COP 27: There is more plastic in the oceans than fish!

The main stated goals were to set more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to discuss measures to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, and to increase funding for climate action. While some disappointments remain, notable progress has been made towards achieving these goals.

However, broader environmental issues have not received sufficient attention, so COP26 has not resulted in any international commitments to biodiversity. While the promise to stop deforestation by 2030 is welcome, we believe that preserving natural habitats is key to being able to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

The lack of progress on these issues is a big disappointment. Issues such as food waste, plastic pollution and waste management are important.

The facts are harsh. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fishone . The total mass of plastic will be twice the mass of all living mammals, and 80% of all plastic ever produced will be in the environment.2 . Plastic waste is not only ingested by marine life: on average, a person eats five grams of plastic per week, which is equivalent to a credit card.3 . In total, almost a million people die every year from plastic pollution.4 .

The issue of plastic pollution may eventually become as important as the issue of carbon emissions. However, it does not attract the same amount of attention, as it is mistakenly considered a distant affair.

But it’s not a subject that wins votes. Remember the last time you heard a politician talk about sea or ocean pollution? Most likely, he was reacting to the shocking footage of the oil spill. The need to act was clear and urgent, and there was intense pressure from the press.

However, these are isolated cases that hardly reflect the true scale of the problem we are facing. Every year, plastic causes 13 billion euros of damage to global marine ecosystems and 630 million euros of annual losses to tourism and EU coastal communities.5 .

And the situation will only get worse as the World Bank expects the amount of municipal solid waste on the planet to double within 15 years, with single-use plastic being the main cause.

The time has come for the COP to try to properly address these global environmental issues. Do we want the sea and its inhabitants to suffocate from plastic waste? By ignoring these issues, we may succeed in keeping the planet below 1.5 degrees warming, only to find that we have turned it into a garbage dump.

Expanding the debate towards biodiversity and waste reduction commitments can no longer be put off, but must be acted upon without delay. The COP is the only body with the size and clout to make meaningful progress on an issue that governments have for too long considered a distant problem.

Hans Stother, head of Global Core Investments.

[1] European Parliament – Plastic in the ocean: facts, consequences and new EU rules | News | European Parliament (europa.eu)

[2] Stockholm Sustainability Center – Safe planetary limit for pollutants including plastics exceeded, researchers say – Stockholm Sustainability Center

[3] WWF – Found: People swallowing plastic can be likened to a credit card a week – WWF-Australia – WWF-Australia

[4] Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International, WasteAid and Institute for Development Research – No Time to Lose: Fighting the Plastic Pollution Crisis Before It’s Too Late

[5] European Commission – Turning the tide on single-use plastic – EU Publications Office (europa.eu)

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