Climate, Energy & Air Pollution

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Climate, Energy & Air Pollution 2017-05-15T10:03:03+00:00

Climate, Energy & Air Pollution

2015 was a massive year for climate campaigning. With the COP21 climate summit taking place in Paris in December, this set the tone for much of the year. Our work on the potential for zero waste to contribute to a low carbon economy was ground-breaking and made it possible to demonstrate the true climate impact of waste management.

The lead up to the Paris COP21 was jump-started by the release of our new commissioned report produced with environmental consultants Eunomia. This report, released in partnership with ACR+ and Zero Waste France, emphasised the importance of solutions from higher up the Waste Hierarchy having significantly more impact in the prevention of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Our work to increase the understanding about the connections between waste and climate change centred on the massive impact that zero waste solutions can have for the creation of a low-carbon economy. In September we launched a series of blog posts in the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit laying out how zero waste strategies contribute to mitigate climate change and build resilient local economies with case studies in four different regions of the world, groundbreaking composting schemes in Brazil, the amazing progress towards zero waste made in Kerala, India, recycling workers the United States organising for a better livelihood, and the Alternatiba festival in Paris, France highlighting alternatives and zero waste solutions to climate change.

We also provided analysis and further accountability to the flows of European climate finance to the waste sector in the Global South, frequently misdirected to support the burning of waste in incinerators or cement plants. Our investigation focused on NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action), in Costa Rica, India and Colombia, showing that there is a need to ensure that climate finance supports truly sustainable, low-carbon and toxic-free options in the waste sector.

In this way, we continued to challenge false solutions to climate change, such as extreme & dirty energy from waste, often proposed as a ‘green-washing’ of incineration technology with so-called ‘Waste-to-Energy’ incineration.

In the run-up to the COP21, we were able to highlight the continued threat to air quality caused by incinerators and cement kiln co-incineration, often promoted as “solutions” to climate change. In November we produced a report documenting multiple breaches of legally defined emission limits, limits which are already significantly higher than recommended safety limits by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report included cases studies that illustrate air pollution standard breaches took place in at least 5 incineration facilities across Europe, presenting potential environmental and public health safety risks, particularly for surrounding communities. This report was released in the context of the Second International Gathering Against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns, celebrated in Montcada I Reixach (Catalonia) and co-organised with the local organisation Montcada Aire Net.

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Our presence in the Paris Climate negotiations opened with the conference ‘Zero Waste: A Key Solution Pathway for a Low Carbon Economy‘, kindly hosted by Zero Waste France. The event brought together high-level policy makers, cutting-edge researchers, visionary local leaders, recycling and reuse workers and entrepreneurs, showing both the theory and practice of zero waste strategies as climate solutions.

Whilst in Paris we also co-organised the international gathering of the GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives) network, along with Zero Waste France. This gathering saw 80 participants from 35 countries coming together to share strategy and tactics across regions about how to best tackle harmful and destructive waste management practice and extreme energy, whilst promoting zero waste alternatives.

Moreover during the COP, we organised and facilitated talks with waste-pickers from the global south and a number of other groups and individuals, and promoted new research which demonstrates the extraordinary potential of compost to reduce green house gas emissions and increase the fertility of soils. We simultaneously opposed the greenwashing attempts inside the COP21 where the incineration industry attempted to downplay their impact as polluters, as well as actively confronting ongoing incineration projects in Paris, with the proposed redevelopment of the Ivry Incinerator.

Back to 2015 Impact Report