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The Climate Footprint of Plastics: Search for Solutions in Asia, Europe, and the United States



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When most people think of plastic waste they might picture discarded bottles on the ground or straws in the sea, but along the entire supply chain—from oil extraction and manufacturing to disposal—single-use plastic packaging waste is emitting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. The Center for International Environmental Law estimates that without drastic steps to reign in plastic use, by 2050, up to 13 percent of our total remaining carbon budget will be used up by plastics. The International Energy Agency predicts that petrochemicals, including plastic, will account for 45% of the growth in oil and gas mining from 2018 to 2040. A growing number of researchers and activists are warning that the world must drastically reduce single-use plastic production and consumption to keep the earth from warming beyond the 1.5°C target.

At this China Environment Forum, speakers will delve into market changes, policies, lawsuits and technologies critical to reducing virgin plastic resin and plastic waste. Starting with Carroll Muffett (CIEL) who will outline the often hidden sources of carbon emissions along the plastic lifecycle. Next, Von Hernandez (BFFP) will highlight the climate-plastic nexus in Asia and the efforts of groups on the ground to counter the false solutions being promoted by corporate polluters to justify the continuing production and use of throwaway plastic. Alice Mah (University of Warwick) will share her research into the environmental and social impact of the growing petrochemical pollution in China’s Yangtze River Basin. Rosa Pritchard (Client Earth) will report on her organization’s work pushing for new laws that limit unnecessary single-use plastics and bringing legal cases in Europe that make plastic producers responsible for the environmental costs of dealing with plastic waste.
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