Linkages between climate change and plastic pollution explored at COP28

Source: SPREP

6 December 2023, Dubai, UAE – The plastics pollution crisis is a climate crisis.

This message echoed through the halls of the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion on Day Six of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) as Pacific waste management and pollution control experts and scientists explained the linkages between two of the Triple Planetary Crises – Plastics Pollution and Climate Change.

According to Mr Anthony Talouli, Waste Management and Pollution Control (WMPC) Director at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 99% of plastics production is made with fossil fuels, and plastic waste is just another form of pollution from the fossil fuel industry, along with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Talouli stated in the past, there was hardly any plastic in the Pacific.

“Back then, when you go out to the market to buy your fish, or your taro, or your vegetables, you put it in your basket and take it home. Nowadays, everywhere you go there is plastic. We are not only drowning in climate change, but we are also drowning in plastics,” he said.

“In the Pacific, the ocean is part of our DNA. We don’t want plastics to be part of that DNA.”
Scientists Coalition Steering Committee Member, Mr Rufino Varea, broke down the science in the production of plastics and how every stage of the plastic production cycle, from the making of virgin plastics to resin, and through the entire life cycle of plastics, there are greenhouse gas emissions involved.

“This has been closely linked to the climate crisis and to biodiversity loss, the other two of the Triple Planetary Crises we face today,” he added.

Mr Varea also stated that once plastics get into the environment, they break down into micro and nano-plastics, and this is where they get much worse.

“In the Pacific Islands, we have found plastics in all environmental compartments – from water, to sediments, and even in food. In fish and shellfish, we found in majority of the samples we collected that they contained microplastics. This is particularly worrying as these microplastics contain oil particles that leech into the food.”

“A plethora of human health risks are associated with plastics exposure.”

Mr Tim Gabriel, Senior Lawyer and Policy Adviser with the Environmental Investigation Agency when speaking of the linkages between a Plastics Treaty and the Paris Agreement, said that with the world having just experienced the hottest months and year in recorded history, it would be the definition of insanity to negotiate a plastics treaty that is not aligned with 1.5.

He stated that the Chair produced a Zero Draft of the Treaty, which included an article on primary plastic polymers, due in great part to the support of many countries. But just as there is a lot of support, there is also strong opposition from countries that produce oil and gas.

SPREP Director General, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, expressed that just as Pacific Island countries are at the frontlines of the plastic pollution crisis and the climate crisis, we also need to be at the frontline of demanding that action  be taken, and that action needs to be coordinated and applied across the board.

“We need to stand up and say that this is something that we have to have a voice in, and we need to be valued the same as the rest of the world in order for us safeguard our communities and our environment.”

“We can take the lessons we are learning from the UNFCCCC process in terms of the Global Stocktake and apply that to the INC process, in setting binding targets to address any impasse we may face of countries failing to agree on how to measure themselves against the targets they set when they adopted the Paris Agreement,” Mr Nawadra concluded.

Source: SPREP