The world has changed since our leaders discussed climate change in 2009. It has become even more evident; ravaging crops in Africa, melting ice in the Arctic, drowning the Philippines and drying-up California. The poor are paying the highest price. But ever since super storm Sandy hit New York, even the rich in industrialized countries know that they can´t hide from devastating climate change in their gated communities.
Climate change is not on its way. It’s already here.
People are standing up to polluters, so we put their message on the side of the UN building in NYC, hours before the UN Climate Summit 2014 started. Photo credit: Greenpeace
Yet, cost-effective, sensible solutions have also made quantum leaps since 2009. Clean, renewable energy is getting bigger, better and cheaper every day. It can provide the answers our exhausted planet is looking for. Renewables are the most economical solution for new power capacity in an ever-increasing number of countries. 100 percent of power capacity added in the U.S. last month was renewable and countries like Denmark and Germany are producing new clean electricity records almost every month. In China, real change is under way, too. Not only is China installing as much solar this year as the U.S. has ever done, but their apocalyptic coal boom which drove up global carbon pollution since 2000 is also coming to an end. Things are rapidly changing and the current economic paradigm is no longer impenetrable—the light of reason is starting to shine through its cracks.
If rationality and economics were humanity’s guide to living on this planet, climate action would no longer need summits. The more successful clean energy solutions get, the more they are cutting into the profit margins of those few powerful companies whose business models depends on continued fossil fuel dependency. That's why we agree with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he says “instead of asking if we can afford to act, we should be asking what is stopping us, who is stopping us, and why?” We would add to this another question: for how long?
Today, it is interests of the fossil fuel industries—not technology nor economics—which are the only obstacle to securing a safe future for us and our children on this planet. And they know it, too. When we talk to people at major energy firms these days, they admit in private that they understand the need to transition towards clean energy. But the coal investments that companies like Duke Energy in the US, and Eskom in South Africa have made are holding them back. Worse, because they fear that their massive investments could become stranded (i.e. wasted) assets they are actively lobbying politicians to slow down the clean, people-powered energy revolution that is under way.
Business lobbies such as ALEC in the U.S. or Business Europe in the EU are fighting tooth and nail to prevent progressive climate policies from being adopted. They claim they do this to “protect jobs." But this is an utter lie. We want workers fully involved in a just transition to a clean energy future. But we also know from Greenpeace Energy Revolution analyses over the past decade that renewables and energy efficiency will deliver more jobs than carrying on with dirty energy business as usual. By implementing a step by step energy ®evolution governments can, for example, help businesses create 3.2 million more jobs by 2030 in the global power supply sector alone. In South Africa, to pick just one country, 149,000 direct jobs could be created by 2030. That's 38,000 more than in the current government plan.
Meanwhile, China's turnaround on coal could also change the dynamics in the global climate debate. At the New York City summit, the Chinese government could end the current "you go first" mentality that has poisoned progress during the UN climate talks. Wouldn't it be wonderful if China, emboldened by its domestic actions, were to lead the world to a new global climate agreement by, for example, announcing in New York a peak in their emissions long before 2030?
It's only these kind of bold, concrete commitments that will be acceptable for the New York climate summit. Progressive business leaders need to—as Ban Ki-moon put it, “push back against skeptics and entrenched interests.” They can do so by leaving destructive business lobbies such as ALEC or Business Europe and setting themselves concrete deadlines by which they will run their businesses on 100 percent renewable energy. Governments need to send a clear signal to investors by supporting a phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050.Indeed concrete steps need to be taken now—such as ending the financing of coal fired power plants—to get us there.
The world has changed since 2009. Baby steps are no longer enough. To control runaway climate change, we need to sharply change tack and sail with the wind, not against it with unsustainable fossil fuels.
That's why we marched on the streets of New York, and cities around the world on Sept. 21: to show—alongside tens of thousands of people—that it’s time the polluters got out of the way and let us build a green, just and peaceful future for the generations which follow us.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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