Paris plastics treaty ensures only one outcome

Source: artisteer / iStock via Getty Images

In today’s edition:

— Five days in Paris: What’s the next step for cutting global plastic use?
— Auto dealerships face strange new world as EVs hit the market
— COP28 in Dubai will be a can’t-miss news event, with drama, wild predictions, and global politics. The only thing missing may be the climate problem.
— Nevada wants to be the ‘Silicon Valley of lithium,’ among everything else
— Global carbon levels are now 50% higher than at the start of the industrial era, after carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a new record of 424 parts per million

When I was a young foreign correspondent in the ‘90s in Europe covering the advent of the euro, a friend at a rival news outlet wrote about how investors looking to attend conferences on the new single currency could pretty much find one every single day one summer in some exotic European hotspot.

Today it’s climate conferences, with climate weeks in several cities and a steady calendar of government events around the world. This week it’s the pre-COP28 conference in Bonn. Last week the UN plastics conference in Paris. No shortage of fun places to discuss global warming. But a definite shortage of progress.

Many headlines were made of the plastics treaty in Paris last week, where nations came together and … pledged to write a future agreement. First drafts are due in Kenya in November, at the next big plastics conference. I suppose that’s progress but given the world’s problems with plastics, made from fossil fuels, from recycling to the waste in the oceans, it feels like a baby step at best.

Doug Woodring, founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, said the agreement to create a “Zero Draft” was a step forward. But as he wrote in a piece for Callaway Climate Insights last week, countries need to set their sights higher; more on creating a circular economy for plastics that involves reusing them rather than just recycling rules that many countries might not be equipped to meet.

Global diplomacy is a tricky and time-consuming practice. At least the advent of the euro had a deadline that these conferences could point to. For those seeking progress in plastics, all last week’s agreement guarantees is another long plane ride to another conference in another country, sometime soon.

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