Our team consists of over 150 years of experience in so many industries, we’ve lost count. Read their takes on important conversations and topics below.
COP26 has officially wrapped. A lot happened in two weeks, some step forwards and some steps back. Our team decided to recap highlights what really stood out to us.
The 26th annual COP concluded earlier this month and we wanted to highlight some of our takeaways from this historical conference.
Why was COP26 so important?
We are at a critical time in the fight against climate change. With temperatures currently sitting at 1.1℃ warmer than pre-industrial levels, it was undeniably important that world leaders came together to find ways to keep 1.5℃ alive through negotiations, commitments and pledges. Science proves that if our world warms past 1.5℃, there will be catastrophic and irreversible events. COP26 was also the first ratchet marker for nations who all agreed at COP21 (Paris) to re-evaluate their efforts every five years.
What were the results of COP26?
People have praised and criticized the outcomes of COP26 - however, one major result was the Glasgow Climate Pact. Similar to the Paris Accord, the Glasgow Climate Pact is an agreement based on two weeks of intense negotiations between 197 nations and organizations. The agreement includes the commitment to phase down (more on that below) the use of unabated coal, the consensus to re-visit climate action plans at COP27 with more aggressive targets, larger financial commitments from developed countries, and many other pledges from world leaders.
Although COP26 was the most aggressive form of COP talks since their inception, Climate Action Tracker shows that even if all COP26 commitments were executed the world is still on track to warm by 2.1℃.
Below we've outlined five takeaways that stood out to our team from the conference.
Coal is the single largest contributor to global warming. According to the End Coal Organization, burning coal is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide and accounts for 72% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector.
COP26 was the first time coal was named in an official COP declaration, it was the first time countries listed a fossil fuel as a major contributor to global warming and signifies that science took the forefront of discussions at COP26. This was a huge step in the right direction but more action needs to be taken.
At the end of COP26, there was a last-minute phrase change that switched "phasing OUT" coal with "phasing DOWN". Both India and China opposed the original wording.
The consensus is the world needs to transition to a clean and renewable energy economy but there need to be market and investment incentives to do so.
Commitments made at COP26:
There are many reasons why we need to prioritize halting deforestation. First, releasing CO₂ has the same effect on global warming no matter it comes from, whether it's from extracting fossil fuels or cutting down forests. Second, forests absorb and store CO₂! PNAS estimates that forests absorb up to 20% of emissions from the atmosphere each year.
Commitments made at COP26:
Simply put, climate adaptation means adapting our lives, behaviours and systems to protect our families, economies and our planet from the effects of climate change.
Climate adaptation can be pricey, especially for developing countries, so it's become essential that climate change funds work to reduce global warming and help ready individuals, businesses and countries for the life-threatening impacts of climate change (i.e. drought, wildfires, flooding, rising sea levels, etc.).
Although there were significant pledges made at COP26, one major concern is that there still isn't a program for hard-hit countries to receive financial aid for climate change losses and damages that occur as a result of actions, or non-actions, by major polluters countries like the USA and China.
Commitments made at COP26:
Climate change comes with a big price tag. One of the top goals for COP26 was how to mobilize finances from developed countries to countries that desperately need funds as they transition to a clean economy and prepare for the impacts of global warming (adaptation).
At COP15, developed countries pledged to mobilize USD $100 billion a year for developing countries by 2020, but this goal has not been met. In 2019, only around USD $80 million was sent to developing countries, up from USD $78 billion in 2018.
Commitments made at COP26:
COP26 was the first ratchet for nations post-COP21 that required updated climate plans from countries every five years, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. However, at COP26 world leaders agreed to launch an ANNUAL checkpoint process moving forward, rather than every five years. This signals a global understanding of the urgency to keep each other accountable and the need to revisit and increase efforts yearly if needed. This annual process will include detailed reporting, which will be peer-reviewed, and the requirement to increase NDCs (pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change) if they are too weak.
A new international board was also instated. The International Sustainability Standard Board will develop a comprehensive global baseline for sustainability reporting so everyone is on the same page.
World leaders also agreed to adopt the Enhanced Transparency Framework under the Paris Agreement that will see ALL countries reporting their national emissions and their progress towards achieving their NDCs every two years after 2024.
So many pledges made, so many 'agreements' signed, but what now? While COP26 had an urgency to it and the general consensus is we are headed in the right direction, the gap to make substantial change is quickly deteriorating. The time to take concrete action is now!
We understand the urgent need to change the way items around the world are extracted, produced and discarded in order to keep 1.5℃ alive. That's why our products and solutions are designed to have an immediate impact while supporting goals for long-term change. At Smart Plastic, we aren't promising solutions for 5, 10 or 20 years down the line. We're delivering tangible, sustainable products NOW.
Nearly half of of women's clothes for sale on some of the leading online websites are made entirely from new plastics, according to a study.
The BBC writes on June 11, 2021, Half of fast fashion made of new plastics, finds report.
Research completed by Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) found on average 49% of clothing made by Boohoo, Prettylittlething, Missguided and Asos were made of polyester, acrylic, nylon and elastane, with only 3% of those clothes containing recycled plastics.
Researchers have created a plant-based, sustainable, scalable material that could replace single-use plastics in many consumer products.
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News writes: Plant-Based, Sustainable, Scalable “Spider Silk” Provides Plastic Alternative.
The strongest material on the planet, spider silk, is the inspiration behind a new plant-based plastic alternative, removing the challenges that come with the micro and nano structures of traditional plant-based plastic. This new, energy efficient method mimics spider silk on a molecular level and will result in a plastic-like free-standing film that can be composted at home.
The companies that make, sell or rent pallets are working harder than ever to help customers achieve their supply chain sustainability goals.
Bridget McCrea writes for Modern Materials Handling in Supporting the world’s sustainability goals, one pallet at a time:
Pallets are often shared among companies, given a “second life” as retail store fixtures, and often pilfered, only to be yet again reused by the thieves that lifted them. Pallets are also active participants in the circular economy, a system aimed at eliminating waste and continually reusing resources.
End consumers are demanding more transparency when it comes to sustainability measures taken by large-scale organizations. To keep up with this demand and to support sustainable change in supply chains, companies like ORBIS, Litco International and PECO Pallets are implementing circular economy tactics when it comes to creating and recycling pallets.
Dave Ford, Executive Director of Ocean Plastics Leadership Network, writes:
Solving the plastic crisis is urgent. An estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans each year. That’s a garbage truck and a half of plastic every minute of every day. If we delay dramatic action by just five years, an additional 80 million metric tons of plastic will end up in the ocean by 2040 (250 Empire State Buildings worth of trash). Without action, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight.
Led by the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network in partnership with WWF and Greenpeace, this two day event garnered support for a global treaty that would be ambitious enough to match the scale and urgency of the plastic waste problem. Read the four key take aways from the virtual event over on GreenBiz.
After 72 years and billions of interlocking polymer toy bricks, the company finally has an eco-friendly alternative.
Jeremy White writing for Wired:
Each year, more than 380 million metric tons of plastic is produced worldwide. Lego is responsible for 100,000 metric tons of it. This contribution to the annual total is, of course, the result of making its classic children’s toy. Lego’s impact may initially appear to be a sliver of that plastic output, but it still counts. Why? That 100,000 metric tons of polymer was last year turned into 110 billion bricks.
Back in 2015, kids' toys conglomerate Lego announced it would be investing a large sum into a Sustainable Materials Center. Six years later and after testing over 250 PET materials, Lego has confirmed a suitable PET plastic alternative produced from discarded bottles. This discovery, made by a team of 150, is the first brick made from a recycled material that meets most of Lego’s requirements for its standard ABS bricks.
Plastic is found everywhere on the planet: from deserts and mountaintops to deep oceans and Arctic snow.
Stockholm University writing for SciTechDaily:
Current rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse, argues a new study by researchers from Sweden, Norway and Germany published on July 2nd in Science. According to the authors, plastic pollution is a global threat, and actions to drastically reduce emissions of plastic to the environment are “the rational policy response.”
If the world continues on the same path, the amount of plastic dumped in our water ways is expect to double by 2025. We are on the verge of an irreversible tipping point according to a new study by researchers from Sweden, Norway and Germany, and our current waste management systems are no longer adequate to handle the amount of plastic waste consumer culture produces.
Terms such as ‘ethical’ or ‘eco-friendly’ have no legal significance and encourages lack of accountability
This recent article from DownToEarth takes a deeper look at greenwashing in the fashion industry:
The term ‘greenwashing’ was coined by environmentalist Jay Westervelt in 1986 which refers to misleading advertisements or false claims by companies that suggest they are doing more for the environment than they actually are.
Such practices deceive customers with claims that are not backed by evidence and bear social, ethical and environmental repercussions.
Have a read to learn how to identify greenwashing.
Moving from a linear business model to a circular takes time, effort, and trial and error. But it also has its hidden benefits.
Organizations all over the world are starting to see the necessity and potential of implementing circular business models. GreenBiz Group spoke with three companies embracing these practices at GreenBiz 21: REI, IKEA and Eileen Fisher. Whether its reusing, reselling or recycling, each company is adding one or more pillars of the circular economy to their business practices.
Shifting to a circular business model creates opportunities for companies to reach new customers, all while exciting and engaging their loyal base and having a positive impact on the planet. Check out four lessons these companies have learned from adding circular business practices below.
As part of their Mission Possible campaign, edie released this weekly round-up of five of the best sustainability success stories of the week from across the globe.
Each week edie compiles the top five sustainability wins in its Mission Possible: Achieving a Sustainable Future series.
Last week Procter & Gamble announced new packaging for its Gillette brand that will reduce their annual plastic output by 66 metric tonnes. With a goal of halving the amount of virgin plastic Gillette uses by 2030, this switch is a positive step forward. This is a powerful example of how large-scale organizations can implement strategies to reduce plastic waste without sacrificing quality.
Take a look at the other four sustainability success from last week in the article: P&G reduces plastics and record UK wind bids: The sustainability success stories of the week.