecámac Estado de México, AC?

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Society for Wetland Biodiversity Conservation Nepal

Solar Wind Works

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Sunflower Alliance

Sustainable Environment Development Initiative

Sustainable Thornton Heath

SWaCH

Taller Ecologista

Terra Advocati

The Corner House

The Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement – Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik

The Last Beach Cleanup

The Last Plastic Straw

The People’s Justice Council

Trash Hero Indonesia

Turtle Island Restoration Network

United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)

Valley Watch, Inc.

VšĮ “Žiedinė ekonomika”

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) / Friends of the Earth Indonesia

WALHI Jawa Barat

WALHI North Sumatra

Waterway Advocates

West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs

Westchester Allliance for Sustainable Solutions

Woman And Child Development Organization (APARAJITA)

WomanHealth Philippines

Work on Waste USA (AEHSP)

Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB)

Za Zemiata – Friends of the Earth Bulgaria

ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável

Zero Waste Association of South Africa

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste France

Zero Waste Ithaca

Zero Waste Latvija

Zero Waste Montenegro

Zero Waste North West

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste Washington

Individuals:

Alida Naufalia, YPBB

Ann Fahey

Babet de Groot, University of Sydney

Carole Shorney

Chitra Agarwal

Christine Primomo, Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena Coeymans

Claudia Marquez

Colin Vettier

Consuelo Infante

Desmond Alugnoa, Green Africa Youth Organization

Dr. Katie Conlon

Edward Swayze, TC Democratic Committee, Zero Waste Ithaca

Héctor Cordero

Ian Morris, Sustainable Thornton Heath

Jane Leggett, Stop the Edmonton Incinerator

Jean Ross, Vote Climate

John alder, build back better

Jorge Daniel Hernandez

José Arquimidez Aguilar Rodríguez

Karl Held, The Climate Mobilization, Montgomery County MD Chapter

Laura Haider, Fresnans Against Fracking

Lauriane Veillard, Zero Waste Europe

Lisa Ross, Zero Waste Columbia

Louise Krzan

Maeve Tomlinson

Maeve Tomlinson

Mai The Toan, Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment

Marco Ramirez navarro

María Merced  González

Marie Hallwirth, Zero Waste Austria

Maritza mendoza, GreenLatinos

Mark Webb

Martin Franklin

Melly Amalia, Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB)

Moniva Rosas

Navin Rao, Birla Institute of Management Technology

Parus Shah

Patrice Gallagher, Frederick Zero Waste Alliance

Paty Gonzalez

Prashant Vaze , Senior Fellow of Climate Bonds Initiative

Prerana Dangol, HECAF 360

Pushpan Murugiah

René Romero

Riikka Yliluoma, Climate Strategies Lab

Rosi Martínez

Sangeetha Pradeep, Thanal

Sher Zaman, Democratic Commission for Human Development

Shrawasti Karmacharya, HECAF360

Shyamala Mani, Public Health Foundation of India and National Institute of Urba

Sikshu Dewan Sikshu ESPAY

Sister Joan Agro, Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Sophia Mahoney-Rohrl, Sunrise Bay Area

Souleymane OUATTARA, Climate Action Network West and Central Africa

STEPHANIE SUSSMAN, Zero Waste Columbia

Susan Park, University of Sydney

Suzannah Glidden, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE)

Sydney Charles

Xuan Quach, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance

~ENDNOTES~
[1] NRDC (2022), Cut Carbon and Toxic Pollution, Make Cement Clean and Green, https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sasha-stashwick/cut-carbon-and-toxic-pollution-make-cement-clean-and-green
[2] BBC (2018), Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about, https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844
[3] IPCC (2022), Sixth Assessment Report, Chapter 11 – Industry, p 7, https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg3/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_Chapter11.pdf
[4] CIEL (2019), Plastic and Climate, p 1, www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Plastic-and-Climate-Executive-Summary-2019.pdf
[5] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010), HolcimReport: A scandal research, https://www.greenpeace.ch/static/planet4-switzerland-stateless/2020/11/306f5644-lafargeholcimreport-gp_execsummaryen_greenpeace_4nov2020.pdf
[6] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010)
[7] Greenpeace Switzerland (2010)
[8] Goldman Prize (2017), 2017 Goldman Prize Winner Uroš Macerl, www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/uros-macerl/
[9] Zero Waste Europe (2017), In Mexico: time to end ‘sacrifice zones,’ zerowasteeurope.eu/2017/12/in-mexico-time-to-end-sacrifice-zones/
[10] Nexus3 and IPEN (2022), Refuse-Derived Fuel In Indonesia, ipen.org/documents/refuse-derived-fuel-indonesia

Por  Mariel Vilella, Directora del Programa Global sobre el Clima

Se acaba de publicar el informe del Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC) sobre mitigación del cambio climático, que contiene el aporte del Grupo de trabajo III al Sexto informe de evaluación del IPCC.

Una vez más se nos recuerda que la emergencia climática se acelera: queda muy poco tiempo para evitar exceder la meta de máximo 1,5°C de aumento de la temperatura global. Si se supera esta meta aunque sea un poco, habrá efectos cada vez más catastróficos. Y como si fuera coordinado, hace apenas una semana, la temperatura en los polos norte y sur superaba la habitual por 30°C y 40°C, simultáneamente. 

Entonces, ¿qué debemos hacer? El informe sobre la mitigación presenta diferentes opciones para reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero desde una perspectiva científica. Aunque el informe procura ser “relevante para desarrollar políticas”, sin proporcionar una guía política específica, sí ofrece algunas pistas, y si se lee entrelíneas, sus hallazgos pueden traducirse en acción.

EL IPCC OPINA SOBRE LOS RESIDUOS: LA SEGUNDA MAYOR FUENTE DE EMISIONES EN ÁREAS URBANAS

¿Qué opina el IPCC sobre los residuos? Tal como señala el informe, el sector de residuos continúa siendo el que más contribuye a las emisiones urbanas después del sector energético, aún en las ciudades con bajas emisiones de carbono.

Las áreas urbanas en sí mismas representan la mayor parte de las emisiones globales y su contribución va en aumento: a pesar de que existen grandes variaciones en las emisiones de las zonas urbanas de diferentes países y regiones, su participación en las emisiones de GEI ha aumentado en todas las regiones y a nivel mundial entre 2000 y 2015.

En los países enriquecidos (que la ONU denomina ‘países desarrollados’), las áreas urbanas aumentaron su aporte al total de emisiones de 60% en el 2000, al 67% en el 2015. La variación más significativa en las emisiones se produjo en las regiones de Asia y el Pacífico en países en vías de desarrollo y desarrollados. 

Además, en un escenario en que las cosas siguen igual, el crecimiento esperado de las ciudades podría más que duplicar la demanda anual de materias primas, de los 40 mil millones anuales en el 2010, hasta alcanzar 90 mil millones en 2050, contribuyendo aún más al aumento de emisiones de GEI.

Tal como señala el IPCC, las ciudades pueden reducir sus emisiones de GEI de manera significativa, pero lograrlo requiere una transformación sistémica: la economía circular, la inclusión y equidad, y las tecnologías innovadoras son solo algunos de los elementos claves que deberían existir conjuntamente con otras estrategias que pueden contribuir a un desarrollo urbanístico con bajas o cero emisiones.

Aquí es donde las estrategias de basura cero pueden marcar la diferencia. Requerirá una integración coordinada de todos los sectores, estrategias e innovaciones, incluidas las ciudades de los países en vías de desarrollo.

Aquí destacamos los cinco puntos clave de este informe que son relevantes para la agenda de descarbonización de las ciudades, y qué oportunidades se pueden aprovechar al trabajar el sector de los residuos:

1. FORTALECER LA ECONOMÍA CIRCULAR DESDE UNA PERSPECTIVA SISTÉMICA.

Por un lado, la economía circular tiene un gran potencial para reducir las emisiones. Como se sabe, la economía circular es aquella que elimina los residuos a través de medidas que evitan su producción (reducción en la fuente) o reutilizando, compostando, o reciclando todo. Las economías circulares disminuyen las emisiones al reducir la demanda de las materias primas y su procesamiento, así como al eliminar las emisiones de la gestión de residuos. Si Shanghai reciclara todos los residuos que genera, reduciría las emisiones de CO2 en 16,8 millones de toneladas al año. 

Lograr una economía circular requiere no sólo de una intervención aislada, sino un replanteamiento sistémico de cómo usamos los materiales, y es por eso que el IPCC pone mucho énfasis en el cambio sistémico. A pesar de la rápida urbanización es posible lograr cero emisiones en las ciudades, pero no se logrará con las mismas intervenciones que hemos visto hasta ahora – como los rellenos sanitarios e incineradores. Al contrario, requiere estrategias integradas de amplio alcance, que vinculen la eficiencia en el uso de materiales con la eficiencia en el uso y la generación de energía, los patones de uso del suelo, y la conexión de las áreas urbanas con las rurales. Un ejemplo de esto, es devolver el compostaje y sus valiosos nutrientes a los campos de cultivo que alimentan a las ciudades.

2. EMISIONES DE METANO CAUSADAS POR RESIDUOS: MEDIDAS FÁCILES PARA CREAR CIUDADES AMIGABLES CON EL CLIMA.

Enfrentar el problema del metano, el segundo GEI  más importante  después del CO2, responsable de alrededor de 0,5°C del calentamiento actual, es una medida fácil para reducir las emisiones del cambio climático en las zonas urbanas. El metano es un gas muy potente pero efímero, por lo que ofrece algunas de las oportunidades más prometedoras para reducir las emisiones a corto plazo. Aunque el informe del IPCC se centra principalmente en el dióxido de carbono, que es el principal causante a largo plazo del cambio climático, las oportunidades de reducción del metano se han analizado en el reciente informe: La evaluación global de metano

Dicho informe destaca los residuos, y en especial los residuos orgánicos: el sector de residuos constituye la tercera fuente más grande de emisiones antropogénicas de metano y está creciendo rápidamente. Afortunadamente, la eliminación de las emisiones de metano de los rellenos sanitarios es relativamente económica–: solo requiere la implementación de prácticas de separación en la fuente y tratamientos alternativos como el compostaje. Nuestro trabajo reciente indica que intervenciones sencillas pueden reducir las emisiones de metano generadas por los rellenos sanitarios en un 96%.

La foto es cortesía del Grupo para la Acción y Remediación de Rellenos Sanitarios en Brookhaven (BLARG)

3. LA INCINERACIÓN “BASURA-A-ENERGÍA”: UNA ESTRATEGIA PERDEDORA

Lamentablemente, en lo referente a la incineración de basura-a-energía, el informe del IPCC repite la propaganda de la industria en lugar de la ciencia sólida. La incineración, pirólisis y las tecnologías de gasificación son incompatibles con los escenarios de descarbonización, ya que son grandes emisores de gases de efecto invernadero. Además, existen mejores alternativas, tanto para el tratamiento de residuos como para la generación de energía. Sin embargo, el informe no aborda estos retos y complejidades.

La incineración de residuos es la manera menos ineficiente y más costosa para generar energía y gestionar los residuos. Es el método de producción energética que más intensivamente produce emisiones de GEI, emitiendo 1,7 veces más GEI por unidad de energía producida, comparado con las centrales termoeléctricas a carbón. La generación de energía desde la basura cuesta casi cuatro veces más que la energía solar y energía eólica terrestre, dos veces más que el gas natural y 25 por ciento más que las centrales termoeléctricas de carbón. A pesar de que la incineración de residuos resulta en una producción intensiva de emisiones de carbono, la industria del cemento — una de las principales emisoras GEI a nivel global — tiene como objetivo utilizar combustibles alternativos para cubrir el 22% de la energía empleada a nivel mundial en los hornos de cemento para el año 2030. De esta manera, es alarmante que tanto  la incineración de residuos como la co-incineración en hornos de cemento se incluyeron como una solución climática en 39 de las 99 contribuciones determinadas a nivel nacional (CDN) presentadas hace poco. 

Recientemente, la Unión Europea ha excluido la incineración de residuos de la taxonomía europea de finanzas sostenibles y su apoyo financiero. No se han construido nuevos incineradores en los Estados Unidos desde 1997. Sin embargo, sigue el auge de los proyectos de incineración en los países en vías de desarrollo – especialmente en Asia, donde Japón promueve el uso de incineradores mediante proyectos de desarrollo internacional.  Los bancos multilaterales de desarrollo como el Banco Asiático de Desarrollo y el Banco Asiático de Inversión en Infraestructura  también han financiado proyectos de incineración en Asia.

4. EL PLÁSTICO ES CARBONO.

El IPCC señala claramente que la producción y consumo del plástico es un problema: “las proyecciones que aumentan la producción del plástico (…) no se alinean con la necesaria reducción de emisiones.”

De hecho, el plástico tiene una participación significativa y creciente del presupuesto global del carbono. Se estima el ciclo de vida completo de los plásticos tenía una huella de carbono de 1,7 mil millones de toneladas CO2 equivalente (CO2e) en 2015, que crecería a 6,5 mil millones de toneladas de CO2e en 2050 (equivalente a 1.640 centrales eléctricas de carbón) si continúa la actual trayectoria de crecimiento de la producción, disposición e incineración del plástico. También significa que para el año 2050, las emisiones producidas por el plástico por sí solas, constituirán más de la tercera parte del presupuesto de carbono restante para la meta de 1,5°C. Las emisiones de GEI de la producción de plásticos llegan cerca de las 2 toneladas de CO2e por cada tonelada de plástico producido. Esta es la primera vez que el IPCC aborda el tema del plástico, y hace un llamado claro a reducir la cantidad de plástico producido: los gobiernos deberían prestar atención.

5. ¿CÓMO SE LOGRA? CON GOBERNANZA, FINANZAS, TECNOLOGÍA Y LA INCLUSIÓN DE RECICLADORES.

Conferencia de prensa en el botadero de Dandoro en Kenia, por el Día Internacional del Reciclador, el 1ero de marzo de 2022.

El IPCC deja en claro que las ciudades requieren tanto de capacidades institucionales de gestión, como de acceso a financiamiento y tecnología. La gestión de residuos es un buen ejemplo: Las soluciones no son sofisticadas – separación en origen para la recolección, compostaje y reciclaje, prohibición de productos y embalajes problemáticos – pero requieren que los gobiernos municipales trabajen con sus constituyentes. En el sector de residuos, una mejor gobernanza puede abrir oportunidades para reconocer e integrar al sector informal en mejores prácticas de gestión de residuos, y así lo reconoció también el informe del IPCC. La gestión de residuos es una vía importante para incluir el sector informal en la economía urbana.

Esta es una fuente importante de “cobeneficios” tales como mayor empleo, integración social, reducción de la contaminación y de la pobreza. En este sentido, incluso las medidas vinculadas a los residuos pueden enfocarse principalmente a la mitigación del cambio climático en áreas urbanas, así como ofrecer beneficios para la adaptación y mejoramiento de la resiliencia urbana.

En resumen, el informe del IPCC sobre la mitigación nos hace recordar que el sector de residuos ofrece una enorme oportunidad para reducir las emisiones de manera rápida y económica, y al mismo tiempo aumentar la resiliencia, generar buenos puestos de trabajo, y promover economías locales prósperas. En todo el mundo, las ciudades comprometidas con el objetivo de basura cero están demostrando que reducir las emisiones en el sector de residuos es factible y deseable, y solo tenemos que hacerlo mucho más a menudo.

by Mariel Vilella, Director of Global Climate Program

The IPCC’s Mitigation report (formally, the 6th Assessment Report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has just been released. 

Again, we’re reminded that the climate emergency is accelerating: there is very little time left to avoid exceeding the 1.5C temperature goal, and even small increases beyond that will have increasingly catastrophic impacts. As if on cue, just last week, Earth’s North and South Poles were 30C and 40C above normal at the same time. 

So what should we do about it? Precisely, the mitigation report is all about options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the scientific point of view. Despite the report’s aim to be  “policy relevant” without providing specific policy guidance, it does offer some clues, and reading between the lines, its findings can be translated into action. 

IPCC on waste: the second-largest source of emissions in urban areas

What does the IPCC say about waste? As the report points out, the waste sector remains the largest contributor to urban emissions after the energy sector, even in low-carbon cities. 

Urban areas themselves represent the lion’s share of global emissions, and it’s increasing: despite there being large variations in emissions from urban areas across countries and regions, its share of GHG emissions increased for all regions and globally between 2000 and 2015. 

Amongst rich countries (in UN’s language called ‘developed countries’, the urban share of total emissions increased from 60% in 2000 to 67% in 2015. The most significant change in emission metrics occurred in Asia and Developing Pacific and Developed Countries regions. 

Moreover, the expected growth of cities under a business-as-usual scenario could more than double annual resource requirements for raw materials to 90 billion tonnes per year by 2050, up from 40 billion tonnes in 2010, which in itself will increase GHG emissions too. 

As the IPCC says, cities can reduce GHG emissions significantly, but this requires systemic transformation: circular economy, inclusion and equity, and innovative technologies are some of the key elements in conjunction with other strategies that can contribute towards low and net-zero urban development. 

This is precisely where zero waste strategies can make a difference. It will require a coordinated integration of all sectors, strategies, and innovations including cities in developing countries. 

Here, we highlight the five key takeaways from this report that are relevant for the decarbonisation agenda of cities and what opportunities can be seized by working on the waste sector:

1. Enhancing the circular economy in cities from a systemic perspective. 

For one thing, the potential of the circular economy to reduce emissions is huge. A circular economy, of course, is one that eliminates waste by upstream measures (source reduction) or reusing, composting, or recycling everything. Circular economies reduce emissions through reduced demand for raw materials and processing as well as eliminating emissions from waste management. If Shanghai just recycled everything it could, it would reduce CO2 emissions by 16.8 million tonnes per year. 

Achieving a circular economy requires not just one intervention but a systemic rethink of how we use materials, and this is why the IPCC puts a lot of emphasis on systemic change. Net zero for cities is possible despite rapid urbanization, but it won’t happen with more of the same kinds of interventions we have seen so far – landfills and incinerators. Instead, wide-ranging, integrated strategies are required that link material use and efficiency to energy use and generation, land use patterns, and by linking urban and rural areas. One example of this is returning compost, and its valuable nutrients, to the farms that feed cities. 

2. Methane emissions from waste: low-hanging fruit to make cities more climate-friendly. 

Tackling methane, the second-most important GHG after CO2  responsible for about 0.5°C of warming today, is a low-hanging fruit for reducing climate change emissions in urban areas. Methane is a very potent but short-lived gas, so it offers some of the most promising opportunities to reduce emissions in the near term. While the IPCC report focuses primarily on carbon dioxide, which is the primary long-run driver of climate change, methane reduction opportunities have been analyzed in the recent report, the Global Methane Assessment

In this report, waste – and particularly organic waste – is prominent: the waste sector is the third largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions and growing rapidly. Fortunately, eliminating landfill methane emissions is relatively cheap – it requires source separation practices and alternative treatments, such as compost. Our recent work indicates that landfill methane emissions can be reduced 96% with simple interventions to keep organics out of landfill. 

Photo courtesy of Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group (BLARG)

3. “Waste-to-energy” incineration: a losing strategy

Unfortunately, when it comes to waste-to-energy, the IPCC report cites industry propaganda rather than solid science. Incineration, pyrolysis, and gasification technologies are incompatible with decarbonization scenarios because they are major emitters of greenhouse gases. Moreover, better alternatives exist both for waste treatment and energy generation. Yet the report does not address these challenges and complexities. 

Waste incineration is the most inefficient and expensive way to generate energy and manage waste. It is the most emissions-intensive form of power generation, emitting 1.7 times as much greenhouse gases (GHGs) per unit of electricity produced compared to coal-fired power plants. The cost of energy generation is nearly four times higher than solar power and onshore wind energy, twice as much as natural gas, and 25 percent more expensive than coal-fired power plants. Despite the carbon-intensive nature of waste incineration, the cement industry — one of the top GHG emitters globallyaims to use alternative fuels to cover 22% of global cement kiln energy usage by 2030. Alarmingly, both waste incineration and co-incineration in cement kilns were included as a climate solution in 39 of 99 recently submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).


Recently, the European Union has excluded waste incineration from its Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and its financial support. In the United States, no new incinerators have been built since 1997. However, waste incineration projects are still rising in developing countries — especially in Asia where Japan promotes waste incinerators through international development projects. Multilateral development banks such as Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have also financed incineration projects in Asia.

4. Plastic is carbon.

The IPCC is very clear in pointing out that the production and consumption of plastics is a problem: “Projections for increasing plastic production (…) do not align with necessary emission reductions.” 

Indeed, plastic has a significant and growing share in the global carbon budget. The global carbon footprint of plastic throughout its full life-cycle was estimated at 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2015, which would grow to 6.5 billion tonnes CO2e (equivalent to annual emissions from nearly 1,640 coal-fired power plants) by 2050, if the production, disposal, and incineration of plastic continue on their present growth trajectories. This also means that, by 2050, emissions from plastic alone will take up over a third of the remaining carbon budget for a 1.5 °C target. GHG emissions from plastics production are around 2 tons CO2e per ton of plastic produced. 

This is the first time that the IPCC has addressed plastic, and it has issued a clear call to reduce the amount of plastic produced: governments should take heed. 

5. How to achieve all this? Governance, finance, technology and inclusion of waste pickers.

Press Conference at Dandoro dumpsite in Kenya on International Waste Pickers’ Day March 1, 2022

The IPCC makes it clear that cities need institutional and management capacity as much as they do access to finance and technology. Waste management is a case in point: the solutions – source separated-collection, composting and recycling, bans on problematic products and packaging – are not sophisticated but do require city administrations to work with their citizenry. 

In the waste sector, improved governance can open up opportunities to recognize and integrate the informal sector into improved waste management practices, which the IPCC report also acknowledges. Waste management is an important  pathway for inclusion of the informal sector into the urban economy. 

This is an important source of “co-benefits” such as greater employment, social integration, reduced pollution, poverty reduction. In this sense, even measures related to waste can be primarily aimed at urban climate change mitigation, they can also offer adaptation benefits and enhance urban resilience. 

In sum, the IPCC report on mitigation reminds us that the waste sector provides an enormous opportunity to cut climate emissions quickly and cheaply while building resilience, creating good jobs, and promoting thriving local economies. Cities committed to a zero waste goal are demonstrating all over the world that cutting emissions in the waste sector is feasible and desirable – and we just need to do a lot more of it. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 31 MARCH, 2022

The quickest and most cost-effective action which governments can take to cut methane emissions and deliver on the Global Methane Pledge are set out in a new report released by environmental groups today. The plan compiled by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Changing Markets Foundation, and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) provides a benchmark against which national action can be measured.

The importance of cutting non-CO2 emissions such as methane is expected to be highlighted in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate solutions report due out on 4th April.  

More than 110 countries have signed the ‘Global Methane Pledge,’ a promise to reduce worldwide emissions of methane by 30% by 2030, relative to 2020 levels. However the pledge falls short of the 45% reduction which the UN estimates is needed to  limit global heating to 1.5C and none of the governments have set out comprehensive plans to cut emissions across all three sectors and action within each sector is patchy. 

Professor Robert Howarth, Earth Systems scientist at Cornell University said

“This report shows that there are many cheap and effective ways of cutting methane emissions – from investing in energy efficiency and renewables, to supporting a shift to healthier diets with less and better meat and dairy, and eliminating waste. Tackling methane is the low hanging fruit of climate action which governments need to grasp if we are to have a chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C.” 

The report, ‘Methane Matters,’ outlines the steps governments can take to cut emissions from the three main sources linked to human activity: agriculture (40% of emissions), energy (35%) and waste (20%):

  • Agriculture: Few countries have targets or policies to tackle methane emissions from livestock production even though the sector is responsible for 32% of global emissions and rising. Governments’ largely focus on technical fixes, such as animal feed additives, that can reduce emissions by 30 million tons a year by 2030. They ignore policies which encourage healthier diets with less and better meat and dairy which could cut emissions by 80 million tons a year over the next few decades  – and deliver over half the cuts needed to avoid 0.3C of global heating by the 2040s.
  • Energy:  While some governments are taking steps to reduce methane emissions, overall progress is slow and lacks ambition, and requires a fundamental shift in thinking. Methane mitigation coupled with a swift deployment of clean and efficient technologies could reduce emissions by around 75% between 2020 and 2030.  More than 80% of mitigation measures can be implemented at negative or low cost using existing technologies and practices and by applying regulation to both the production and import of energy. EU imports of oil and gas in 2020 were responsible for 10 times more methane than the energy produced within the EU.  
  • Waste: Over a half of countries with national climate plans have failed to include measures to cut emissions from organic waste. Emissions from solid waste – the biggest source of methane in the sector – can be cut by as much as 95% by 2030 through low cost, scalable and easy to implement measures focused on waste prevention and the separation and treatment of organic waste. Composting alone could reduce solid waste methane emissions by 78% by 2030. Successful examples include South Korea where 95% of all food discards are composted or used in animal feed or biofuel production thanks to initiatives such as a pay-as-you-throw law. 

Mariel Vilella, Director of Global Climate Program, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said:

“On a rapidly warming planet, we don’t have time to keep burning and burying our waste. By tackling the waste sector, governments will get fast results using some of the easiest and most affordable methane reduction strategies available. Zero waste strategies not only draw down methane, but can build climate resilience, create more and better jobs, reduce waste management costs, and support a thriving circular economy. While business as usual — incineration and energy production from waste — is a recipe for disaster, cities around the world are already reaping the benefits of organic waste prevention and composting.”

Methane is responsible for almost a quarter of human-caused warming to date, and concentrations are increasing faster now than at any time since the 1980s. The short lived but potent greenhouse gas has 82.5 times more warming potential than CO2 over a 20-year timespan but degrades in just 12 years..   As a result a  45% cut in methane emissions could reduce global heating by 0.3°C in the next decade – buying much needed time for longer term measures to kick in.  

The report also highlights wider benefits of tackling methane emissions including secure supplies of energy, a reduction in pollution and deforestation, the creation of millions of new jobs, and better public health. For example, because methane contributes to the formation of  ground-level ozone, a 45% cut in emissions could help prevent 255,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits each year.

Marcello Mena, CEO of the The Global Methane Hub, a $330 million philanthropic initiative to reduce global methane emissions said: 

“This new report reminds us that we must deliver,  and go beyond,  the Global Methane Pledge to ensure that we keep warming under 1.5 degrees in the short-term. The sector-by-sector analysis of what must be done provides a clear roadmap that we must implement urgently. It is also a call for deeper, more transformational change. The Global Methane Hub will support countries and partners that want to lead the way on methane mitigation.”

Contact

Claire Arkin, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), claire@no-burn.org, +1 973 444 4869  (based in US)

Nusa Urbancic, Changing Markets Foundation, nusa.urbancic@changingmarkets.org, +44 7479 015909 (based in UK)

Paul Newman, Environmental Investigation Agency, paulnewman@eia-international.org, +44 2 73 54 79 83 (based in UK)

Note to editor

Methane Matters: A comprehensive approach to methane mitigation is available here.

There will be a webinar discussing the report’s insights on April 12th at 4pm GMT featuring Marcelo Mena, CEO of the Global Methane Hub.  You can register here. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate mitigation will be published on 4 April.

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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. 

 

Under the cover of “net zero,” the plastics and petrochemical industry is trying to greenwash expanded plastic production. Plastic is carbon. It is bad for climate change and could never be a part of any realistic solution. “Net zero” plans have many false claims to make fossil fuels “emission-free,” but they will only allow corporations to continue harming communities and the environment. The risks of these false “net zero” narratives are rising rapidly as the oil and gas industry continues investing billions to make plastic production its financial timeline.