Report shows expanding plastic industry based on fossil fuels threatens climate change goals

Author: Center for International Environmental Law, Published on: 20 May 2019

"Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet", May 2019

At current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse... Nearly every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each of each stage of the plastic lifecycle... This report examines each of these stages of the plastic lifecycle to identify the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, sources of uncounted emissions, and... how current trends and projections will impact our ability to reach agreed emissions targets... The report includes recommendations for policymakers, governments, nonprofits, funders, and other stakeholders to help stop the expanding carbon emissions of plastic... Stopping the expansion of petrochemical and plastic production and keeping fossil fuels in the ground are a critical element to address the climate crisis... a new Shell ethane cracker being constructed in Pennsylvania could emit up to 2.25 million tons of CO2e each year; a new ethylene plant at ExxonMobil's Baytown, Texas, refinery could release up to 1.4 million tons... Yet they are only two among more than 300 new and expanded petrochemical projects being built in the US alone—primarily for the production of plastic and plastic feedstocks... There are high-priority actions that would meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle and also have positive benefits for social or environmental goals. These include: ending the production and use of single-use, disposable plastic... implementing extended producer responsibility as a critical component of circular economies; and adopting and enforcing ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including plastic production... Nothing short of stopping the expansion of petrochemical and plastic production and keeping fossil fuels in the ground will create the surest and most effective reductions in the climate impacts from the plastic lifecycle.

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Related companies: ExxonMobil Shell