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Plastics and Climate

Plastic is Everywhere—Except the One Place it Should Be

How Investor and Company Climate Commitments Ignore Plastics and What to Do About It

Plastics and climate change are interconnected—and existential—threats to our ocean and coastal communities.

Our ocean has long been ground zero for the plastic pollution crisis, with 11 million tons of plastics entering our ocean each year. Plastics have been found everywhere on Earth, from Arctic snow to our bodies. The news is replete with headlines of animals like whales, dolphins and turtles washing ashore, stomachs filled with plastics. But this is just one aspect of the threat.

Plastics, 99% of which are made from fossil fuels, are also a major contributor to the climate crisis. The plastics industry is on a rapid growth trajectory, generating high levels of greenhouse gas pollution—from production to disposal—and locking in continued oil and gas extraction for decades to come. The climate impacts of plastics undermine our ability to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and prevent catastrophic climate change. Still, amid calls to limit society’s dependence on fossil fuels, plastics are missing from investor and company climate commitments and guidance.

Ocean Conservancy examined climate commitments from 28 companies and 12 investors, as well as 15 climate target-setting frameworks and guidance to understand investor and company efforts to address the climate risks of plastics—and where gaps exist.

“It is time for companies and investors to address the climate risks of plastics to ensure that they can meet their climate goals and contribute to building a clean energy economy. To help them capitalize on this opportunity, the 10 First Principles for Incorporating Plastics into Climate Commitments outlined in this report offer a blueprint for developing strong, actionable commitments.”

Aarthi Ananthanarayanan

Aarthi Ananthanarayanan

Director, Climate and Plastics Initiative

Addressing the threats of ocean plastic pollution and climate change requires us to transition away from fossil fuels, produce far less plastic and build a robust circular and clean-energy economy. We look forward to working with investors and companies alike to achieve that vision.

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