CHE Café: Multisolving for climate, chemicals & health

January 25 , 2:00 pm 3:00 pm EST

We’re now in the dangerous, uncharted territory climate scientists have been warning about for decades. Meanwhile, biologists and toxicologists are sounding the alarm about surpassing the “planetary boundary” for chemical pollution, beyond which both ecosystems and our health are endangered. 

We know climate change and chemical pollution are related in ways that can accelerate both crises, but does their interlinked nature also offer opportunities? 

This CHE Café conversation, co-hosted with The New School at Commonweal, will feature biologist and systems thinker Dr. Elizabeth Sawin and chemicals expert and clean production advocate Beverley Thorpe. The speakers will explore opportunities to prioritize solutions that concurrently address climate change and the global crisis of chemical contamination — while also improving public health, equity and economic vitality. 

Dr. Sawin will introduce the “multisolving” approach she developed to help people identify and create win-win-win solutions, including tools to measure often overlooked co-benefits to help guide public policies and investments. Ms. Thorpe will describe how the escalating production of petrochemicals and plastics is contributing to the climate crisis, and how solutions based on both decarbonization and detoxification are essential if we are to protect health, address environmental injustices and slow climate change.

CHE Director Kristin Schafer will moderate the discussion.

The fossil fuel industry threatens to sabotage COP28 as United Nations (UN) climate talks open today at Expo City, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There is no shortage of talk about conflicts of interest as industries, investors, and complicit government representatives attend talks where UN delegates are expected to plan a phase down or phase out of industries’ extraction and use of climate-warming oil, gas, and coal.

This, as swift, effective action to address the climate crisis has never been more urgent. COP28 is being held during the hottest year ever recorded, one of destructive storms, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters. It’s clear further delay in implementing the real solutions needed to take effective action on a global, systems scale will only continue to harm people and the planet.

Fossil Fuel Industry Interests Flood COP28

Much public controversy was stirred up well ahead of COP28, starting with the mere fact that the UN talks are being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels, the main ingredient in plastics and many of plastic’s toxic additives.

What’s more, the appointed presiding host of the talks is the head of Adnoc (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company), Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. In addition to being hosted by the head of the United Arab Emirates’ biggest oil company, investigations suggest that ahead of the talks, Adnoc was preparing to strike fossil fuel deals with negotiating nations. Two days before COP28, Jaber rejected accusations that the UAE planned to market fossil fuel dealings during the climate talks. 

Also ahead of COP28, fossil-fuel friendly Saudi Arabia was outed for quietly developing a significant global investment plan—the oil demand sustainability program (ODSP)—to drive demand for its oil and gas in developing nations. And we learned the United States has produced record-setting amounts of oil and gas in 2023, and only plans to continue expanding. Meanwhile, global production of plastic is expected to triple by 2060, with fossil fuels increasingly used to make the material due to rules clamping down on fossil fuel uses for combustion.

This is far from the first time industry interests have attempted to take over global climate talks. In the last 15 years, COPs have also been held in fossil-fuel friendly Egypt and Qatar. However, this year’s leadership by a major representative of the fossil fuel industry is unprecedented. Continued and increasing fossil fuel presence at COPs and in other climate change talks is widely viewed as part of the industry’s attempt to avoid regulation.

Future of People and the Planet at Stake

COP has been held annually since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was ratified in 1992. As human-driven climate change intensifies, increasingly warming the Earth and its inhabitants, urgency for solutions grows. 

In addition to potentially negotiating an agreement to phase down or phase out fossil fuels, UN delegates are also expected to finalize the details of a “loss and damage” fund for compensating poorer countries that have been disproportionately harmed by the climate crisis while not having greatly contributed to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the fund text, in its current form, fails to require wealthy nations to pay into it while also housing the fund in the World Bank, which continues to fund unjust, unhealthy, and damaging coal projects.

This year’s meeting is especially important, as it represents the first Global Stocktake of progress for the 196 UN parties that have agreed to take action to slow global warming. The focus of the 2015 Paris Agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially from fossil fuel use and production, in order to stay below the threshold of a 1.5 degree Celsius (or more) rise in average global temperature above pre-industrial times by 2100.

But according to the UN’s own experts, humanity realistically now has only a 14 percent chance of meeting the 1.5 degree target. We are far more likely to see a nearly 3 degrees Celsius rise in average global temperature by the end of the century due to industries’ continued extraction, processing, transportation, storage, use, and sale of fossil fuels. According to scientists, if we exceed 3 degrees of heating, the Earth could pass several catastrophic, deadly, and irreversible tipping points, including mass desertification of rainforests and total melting of ice sheets. This would put the survival of much life on Earth, including human lives, at risk.

Our Allies Speak Out at COP28

Climate experts stress that real solutions to the climate crisis begin with keeping existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground. We must also address climate-warming greenhouse emissions from major industries such as industrial agriculture, transportation, shipping, and of course production of plastics. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies and some governments continue to hide behind technologically focused fixes like “advanced” recycling of plastics and carbon-capture-storage (CCS), which only perpetuate pollution and injustice, and do not actually diminish human dependence on fossil fuels. 

In a world where limits are increasingly placed on fossil fuel combustion, production of plastics has been identified by industries as an area for continued growth and profits—despite plastics causing widespread harm to people and human rights, wildlife, the planet, and the climate. 

To help communicate key facts and stress the need for urgent, effective action to address the interconnected climate and plastic crises, Plastic Pollution Coalition Executive Advisory Board Member Dr. Michael K. Dorsey, and Youth Ambassadors Xiye Bastida and Sophia Kianni are among some of our allies participating in COP28. In Dubai, on December 7, Youth Ambassador AY Young will host “THE RECHARGE,” a solar-powered music-meets-climate-solutions event with many special guests. In all, the UN estimates more than 70,000 attendees will be present at the talks. 

Though the challenges ahead are great, a growing sense of awareness is driving people to take action. And, as the Dalai Lama pointed out as the talks opened today, there are many inspiring people making the change we need today.

Take Action

We see worrisome signs that the industries, investors, and governments driving the climate crisis are serious about resisting the change they must make to avert the most severe impacts of global warming. Representatives from the U.S. and China—the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters—who plan to attend COP28 include U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua. However, absent from the talks are the nations’ Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping of the United States and China. 

Despite identifying the climate crisis as a focal point of attention and action, President Biden has allowed the fossil fuel industry to continue to grow under his leadership. You can help show the world that we demand that industries and governments act to protect the environment, and put people before—and not after—profits. Tell the president to stop approving new and expanded petrochemical and plastic facilities to help protect communities from pollution and the climate crisis.

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November 2, 2023 , 7:00 pm 8:30 pm EDT

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is hosting an environmental and reproductive health film and webinar series from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, 2023. The series is a follow-up to CBD’s 2022 report, The Influence of Environmental Toxicity, Inequity and Capitalism on Reproductive Health.

Climate Baby Dilemma — Film viewing Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, webinar Nov. 2. Explores the growing number of Gen Z and millennials who are refusing to bring a child into an increasingly unstable world due to climate change or are struggling with the question of whether they should.

Last week, Plastic Pollution Coalition and our allies joined tens of thousands of others to take part in Climate Week NYC, “the biggest climate event on Earth.” Coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) annual meeting on pressing global issues, Climate Week kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, and involved hundreds of events at which activists, artists, businesses, frontline and community groups, non-profit organizations, scientists, and world leaders collaborated to take action to stop climate collapse. The following is our recap.

This year, we and our movement members and allies represented and engaged in the March to End Fossil Fuels, frontline activists’ gatherings, The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Nia Global Solutions with Jane Fonda, AY Young’s Battery Tour performance in Times Square, Climate Nest, Global Citizen, and more.

Climate Week demonstrates that our movement is making a difference—addressing plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis together. Just and equitable, real solutions to these urgent challenges for people and the planet exist today, and we need everyone onboard to help actualize the changes we need.

— Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition

Connecting Plastics & Climate at the March to End Fossil Fuels

Jackie Nuñez, Plastic Pollution Coalition Advocacy and Engagement Manager, and Founder of The Last Plastic Straw, with Judith Enck, Founder & President of Beyond Plastics with Eileen Ryan of @plasticfreemass. Photo by Leslie Evans

Climate Week NYC 2023 kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, which was attended by an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people. Many Plastic Pollution Coalition Members and partners participated, including Beyond Plastics; Break Free From Plastic; Greenpeace; Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida, founder of Re-Earth Initiative; Dr. Kristal Ambrose, 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner and Founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement; and more. As groups and individuals mobilized, they called on the U.S. and other governments, as well as corporations, investors, and other entities to stop prioritizing fossil fuel and plastic industry profits over people and the planet.

Dr. Kristal Ambrose at the March to End Fossil Fuels on September 17, 2023, in NYC. Photo by @goldmanprize

A major highlight of the march was that it was the first time we noticed an abundance of posters and calls emphasizing the connection between plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. It is critical for all of us to identify—and act on—the connections between plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, driving injustice and creating toxic pollution and high emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. Scientists, Indigenous knowledge holders, and other experts have emphasized that plastic pollution must be stopped at its source by regulating and requiring industries dealing in fossil fuels, petrochemicals, and plastics to turn off their taps.

To push forth serious action accelerating an equitable shift away from fossil fuels to a healthier and more regenerative future, Plastic Pollution Coalition has joined nearly a million signatories in endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty. The petition calls on world governments to join a group of Pacific nations led by Vanuatu and Tuvalu to support creation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to complement the Paris Agreement. Plastic Pollution Coalition also distributed a one-page fact sheet emphasizing the connections between plastic pollution, fossil fuel, and climate change to Climate Week attendees.

Plastic Pollution Coalition Member Businesses Take Action on Plastics & Climate Change

Dr. Mantravadi speaks at Clinton Global Initiative

At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)’s meeting in Midtown Manhattan, we heard from an inspiring array of speakers focused on this year’s theme to “Keep Going.” We heard from Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, founder of Ahimsa, nontoxic stainless steel kid-friendly tableware. Dr. Mantravadi announced that Ahimsa is a 2023 CGI Commitment Maker focused on decarbonizing school cafeterias by shifting from plastics to reusable stainless steel foodware and increasing students’ environmental health knowledge by sharing Ahimsa’s curriculum. 

On the CGI stage, Dr. Mantravadi discussed a pilot project to eliminate plastic foodware from New York City schools and called on event attendees to reach out if they know schools that are interested in participating, or if they want to sponsor a school. Chelsea Clinton was so motivated and moved by Manasa’s project she made a public announcement on stage that she wants her kids’ public school to be part of the pilot project.

Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Sea Briganti, Founder and CEO of Loliware, also attended CGI. Loliware’s nontoxic, biodegradable single-use straws made from seaweed were the “official straws” of CGI, and were made available to all attendees. Loliware’s iconic blue straws can be manufactured using conventional plastic-production equipment. 

PPC Notables & Board Members at Climate Week

Jane Fonda and Kristin Hull in conversation. Photo by Nia Impact Capital

Nia Impact Capital is a woman-led investment firm that carefully chooses companies with woman leadership across six solutions themes, based on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact. Nia actively engages with companies in its portfolios, holding them accountable to the most inclusive, sustainable, and ethical business practices. Nia held an exciting event featuring Kristin Hull, Nia Impact Capital Founder, in conversation with PPC Notable Jane Fonda. 

We learned about Hull’s and Fonda’s efforts to help shift money and power toward leadership for a sustainable and inclusive future, and how we can support systems change by using our voices and money to push forth our environmental and social goals. Calling it “the most important thing I will do in my lifetime,” Fonda announced the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which is focused on electing climate champions at all levels of government—not fossil fuel supporters.

During Climate Week we were delighted to hear from Plastic Pollution Coalition Notable Kyra Sedgwick, who joined tens of thousands of others at the March to End Fossil Fuels, on a special Climate Week segment on MSNBC. She emphasized that addressing the climate crisis also means addressing plastics and fossil fuels—and discussed how each of us can take real and swift action to make positive change.

Kyra Sedgwick shows her plastic-free bamboo cutlery. Photo by @kyrasedgwickofficial

We connected with Plastic Pollution Executive Advisory Board Member Dr. Michel K. Dorsey at Rising to the Challenge: How Storytelling Drives Climate Action, a panel hosted by Sun Valley Forum and Local Projects. Dr. Dorsey, an environmental scientist and globally recognized expert on clean energy, finance, and environmental health, has helped inform and push forth solutions to the climate crisis and climate injustice. Also at the event we attended an engaging and hopeful panel with Plaintiffs for Youth vs Montana.

Dr. Michael K. Dorsey with Jackie Nuñez of Plastic Pollution Coalition
Youth vs Montana panel

Youth and Creators Make an Impact

AY Young performs in Times Square

At Climate Week NYC, we heard from many young people and creators calling for systems shift on fossil fuels, climate change, and plastic pollution.

In Times Square, we enjoyed an energizing renewable-powered musical performance—the first of its kind—featuring PPC Youth Ambassador AY Young. AY Young is an artist who has combined his passions for creating music and making a difference in the world to launch the “Battery Tour” with portable solar batteries providing electricity for his performances—more than 900 and counting—that are also expanding communities’ access to energy, the internet, and education around the world.

At the performance, which was livestreamed, Plastic Pollution Coalition Co-Founder and CEO Dianna Cohen spoke on stage about the enormous impact of plastics on people and the planet, and the connection between fossil fuels, plastics, and the climate crisis. She introduced Plastic Pollution Coalition as an implementation partner to AY Young’s Project17—a related project that brings attention to meeting the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—and introduced AY Young for his performance of the song for UN SDG #14: Life Below Water. Other speakers on the stage included: Plastic Pollution Coalition Members Ali Weinstein and Allison Begalman, the founders of Hollywood Climate Summit; Xiye Bastida, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador and founder the Re-Earth Initiative); and Plastic Pollution Coalition Notables Rocky Dawuni, a Ghanaian musician; and Paul Hawken, the founder of Drawdown. 

Project17 serves as an umbrella for an intricate partnership of 17 Organizations, 17 Sponsors and 17 partner musicians to develop 17 Impact projects destined to make our planet a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable world. Plastic pollution contributes to nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 3, 6, 9, 11–15, and 17. Ending plastic pollution is necessary to meet the UN SDGs. Meeting these SDGs can support building a healthier, more just, and more sustainable world for all people.

Partnerships to Power Our Planet panel: Alok Sharama (moderator) COP26 President and member of UK Parliament, Mary De Wysocki, Chief Sustainability Officer, Cisco, Patricia Zurita, Chief Strategy Officer Conservation International, Surbhi Martin, Senior Vice President Danone, and Xiye Bastida, Co-Founder ReEarth Initiative

Ahead of Global Citizen, a festival aimed at inspiring and empowering people to learn and take action to address climate change, poverty, and inequality, we attended several impactful Global Citizen NOW: Climate Sessions. At one of these sessions, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida joined an esteemed panel titled: Partnerships To #PowerOurPlanet: Working Together to Address Climate Change Now. During the conversation, Xiye advocated the importance of using both Indigenous knowledge and scientific evidence in implementing solutions to the climate crisis. On the Global Citizen stage, Bastida joined engineer and science communicator Bill Nye to call for an end to fossil fuel expansion.

Take Action

Greenpeace at the March to End Fossil Fuels in NYC, September 17, 2023

The week had its fair share of corporate greenwashing, which has become the ironic norm at events, conferences, and major climate talks. Yet the overall turnout and public participation with meaningful dialogue focusing on real solutions introduced by both the public and private sectors showed that corporate polluters may have the profits, but people are pushing forth the positive change necessary to build a better world. 

Overall, this year’s Climate Week NYC was full of encouraging events and developments that show us there is positive change underway to address plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. Despite being up against “Goliath,” individuals and communities are coming together to work toward a healthier and more just, equitable world. We celebrate, among other Climate Week achievements, that 15 Earthshot Prize finalists were recognized for their innovative solutions and that construction of five petrochemical plants have been stopped by frontline communities and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Beyond Petrochemicals.

But more work is needed to make the change we need, and we need your help. With the UN Plastics Treaty now being negotiated, we have the opportunity to address plastic pollution at the source, starting with its fossil fuel ingredients. The U.S. is the world’s biggest plastic and fossil fuel polluters, and this is a critical time to push them to do more to solve these interconnected crises. Please join us in calling on the U.S. Government (USG) to take a strong stance on the UN Plastics Treaty so it can accomplish all it must.

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September 18, 2023 , 8:00 am September 23, 2023 , 5:00 pm EDT

Join We Don’t Have Time and partners for a week full of climate action and events. 

The Climate Hub gives you access to exclusive content from Solutions House, Clinton Global Initiative, Fashion 4 Development, The Nest Climate Campus, and of course, We Don’t Have Time’s own Climate Week NYC broadcast – The Road to COP28! 

Together with our partners, we will cover a wide array of topics ranging from Climate Litigation, Arts & Climate, The Future of Transportation, Radical Collaboration, Sustainable Infrastructure, Fashion for Development, Climate Change & Health, Decarbonizing the Entertainment Industry, Climate Communication, and much more. Register below to stay updated and get notified as we announce speakers and schedules!