|[Published: Tuesday January 18 2022]
Plastic crisis threatens planet as much as climate change, needs binding treaty, report warns
LONDON, 18 Jan. - (ANA) - Rampant pollution from the overproduction of plastics poses a major threat to the planet’s basic ability to maintain a habitable environment, a new report has warned. It also called for a new UN treaty committing nations to better interventions against the crisis.
The report, published on Tuesday by the Environment Investigation Agency – an international NGO that investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuse – said the threat from plastic pollution is almost equivalent to climate change.
Citing previous studies, the report warned that the emissions of virgin plastic into oceans alone are expected to triple by 2040, threatening the ability of habitats across the planet to sustain life. However, it pointed to the lack of a significant legally-binding global treaty to address rampant plastic pollution.
A recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report titled Making Peace with Nature identified three existential environmental threats – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution – and discusses how they need to be addressed together to achieve sustainability.
The EIA report argues that while two of these threats – biodiversity and climate change – have had dedicated multilateral environmental agreements for about three decades, “no such instrument for plastic yet exists”.
The three environmental crises compete for public and policy attention, “with each crisis having its own band of proponents who insist their crisis is the one most in need of awareness, interest and financial support”. But, the report argued, these do not exist in isolation.
It noted that these three crises are intricately linked, with shared causes and problem drivers, as well as a common root cause – “the overconsumption of finite resources”.
Despite the overlapping connection between plastic production, use, and related greenhouse gas emissions, the report argued that “no mention of plastic was made” in the final Glasgow Climate pact from November 2021 at the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Without serious efforts to curb this pollution, the report warned that by 2040, plastic waste could amount to about 700 million tonnes, and by 2050, the weight of plastic could “far exceed” the weight of fish in every ocean on the planet.
Plastics are about 80 per cent carbon and their manufacturing also involves the burning of large quantities of fossil fuels to provide for the high energy demands of industrial processes. During the recycling and disposal phases, about 12 per cent of all plastic waste ever created has been incinerated – a process that could release new toxic chemicals into the environment such as dioxins produced from burning Poly-Vinyl Chloride.
Some of these toxic chemicals have serious health effects. They can compromise immunity and reproductive systems, cause cancers and impair cognitive functions, even in extremely low doses.
Past estimates suggest that about 80 per cent of all plastic waste ever created is either in the open environment or ends up in a landfill where they continue to leak methane – a powerful greenhouse gas several times more potent than carbon dioxide. - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/18 January 2022 - - -