New report calls for at least 75% reduction of plastics by 2050, reveals dire connection between plastic and climate

Pacific Environment models emissions reduction pathways to keep the plastics sector in compliance with a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature control target
Date: May 25, 2023

In honor of International Plastic Free Day and ahead of the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, Pacific Environment has released a report that underscores the serious threats of plastic pollution, and presents a new global model showing how the plastics and petrochemical industries will need to change in order to stay within the 1.5 degree Celsius target to secure a liveable and sustainable future.

Despite its climate and environmental impacts, plastic production and consumption is still growing. Petrochemicals are the number one driver for global oil demand and will account for half of the oil consumption by 2050 per the International Energy Agency. Given current trends, the life cycle emissions of the plastics sector could exceed  the carbon budget by at least three times by 2050 and comprise 16% of the planetary boundary of 400 Gt CO2e.

This is why action needs to be taken now. Specifically, we must reduce plastic by at least 75% and phase out single-use plastic by 2040 in order to align the plastic industry with the 1.5 degree Celsius climate target.

The report, titled “Stemming the Plastic-Climate Crisis: Paris Alignment for Plastics Requires at least 75% Reduction,” has been released to sound the alarm on plastics and start a discourse at the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) in May 2023 emphasizing the need for a Global Plastics Treaty that actually reduces plastic.

“Plastic is a fossil fuel in a different form,” said Xuejing Chen, Plastics Campaign Manager with Pacific Environment. “Our report highlights the climate threats from plastic pollution, and provides solutions to solving the plastic crisis  The IPCC report was clear: we must stop the use of fossil fuels, including plastics, to avert dangerous warming. This means that we must reduce plastics by at least 75% by 2050, put an end to single-use plastics by 2040, and stop the incineration of plastics.”

The report suggests five areas of focus for a Global Plastics Treaty (1) set science-based reduction targets for plastic within planetary boundaries, (2) measure all plastics emissions and hold the industry accountable, (3) promote and encourage reduce-reuse solutions, (4) Put an end to false solutions, including waste to energy and plastic incineration (including cement kilns), and (5) provide a just transition for waste workers including waste pickers.

  • Attend our side event at INC-2: Pacific Environment is co-organizing the thematic side event “Promoting sustainable consumption and production of plastics” on Monday, May 29, 2023 from 1:30-2:45 p.m., at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Dr. Xuejing Chen will discuss the climate impacts of plastic and other findings in Pacific Environment’s report. Dr. Chen is a member of The Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty and is onsite in Paris to support media and member states inquiries on plastic’s carbon footprint, plastic production emissions, and upstream solutions to avert the plastic and climate crisis.