With year’s end around the corner many are wondering what 2023 will look like in terms of disasters caused by global warming. Deforestation continues, floods and droughts are now a constant around the world. Many keep wanting to fly and enjoy their vacation without having to think about their carbon footprint. It’s easier, it doesn’t make us feel guilty. Because the alternative is being confronted with numbers showing that carbon emissions keep growing.
Is the outlook just gloom? Here are three positive points that could offer some hope.
1. Tackling plastic pollution
In March of this year, representatives of the 175 countries participating in the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) agreed to create the first legally binding international treaty against plastic pollution. After several years of negotiations and declarations, a resolution has been adopted establishing the intergovernmental committee that will begin drafting the treaty in June. The intention is that the work will be completed by the end of 2024 so that the process of ratification by the countries of this pact to combat the growing plastic pollution can begin.
Some experts believe this to be the most important international environmental pact that has been reached since the Paris Agreement against climate change was concluded in December 2015. And in a way what has now been agreed in Nairobi maintains the spirit of the historic pact against warming, because it is based on the countries that ratify it submitting national plans to combat plastic pollution.
Global plastic production has doubled in just two decades to 461.1 million tons in 2021. It is expected to double again by 2040 if the production of a material that is very cheap, has a very low recycling rate – barely 9% of the waste of this type collected in the world – and generates a high impact on nature is not stopped: more than 140 million tons of plastic waste are already polluting the rivers, lakes and seas of the planet, as a recent OECD report warned.
Several countries have been taking specific measures against plastic bags, packaging and some single-use products for years. But within the UN the idea is widespread that it is necessary to create a global and legally binding instrument to combat this global problem. Because plastic waste travels from one country to another and discharges into rivers and seas occur on many occasions thousands of kilometers away from where this material has been used.
Many resolutions, which passed since 2014 at the United Nations, supported the creation of the treaty against plastic pollution. The text that has finally been adopted at the UNEA urges that commission to “develop a legally binding international instrument”, with “binding and voluntary” measures, addressing the “full life cycle of plastic”. This reference to the full life cycle has been one of the most difficult issues to close, as it opens the door not only to addressing measures against pollution already generated, but also to limiting the production of virgin plastic, which many analysts consider key.
The low cost of manufacturing this petroleum-derived material is one of the reasons why the global recycling rate is so low, which in turn leads to plastic waste ending up in landfills, incinerated or polluting the environment. In 2019 alone around 22 million tons of plastic waste ended up in the environment.
The adopted resolution calls for this intergovernmental committee to set the concrete objectives of the future treaty. But it specifies that it should promote “national and international cooperative measures to reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment, including existing plastic pollution.” It should also call for the development and updating of “national action plans” on the prevention, reduction and elimination of this type of pollution. In addition, it is proposed to “periodically evaluate the progress of the implementation” of the agreement.
2. Achievements at COP27
China and the United States resumed their dialogue on combating climate change, adaptation to improve the resilience of four billion people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.
African nations, which announced a carbon market partnership, took advantage of the largely untapped innovative financing model that the COP negotiations allow to monetize avoided or reduced emissions through carbon markets. According to the World Economic Forum, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, countries can work together to raise funds for much-needed decarbonization and adaptation projects by trading carbon credits on regional or international markets.
Congratulations to Indonesia and the International Partner Group 🇯🇵 🇨🇦 🇩🇰 🇪🇺 🇫🇷 🇩🇪 🇮🇹 🇳🇴 🇬🇧 on the announcement of Indonesia’s Just Energy Transition Partnership. pic.twitter.com/sNqnl2Q0Q3— Secretary Janet Yellen (@SecYellen) November 15, 2022
At the G20, which was held on the sidelines of COP27, the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership was launched to help finance the energy transition. This is important because coal contributes three-quarters of the power sector’s CO2 emissions and coal needs to be phased out almost six times faster than it has been in the last five years to align the power sector with a global average temperature rise well below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
3. US to make historic investment in fight against climate change
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 makes the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, securing America’s position as a world leader in domestic clean energy manufacturing, and putting the United States on a pathway to achieving the Biden Administration’s climate goals, including a net-zero economy by 2050.
Within its energy and climate provisions, IRA appropriates approximately $11.7 billion in total for the Loan Programs Office (LPO) to support issuing new loans. These amounts increase loan authority in LPO’s existing loan programs by approximately $100 billion. The IRA also adds a new loan program, the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment (EIR) Program (section 1706), to help retool, re-power, repurpose, or replace energy infrastructure that has ceased operations or to improve the efficiency of infrastructure that is currently operating.
The Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment Program (#EIR) is a new loan program that reinvests in energy communities while reducing carbon emissions. $5 billion appropriated for this program, @ENERGY LPO can provide financing for up to $250 billion in loans https://t.co/sBbZiTAgJt— Green New Deal VA (@GreenNewDealVA) September 15, 2022
IRA will set aside approximately $11.7 billion in total for LPO to support issuing new loans. These amounts increase LPO’s existing loan programs by approximately $100 billion in new loan authority. The IRA also adds a new loan program, the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment Financing Program (section 1706), which can help repurpose energy infrastructure that has ceased operations or are still operating with a total cap on loans of $250 billion.
Prior to the September 30, 2011 sunset date of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) Section 1705 program, LPO guaranteed $16.1 billion in loans to 25 ARRA projects. These projects supported more than 10,000 jobs and have the capacity to power more than 1 million average American homes annually. Through Fiscal Year 2021, the projects have cumulatively avoided 39.2 million tons of CO2 emissions. And several of the projects that LPO financed have served as springboards to market acceptance for technology sectors that are readily financed by commercial lenders today, such as utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind.