The President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), Dr Adam Read, has called for global leaders to recognise the crucial role that recycling and resource management has to play in supporting decarbonisation, branding the lack of ‘resources and waste’ representation in the COP26 programme a ‘critical oversight’.
Beginning this week in Glasgow (31 Oct – 12 Nov), COP26 will focus the world’s attention on the mechanisms and commitments needed for delivering net zero worldwide and mitigating the rise in global temperature. By collaborating across multiple sectors – including energy, finance and transport – the event seeks to unify efforts and promote opportunities between governments, businesses and the public to enable the delivery of these high-level objectives.
However, despite waste and resource management being an integral component in meeting global targets, Dr Read says the industry has been “overlooked and left with no seat at the table”. He went on to say:
“Whilst we welcome the recent publication of the UK government’s net zero strategy and recognise COP26 is a fantastic opportunity to get global, coordinated action on climate change, the fact resources and waste has to all intents and purposes been left off the agenda has me completely stumped.
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.
“In 2018, sector activities resulted in almost 50 million tonnes of CO2e emissions being avoided across the economy – the equivalent to taking 10 million cars off British roads.
“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.”
CIWM also recently published its Net Zero Ambition, marking an important step in its own journey to becoming a net zero organisation.
The statement follows a similar sentiment expressed by resource management company, Suez, which said today (1 November) that it was ‘frustrated’ by the omission of ‘resources and waste’ from the COP26 agenda.
To address this, it has collaborate with partners representing a broad cross-section of the resources and wider environmental sector, including CIWM, to put on a series of fringe events during the conference in Glasgow.
The UK recycling industry – ‘A force for change’
- The UK recycling and waste management sector manages 221 million tonnes of waste each year, or over three tonnes per person, keeping streets clean and preventing pollution, while also extracting value from waste materials that would otherwise be lost.
- In 2018 alone, the sector’s activities resulted in nearly 50 million tonnes of avoided CO2e emissions across the economy, the equivalent to taking 10 million cars off British roads. Sorting and recycling operations helped avoid around 45Mt CO2e in 2018.
- In 2019, UK waste management facilities processing organic and residual waste generated 10,330 GWh of renewable electricity, which accounts for approximately 9% of the UK’s total renewable energy.
- The UK resources and waste management industry has reduced its own greenhouse gas emissions by 46% since 1990 – the third largest sectoral emissions reduction over this period, behind heavy industry and the energy sector.
- The UN Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel, in its 2020 report Resource Efficiency and Climate Change – Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, noted that raw material extraction accounts for 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions.