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April 22, 2024

Researchers on How to End Global Plastics Crisis & Tackle Climate Change

Success at Ottawa Negotiations Hinges on Strong U.S. Leadership and Legally-binding Measures to Slash Plastic Pollution; New UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley Data Reveals Win-win Solutions to Plastic and Climate Crises

Researchers on How to End Global Plastics Crisis & Tackle Climate Change

Next week, negotiators from 175 countries will gather in Ottawa, Canada for the last major round of UN plastics treaty negotiations (April 23-29) before the treaty is finalized — expected in late 2024 in Busan, Korea. Researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara attending the upcoming negotiations in Ottawa are available to:

  • Explain how the U.S. has blocked progress on the negotiations despite President Joe Biden’s commitment to safeguarding nature, tackling the climate crisis, and ensuring environmental justice;
  • Lay out the top policies negotiators must include in the treaty to stymie a projected explosion of plastic pollution in the coming decades;
  • Discuss the role that the plastic treaty can play in tackling the climate crisis;
    • Their research shows that a comprehensive and ambitious plastics treaty could reduce emissions equivalent to taking 168 million cars off the road each year, or approximately equivalent to the carbon footprint of the global aviation sector.
  • Highlight the importance of addressing the disparate impacts of the pollution crisis on the Global North and South and opportunities to mobilize financing; and
  • Offer a play-by-play before, during or after the negotiations of what went on in Ottawa.  

Many of their insights are based on an AI-generated data tool they developed, which was recently updated to include the impact of specific plastics policies on the climate crisis. The plastics treaty negotiations will coincide with Earth Day, April 22, which is being hosted under the theme “Planet vs. Plastics.” 

STATEMENTS/WHO:

Dr. Douglas McCauley, Professor, UC Santa Barbara, Adjunct Professor, UC Berkeley, said:
“President Biden’s commitment to support the environment, climate action, and environmental justice has been very clear. So it’s perplexing that he has shown a lack of leadership on ending plastic pollution in the UN Treaty, which would tackle all three of these fronts. What’s more significant is that addressing plastic pollution is a bipartisan environmental issue: Eight in ten Americans have expressed concern about plastic pollution and called for action.”

Dr. Nivedita Biyani, Researcher on Global Plastic Modeling, Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory, UC Santa Barbara said:
“It is possible to decrease plastic pollution and its associated GHG emissions to near zero by 2050 with the right policy instruments. The research shows that packaging, textile and construction are the biggest consumers of plastic as a raw material under a business-as-usual scenario. The biggest policy levers we can pull are investing in collection and recycling, along with mandating a minimum recycling content percentage to make a dent in the curve."

Neil Nathan, Project Scientist, Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory, UC Santa Barbara said:
“Today, a mountain of plastic pollution is choking our rivers and oceans, essential for a healthy planet. The plastics industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than either the global aviation sector or marine shipping. This treaty presents a monumental opportunity in a time of urgency to not only reduce our dependence on plastic but also to take another step toward our collective climate goals. Legally binding and specific measures are necessary to avoid a watered-down agreement that fails to meet the moment.”

WHEN: Experts are available before, during and after the negotiations in Ottawa, Canada. 

For Interviews: Please contact Alec Caso (acaso@burness.com or +1 310-488-5604 in Washington, D.C.).

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