Guest blog by: Eva Geierstanger and Amber Chen, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassadors
As youth, we may only be 18% of the population today, but we are 100% of the future. The decisions made at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) must be crafted to not only prepare for the future, but to improve the state of the world right now. We are the voices of youth and we ask to be heard.
Dear COP26 leaders, we ask you to take these 10 actions:
1. ELIMINATE NON-ESSENTIAL SINGLE-USE PLASTIC
We must move to systems of reusable, refillable, and package-free products. This means that fossil fuel and petrochemical permits must be suspended and legislation addressing plastic should be passed. For example, the UN Global Plastic Treaty, which addresses the plastic crisis at every point of the plastic’s lifecycle, should be passed to regulate waste management, eliminate toxic substances, and develop solutions that acknowledge plastic’s role in global warming.
2. INVEST IN A CIRCULAR ECONOMY
COP26 must establish clear investment goals to build a truly resilient circular system in which waste is reduced and reused in an ethical manner that prioritizes workers. Waste and pollution must be reduced AT THE SOURCE, products must be reused multiple times rather than used once, and when possible materials should be recycled back into the earth.
3. FOCUS ON ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
COP26 must focus on environmental justice issues. World leaders must acknowledge the negative impact that fossil fuel and plastic production have on BIPOC communities and ensure that their needs are addressed. At every point of plastic’s lifecycle, the safety and health of BIPOC and low-income communities must be a priority at COP26. In addition, plastic waste exportation to other, poorer countries must end.
4. ALLOCATE RESOURCES FOR CLIMATE ACTION
Richer countries must fund poorer countries and give them the space and resources to take climate action. COP26 must acknowledge that poorer countries bear the consequences of the waste and pollution caused primarily by richer countries.
5. ADDRESS HUMAN EXPOSURE TO TOXIC CHEMICALS
COP26 must address the exposure to environmental toxins in plastics and regulate the use of toxins in manufacturing that hurt the health, especially the reproductive health, of all people.
6. EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THE IMPACTS OF PLASTIC – FROM PRODUCTION TO DISPOSAL
World leaders must enact widespread education to bring truth to the public about plastic production, plastic pollution, the importance of fossil fuel divestment, clean green energy, and regenerative agriculture systems. Companies must remain transparent about their level of sustainability.
7. ADDRESS THE POLLUTION OF WATER SOURCES BY FOSSIL FUEL AND PETROCHEMICAL COMPANIES
Fracking and Cracking fossil fuels, and releasing microplastics, microfibers and chemicals, harm our water sources. COP26 must address the safety of the world’s water.
8. ADDRESS THE POLLUTION OF AIR BY FOSSIL FUEL AND PETROCHEMICAL COMPANIES
We must measurably reduce air pollution. This will be accomplished WHEN we STOP burning fossil fuels and plastics to produce energy, chemicals, oil, and plastics.
9. PROVIDE EQUITABLE, DEMOCRATIC RECOURSE FOR COMMUNITIES MOST AFFECTED BY PLASTIC POLLUTION
Leaders must also Commit to reforming and improving DEMOCRACY for all. Communities affected by plastic pollution need access to advocate for themselves and their communities.
10. TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO END THE CLIMATE CRISIS
Our 10th call to action for COP26: World leaders must take action not just for our future, but for our NOW. As Francois Hollande, the past president of France, says, “We must act urgently and do everything we can to give younger generations a future!”
We must approach the climate crisis on an intergenerational basis. Experienced people must work collaboratively with Younger people so that EVERYONE may live in a fossil fuel-free and plastic-free world.
Support the world’s youth ambassador calls to action for world leaders at COP26. Sign here.