The highly anticipated Conference of the Parties (COP) climate change summit was held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021. The mission: to galvanise world leaders to commit to new global agreements with the aim of limiting global warming temperatures to 1.5°C. The agreements proposed at COP26, although not legally binding, aim to serve as a catalyst for the world to revaluate its activities and set the tone for active climate change mitigation over the next decade. Disappointingly, waste and recycling was not a focal point of discussion at the conference.
In this piece we review the main outcomes of COP26 and highlight its link to waste and recycling.
Reducing Waste, Reducing Emissions
Current CO2 emission reduction pledges (if met) will only limit global warming to 2.4°C. The Glasgow Climate Pact has challenged world leaders to regroup this year with improved 2030 targets that will help meet the Paris Agreement goal of below 2°C and closer to 1.5°C. The UN has stated that climate plans will be assessed every year, using annual COPs to follow up (and pressure) the world’s nations on their respective commitments.
Talks on the reduction of Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, was also on the agreement. Efforts to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030 has been agreed by more than 100 countries. This highlights the importance of reducing waste to landfill volumes as the waste sector accounts for 20% of global methane emissions.
The end of Coal?
Not quite. Whilst there was an initial agreement to gradually eliminate the world’s reliance on coal, it was later watered down by countries to a “phase down” as opposed to a “phase out” approach. However, on a more positive side, it was the first time fossil fuels have been explicitly included in a UN climate agreement. Perhaps this will set the tone for further discussions on actively lessening our reliance on fossil fuels. Alternative technologies involving energy recovery from waste has been gaining momentum over the past decade. (Read: Will technology be able to stop climate change?)
Deforestation and Recycling
A promise to stop deforestation by 2030 was made by leaders from more than 100 countries. Forest conservation has always been on the climate agenda, but the new pact has a noteworthy budget of $19,2 billion. One of the most effective ways to curb deforestation is recycling. The recycling of paper not only reduces the number of trees harvested, but also limits emissions created during the cutting off trees and the processes involved in creating new products.
Reducing waste and improving recycling in developing nations
Developing nations lack efficient waste management systems. This has led to refuse heaps polluting roadways, water channels and public spaces. This has been further exacerbated by developed nations who have been exporting their waste to lower income nations for decades. This waste is either incinerated or left to degrade in landfills, leading to the generation of potent greenhouse gases such as CO2, Methane and Nitrous Oxides.
For decades, developed nations have exacerbated this problem by sending their waste to lower income nations (Read: Do you know where your waste actually ends up?). This has led to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and droughts occurring more frequently.
Wealthier countries have committed to helping financially strapped developing nations cope with the devastating impacts of climate change. Prior commitments to deliver $100 billion a year to such nations by 2020 was not realised.
A draft proposal, drawn up by Britain requests the UN to report on the progress of delivering the $100 billion, and further proposes government ministers meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance. These “check-ins” are anticipated to keep the pressure on richer nations to deliver on their climate cash promises.
The green light for cleaner technology
Some 450 financial organisations have agreed to back “clean” technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero has said it could deliver as much as $100tn of financing to help economies transition to net zero by 2050.
Quoting Dr Adam Read, President of the Chartered Institute of Waste Management: “Creating a circular economy and a world beyond waste – where resource efficiency is maximised, the waste hierarchy adhered to, and our materials put back to use – could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 39%*. The fact that the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) hasn’t fully recognised the integral part the resources and waste sector has to play in helping to reach net zero targets, not just in the UK, but globally, is a critical oversight on their part.”
Don’t Waste remains committed to assisting our clients with their zero waste and net zero carbon targets. We accomplish this using a suite of solutions which include innovative waste management systems, advanced software and technology, and an in-house team of industry leading waste and sustainability experts. It is in our ethos to deliver a service and solution that is bespoke to our client’s needs and has the least impact on our environment.
Don’t Waste provides industry leading business intelligence, site management, and waste management services to Property, Retail, Commercial, Industrial and Hospitality industries. Our customers include the world’s leading property management groups. To find out more about our innovative value-added systems and services in onsite waste operations, contact: