June
08
Author
John Evans
Small steps to tackle climate change

Inspired by A Call To Act – the latest of Natalie Williams’ and Martin Charlesworth’s books – my wife and I now make a regular visit to a local shop with an assortment of empty containers. The shop is one of many popping up in High Streets around the country where residents can refill containers with things like washing up liquid, cooking oils, pasta, rice and lots of other home essentials.

This is but a small response to becoming aware that at current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threatens the ability of the global community to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C. 

Having family living in a highly polluted Asian capital city has meant that we’ve long been familiar with gross plastic pollution on urban streets, in open sewers, piled high and, typically, burning, and also dumped in the oceans. The impact upon the world’s poor is devastating: Tearfund’s 2019 report No time to waste estimated that between 400,000 and 1 million people die each year in developing countries because of diseases related to plastic and other mismanaged waste. 

That’s up to one person every 30 seconds. 

The wider effect on climate change of the ubiquitous use of plastic is not immediately obvious, but the plastic pollution crisis that overwhelms our oceans is also a growing threat to the Earth’s climate. As we know, plastics in the sea break down into microplastics, to be ingested by marine life. The flow of this rubbish into the oceans has been exacerbated this year by growing plastic pollution linked to the personal protective equipment necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

At current levels, overall greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C. By 2050, the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons – 10-13 per cent of the entire remaining carbon budget.

G7 leaders are meeting in Cornwall this weekend. Environment ministers of the G7 countries have issued a statement saying they are committed to protecting the land and the ocean and to slowing biodiversity loss by 2030.

Last month, an apparently unlikely partnership of major packaging producers and environmental charities called, in an open letter, for the G7 leaders to agree to a global treaty on plastic to tackle the waste crisis. 

“Some 300m tonnes of plastic waste [are] produced every year,” their letter says. “Less than 10% of all plastic has ever been recycled. The rest piles up in landfill, is incinerated, or ends up littering our natural environment for centuries.”

What can you do to make a difference? A Call To Act sets out four steps you can take in the areas of: Personal and family lifestyle; Working lives; Church life and culture; and Engaging with public policy. To see how these work out in daily life, you can buy the book here.

Our regular trips to fill up our empty containers may be 'small beer', but along with growing engagement with public policy, raising the topic in prayer and Bible study we hope and pray these changes will make a worthwhile difference.