Companies campaigning to end plastic waste ‘investing billions in new plants’

This week a number of firms announced their impending collaboration surrounding plans to tackle plastic pollution, while also being the world’s biggest investors in new plastic production plants.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of these companies: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

According to a European NGO Recycling Netwerk, the companies have invested an estimated £778m in reducing plastic pollution, and yet have tens of billions dependent upon the industry increasing in production over the next decade.

“The signatories claim to invest over a billion dollars to “end plastic waste”. But an overview of pending investments in the expansion of plastic production, quickly reveals the hypocrisy of the Alliance. Without tackling the production of plastic at its source, all clean-up efforts will be in vain”, Said the NGO. Click this link and scroll down to see the list of investments from each company.

ExxonMobil has begun production on a new polyethylene line in Texas, which will produce 650,000 tons per year. Shell plan to build a new plastic plant in Pennsylvania, which will turn shale gas into 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year. Given these investments, the Alliance appears to be nothing more than a ‘greenwashing’ operation.

Since 2010, fossil fuel companies have invested more than $180 billion in new fracking facilities, or ‘cracking’ as it is known, which will increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.

Rob Buurman, the director of Recycling Netwerk, said: “It is interesting to see [the plastics industry] finally acknowledge that there is a problem with their plastics. But unfortunately, this initiative does not tackle the problem at its source: the gigantic production of 400 million tonnes of plastic each year, with 60 million metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”

It is estimated that each year around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the sea. This plastic goes on to choke, infect, and kill multiple marine creatures, and can destroy habitats.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.

“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”

While both arguments are valid, it must be stressed that trust cannot be placed in the hands of big business. It has been a neoliberal con that has placed the consumer as the one who is to blame for plastic pollution. Public opinion in recent years, especially, 2018 has changed for the better, and yet it leads to organisations such as the Alliance To End Plastic Waste which talk of progressive change, but mask realities.

Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, said: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. In 2018 people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis, urging the industry to invest in refill and reuse systems and innovation. Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants Exxon, Dow and Total [which] fuel destructive climate change.”

“Make no mistake, plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and this announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

With many of the investments of these companies being linked to fracking, we cannot view an organisation like the Alliance as an inherently good thing, and must ask the question, are these apparent progressive environmental campaigns a costly but effective way of disguising and safeguarding future plastic investment and production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Completely inconsistent” EU coal deal fails to deal with coal subsidies

Analysts have stated that an EU deal to phase out coal subsidies within the Paris Climate Agreement is “completely inconsistent”.

Negotiations at COP24 ended on Wednesday. A benchmark CO2 emissions standard of 550 grams per kWh for all European power plants has been set, with limitations set to be in effect by 2025. Unfortunately, a loophole has been secured by Poland, a coal-dependent country, which allows countries another year to negotiate new ‘capacity mechanisms’ that would be exempt from the deadline. This may allow for unprofitable coal plants to keep operating until 2035, which is five years after the projected cut-off for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Continued support for coal as just agreed by the EU is completely inconsistent with meeting the Paris agreement goals and in particular with limiting warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels].” said Bill Hare, the director of the Climate Analytics thinktank. “It appears to be a de facto rejection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding that coal needs to exit the power sector rapidly. In the EU this means by 2030.”

After the deal was signed, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, tweeted “A more flexible market will facilitate the integration of more renewables. We also limit capacity mechanisms and #support5050 to move #BeyondCoal. #CleanEnergyEU completed.”

https://twitter.com/MAC_europa/status/1075184954357805057

This has not been met with universal support. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace have said that the proposed capacity mechanisms and stay of execution for subsidies levied on the coal industry showed unequivocally that many EU governments were still not fully serious about or dedicated to tackling climate breakdown.

The deal “will help the transformation to cleaner electricity production” said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš. “It will open up more competition in electricity across the EU border – good for the climate and good for the wallet”.

Green MEP Florent Marcellesi said that the delayed introductions of an emissions standard guaranteed “a free licence to go on polluting despite the impact on climate and public health”, meaning that the deal is ‘insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The cost-optimal pathways show that to be in line with the Paris Agreement, the OECD and EU countries need to phase out coal the fastest – by 2030. China would need to phase out coal around 2040, and the rest of the world by 2050.”

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Image taken from Climate Analytics

 

US donations to climate science denial organisations threatens UK environmental protection

During 2017, the United Kingdom’s major climate-science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, (follow the link for an accurate description by DeSmog), recieved $177,001 in ‘grants and gifts’. At the time of writing, this is worth £137,900. These numbers were shown in the tax returns filed by the GWPF’s US-fundraising group, American Friends of the GWPF.

Another right-wing thinktanks, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, recieved around £223,300 from US-based donors within the last five years. An article published by the Guardian described the Taxpayer’s Alliance as “an “independent grassroots campaign” that speaks “for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government”. It keeps its donors secret, saying it respects their privacy.”

These two organisations, along with seven other right-wing thinktanks, were allegedly coordinating amongst themselves in order to push for a hard Brexit, a ruling that would have spelled disaster for UK environmentalists.

All this raises the concerns surrounding the influence of foreign money on issues surrounding environmentalism, such as when lobby groups push to cut regulations in order to implement trade deals with countries that have been named as major polluters. This was part of an alternative ‘Plan A+’ Brexit plan published in September backed by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary David Davis. The report singled out environmental protection regulation as one that is “damaging to growth” and is “moving in an anti-competitive direction”.

Those behind the alternative Brexit plan see themselves as “supportive of environmental protection”, yet see aspects of the protection, the regulations that enforce that protection themselves as leading to the “increases in costs for many companies”. We see this as direct and willing hypocrisy. The plan describes environmental regulations as “somtimes valid attempts to deal with real environmental problems”, and that “frequently they are disguised methods of protectionism”.

The donations that the GWPF received are seen as a significant increase since the previous year. The tax regulations set up in the US require that the organisation declare how much it received, but holds no rules set up that require the source of the donations be included.

In an article recently published by  DeSmog, it was revealed just how much the network of US libertarian climate science denial campaign groups pushing for environmental derergulation post-Brexit, including the Heartland Institute and the Cato Institute, had increased their European activities coinciding with the time of the Brexit referendum.

“Brexit negotiations have created a policy vacuum at the very top of the UK government” stated the article, which in turn allows the space for the policies and ideas of these right-wing thinktanks to gain traction, pushing their ideologies through the donations of rich investors.

“As a result, powerful private lobbies have strived to fill that vacuum and advocated to slash regulation and environmental protection post-Brexit in order to strike trade deals. This includes the Koch brothers, the Mercer family and the Atlas network”.

It was estimated by Greenpeace that the Koch brothers had “sent at least $100,343,292 directly to 84 groups denying climate change science since 1997.”.

The prospect of the Brexit deal, recently put in place by Theresa May, has seemingly increased the amount of lobbying these organisations have been doing. Greenpeace’s Unearthed recently exposed the extent of influence this group, a group which in the UK bases itself in Tufton Street in London, has on cabinet members, including current environment minister Michael Gove.

The UK government has been warned that its environmental laws could be left suffering with “gaping holes”, allowing “polluters to go unpunished and depriving wildlife of vital protection after Brexit”. MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee found that the government had still not committed to replacing roughly a third of all environmental rules that cannot be transferred from the EU into UK law after Brexit. These laws cover air, water, chemicals, and waste disposal. While this gap remains, right-wing thinktanks use the aforementioned donations to weaken environmental regulation in the UK.

It is unfortunate that, as the contributors of these amounts are not obligated to reveal themselves, huge private interests are disguised, and will carry on presenting themselves as proponents and defenders of free-market ideology, all the while justifying the fore-planned dismantling of the United Kingdom’s environmental protection policies.