Fossil Fuel Industry Threatens to Sabotage COP28 as UN Climate Talks Open Today

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.


November 30 , 11:00 am 12:30 pm EST

A quick scan of the news on any given day makes it clear why the term “polycrisis” has recently become so popular, as communities across the planet experience simultaneous environmental and social challenges. Sadly, with the further erosion of Earth’s life support systems and the destabilization of societies around the world, grappling with the polycrisis (multiple, interconnected, and compounding crises in global systems) will become a growing necessity for all of us, no matter where in the world or what role we play in our communities.

The Post Carbon Institute invites you to join a special, two-part online event series aimed at helping individuals from across the globe and a variety of sectors – civil society, governance, academia, grassroots movements, business, journalism, etc. – better understand and respond to the polycrisis, including drawing upon the lived experience of people on the frontline of the polycrisis. 

Session 2: Responding to the Polycrisis will be held on November 30, 2023 at 16:00-17:30 UTC (11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET)

Session 1: Understanding the Polycrisis was held on November 16, 2023 at 16:00-17:30 UTC (11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET)

Registrants to this free event can participate in either or both sessions and will receive recordings of both.

November 16 , 11:00 am 12:00 pm EST

A quick scan of the news on any given day makes it clear why the term “polycrisis” has recently become so popular, as communities across the planet experience simultaneous environmental and social challenges. Sadly, with the further erosion of Earth’s life support systems and the destabilization of societies around the world, grappling with the polycrisis (multiple, interconnected, and compounding crises in global systems) will become a growing necessity for all of us, no matter where in the world or what role we play in our communities.

The Post Carbon Institute invites you to join a special, two-part online event series aimed at helping individuals from across the globe and a variety of sectors – civil society, governance, academia, grassroots movements, business, journalism, etc. – better understand and respond to the polycrisis, including drawing upon the lived experience of people on the frontline of the polycrisis. 

Session 1: Understanding the Polycrisis will be held on November 16, 2023 at 16:00-17:30 UTC (11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET)

Session 2: Responding to the Polycrisis will be held on November 30, 2023 at 16:00-17:30 UTC (11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET)

Registrants to this free event can participate in either or both sessions and will receive recordings of both.

November 12 , 2:00 pm 4:00 pm EST

Join Beyond Plastics and Third Act for a free, in-person event on plastic pollution and climate change with an emphasis on what you can do to be part of the solution to these intertwined problems.

Speakers include Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and Michael Richardson, TH!RD ACT Upstate New York’s facilitator.

This talk is free and open to the public. Space is limited in the library so please RSVP here to reserve your spot!

Location: Hudson Public Library, 51 North 5th Street, Hudson, NY 12534 US

It’s Climate Week in New York City, and thousands of people have come together to highlight the connections between plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. With hundreds of events planned around the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s annual meeting on pressing global issues, it’s a busy week of climate-focused discussions and actions around NYC.

The week kicked off Sunday with the March to End Fossil Fuels, which was attended by at least an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people, including Plastic Pollution Coalition Members, Youth Ambassadors, Staff, Notables, and other allies. At the March, groups and individuals mobilized to call 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.

Understanding the Connections

Jackie Nuñez, Plastic Pollution Coalition Advocacy and Engagement Manager, attends the 2023 March to End Fossil Fuels in NYC on September 17, 2023.

Identifying—and acting on—the connections is important: As pollutants build up in the environment and our bodies, and the planet continues to warm, it is growing increasingly urgent to address the plastic pollution and the climate crises together. 

The facts are that:

  • Ninety-nine percent of all plastics are made from petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels—gas, oil, and coal. Plastics help drive the climate crisis. 
  • Despite the urgent need to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, the plastics and petrochemical industries plan to triple plastics production by 2060—threatening our chances of keeping global temperature rise below the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold. 
  • By 2050, plastic production and disposal could generate greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to 615 coal plants annually and use up to 13% of Earth’s remaining carbon budget. 
  • Microplastics and nanoplastics may be interfering with the ocean’s ability to absorb and sequester carbon, Earth’s biggest natural carbon sink. 
  • Plastic pollution contributes to nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 3, 6, 9, 11–15, and 17. Meeting these SDGs can support building a healthier, more just, and more sustainable world for all people.

Scientists, Indigenous knowledge holders, and other experts have emphasized that plastic pollution must be stopped at its source. This means implementing enforceable regulations that require industries dealing in fossil fuels, petrochemicals, and plastics to turn off their taps. A major (at least 75%) reduction of plastics production will help us avert the worst outcomes of the climate crisis, which has already caused significant and irreversible damage to Earth and human communities. 

Currently, more than 460 million metric tons of new plastic are produced globally each year, and that number is increasing year after year. More than 10 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced globally to date, and plastic production has increased by more than 18,300 percent in the last 65 years.

UN Plastics Treaty “Zero Draft” is Encouraging—But Misses the Mark on Plastics’ Climate Connections

The UN Environment Programme, which is Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution, released a Zero Draft for a UN Plastics Treaty on September 4, 2023. The UN’s Zero Draft importantly lays out the earliest structure and content for a Plastics Treaty to be shaped during the next three negotiating sessions, which are set to wrap up at the end of 2024, when a Treaty should be agreed. Activists and advocates working to end plastic pollution and protect human and environmental health say the UN Plastics Treaty “Zero Draft” is encouraging—but misses the mark on plastics’ climate connections and other concerns.

The clear connection between plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis which threaten human and planetary health is one of the biggest critical components now lacking from the Zero Draft. This connection must be acknowledged in the UN Plastic Treaty, accompanied by a plan for addressing it. As mentioned earlier, solving the plastic pollution and climate crises can help the UN meet its SDGs.

The UN Plastics Treaty must focus on stopping plastic pollution at the source by seriously curbing fossil fuel and plastic production. It cannot leave opportunities for industry interests to continue driving the climate crisis and harming people and the planet.

— Jen Fela, Vice President, Programs & Communications, Plastic Pollution Coalition

With the third Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) upcoming this November in Nairobi, Kenya, where parties will negotiate the Zero Draft, it’s important to understand what the document currently does and does not cover, what concerns need to be addressed, and why plastics and climate must be identified as urgent, interlinked planetary crises.

Understanding the Zero Draft

In May 2023, the UN outlined its suggested roadmap forward in drafting a Plastics Treaty in its May 2023 “Turning Off the Tap” report. Unfortunately, the low-ambition report focuses on “turning off the tap” in name only, as it problematically centers business-friendly false solutions allowing for plastic production to continue to ramp up. Instead of prioritizing the health of people and the planet by committing to ending plastic production, it continues to support profiting the harmful fossil fuel and plastics industries.

The Zero Draft does importantly identify a reduction of plastic production as a necessary aspect of the treaty. And it offers a few options for cutting back production, either by requiring countries to set mandatory reduction levels or by setting one global reduction target. Targeted reduction levels have not been established, but they could potentially be achieved by banning specific, easily avoided single-use plastic items and intentionally added microplastics (like microbeads), eliminating subsidies for producing plastic, and/or tapping into market-based options, such as a “plastic tax” that would disincentivize plastic production and use. 

Notably, the Zero Draft proposes the establishment of targets for “reuse, repair, repurposing, and refurbishment” of plastic products. While these tenets are necessary for minimizing wastefulness, it’s important that systems incentivize and support these tenets are built plastic-free. All plastic products shed tiny plastic particles that pollute the Earth, wildlife, plants, and our bodies and contain toxic chemicals that are linked to serious health impacts like cancer, immune system problems, and fertility and reproductive issues. Plastic-free materials, while they do still affect people and the planet, are less toxic and are far more reusable than plastics—reducing their total impacts. Overall, we need to build systems that meet local needs and support us having healthy lives and environments. Consumerism-based societies must consume far less.

Reflecting the interests of industries and industry representatives’ outsized presence at the treaty negotiations, recycling—including harmful “advanced recycling,” cleanup, and waste management are a focus of the Zero Draft. However, plastic is not designed to be recycled, and recycling plastic only magnifies and transfers toxic chemicals. It’s been widely recognized that such “downstream” solutions are not sufficient—and in fact they are a form of industry greenwashing that problematically puts the onus for dealing with plastic pollution on the public and perpetuates plastic production while delaying real solutions. The draft also fails address and attempt to rectify the longstanding injustices, pollution, and harm caused by the fossil fuel and plastic industries to people and the planet.

With an influential first step by recognizing in the zero draft the consideration of children and youth—the largest world population and one of the rights-holders group of the treaty process—the negotiating parties have now the power to define the treaty’s effectiveness to current and future generations. Is up to them to determine whether we will have a strong treaty, taking into consideration an intergenerational equity approach with respect to human rights, or whether the process will result in a weak text full of loopholes that will allow to perpetuate a compromised future with irreversible damage to human health, our wildlife and our ecosystem.

— Rafael Eudes, Zero Waste Alliance Brazil, BFFP Youth Ambassador (Brazil)

We must connect plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis in order to move forward with solutions that can allow us to secure a livable future on Earth. The fossil fuel and plastic industries—and those who have supported and invested in these industries—must be held accountable for the harm they have caused. These industries are best replaced by local plastic-free systems of reuse, refill, repair, share, and regeneration. These new, healthier systems must be built in a just, equitable manner. The Earth must be remediated, and communities protected from pollution and injustice.

Take Action

During the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2), which wrapped up in Paris, France, in June 2023, negotiators mandated creation of a Zero Draft, the earliest iterations of a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. As parties prepare to meet in Nairobi, Kenya, in November, it’s important to keep pushing for key concerns to be addressed, and for the UN Plastics Treaty to meet the needs of people and the planet. The Treaty is expected to be finalized by the end of 2024, and adopted in 2025.

Now is the time to push parties to take a strong stance on UN Plastics Treaty negotiations. 

Tell the U.S. Government: Take a Stronger Stance on the Global Plastics Treaty

Tell World Leaders We Need a Strong Global Plastics Treaty


Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some of these influential change-makers. For September, in honor of Climate Week NYC happening this month, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members who are taking action on climate through their work to address plastic pollution.

Cruz Foam

Over 40% of all plastic made is used as packaging, which is almost always nonrecyclable and replete in toxic additive chemicals. One of the worst forms of plastic packaging for the environment is plastic foam, made from styrene, a petroleum-based chemical that only breaks into smaller pieces over time and causes widespread harm to marine environments and human health. Each year, the world produces more than 14 million tons of polystyrene, used for single-use protective packaging and insulation during transportation of products and after use is rapidly discarded. PPC Business Member Cruz Foam is addressing this issue by creating a regenerative replacement to plastic foam that has the potential to revolutionize the packaging industry and prevent further environmental degradation in the process. 

Cruz Foam is a company based in Santa Cruz, California, that provides durable, strong, and completely biodegradable packaging products for companies to use while storing, transporting, or delivering their goods. Their innovative solution is made from chitin, the world’s second most abundant biopolymer next to cellulose. They derive their material from locally, ethically, and sustainably sourced shrimp shells, which prevents waste in the seafood industry and helps support coastal fishing communities. The finished product is industrial and home compostable, and has passed ASTM D6400 and D6868 compostability standards—but the work doesn’t end there. Cruz Foam products are continuously and rigorously tested in both laboratory and real-world settings to ensure that they are using the most responsible practices from sourcing to disposal. They also are committed to decarbonizing their operations as much as possible. 

Cruz Foam’s products range from Cruz Pack curbside recyclable envelopes to Cruz Cool insulated boxes and Cruz Cush customized packaging for things like electronics, although the company is constantly innovating to address packaging challenges. Recently, Cruz Foam has partnered with Ventana Surfboards & Supplies and other local companies such as Verve to bring their product to market and begin replacing toxic plastic packaging.

Etho Capital

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and cause climate-warming emissions at every stage of their existence, so we must support and invest in companies that are setting science-based targets to decarbonize. Etho Capital is a financial technology company that is paving the road for investors to do exactly that. They are an active investment manager who has put together a flagship fund known as the Etho Climate Leadership U.S. ETF, which ranks publicly traded companies in their respective sectors according to climate emissions per dollar invested, only selecting the companies that score the highest. 

Unlike other funds that use environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to package “sustainable” investments, they set themselves apart through significantly higher standards, taking into account Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions are the harder-to-track, supply chain–related emissions from a company’s operations that are usually left out of climate-themed investments. The Etho team found that Scope 3 climate impacts account for over 85% of the climate footprint for many equities, which is why these are so critical to take into account and is part of why sustainable investing has come under recent scrutiny. Additionally, they filter and remove companies in fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco, and those that have clear red flags associated with plastic pollution, safety violations, toxics, and animal cruelty. These ESG screens ensure that the companies in their funds are better for people and the planet, and Etho has proven that they also generate consistent financial returns. 

Etho Capital is building investment vehicles that go beyond “net-zero” to what they call “climate-positive,” taking into account both upstream and downstream emissions and ESG factors. They provide investors with a simple way to make money by rewarding companies that have prioritized truly sustainable practices and have done their due diligence of understanding, reporting, and mitigating their climate impact.

Fenceline Watch

To understand the link between plastics and climate, simply take a look at a petrochemical facility. Most of these multi-billion dollar plants take fracked gas or oil and turn these fossil fuels into the building blocks for conventional plastic products. In the United States, the petrochemical industry emits 232 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually, the equivalent of 116 coal-fired power plants, and is rapidly increasing in production. These facilities not only emit greenhouse gasses into the air, but also massive amounts of particulates and other toxic chemicals, with tragic repercussions for the communities they are based in. These communities are 67% more likely to be communities of color, making plastics production and fossil fuel processing a serious environmental justice issue.

Fenceline Watch is dedicated to the eradication of toxic multigenerational harm on communities living along the fenceline of industry. Based in the home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, the organization is led by people of color. Fenceline Watch serves as a watchdog group documenting chemical disasters while advocating to protect the public input process from a growing fossil fuel industry increasingly focused on increasing plastic production. As an organization comprised of individuals who witness injustice from petrochemicals in their community daily, Fenceline Watch is calling for systemic change that will hold industry accountable and protect and restore vulnerable communities affected by extraction.

Their work encompasses a range of community-based support programs, from addressing language barriers to public participation to responding to chemical disasters that unfortunately occur nearly every other day, on average. Some of their recent work includes leading a petrochemical “teach-in” webinar about how to track toxic releases using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency databases through Environmental Justice Screens; conducting workshops to teach their community members how to file reports on odors, flaring, and fires; and organizing with community members against redistricting, which would have divided four fenceline port communities that are predominantly people of color. A few months ago, their director, Yvette Arellano, delivered a powerful statement to the delegates at INC-2 urging them to consider emissions tracking for the full life cycle of plastics and the needs of communities impacted the most from petrochemical production.

Listen to Yvette’s story and learn about the fossil fuel industry’s petrochemical lifeline in this Matter of Degrees podcast, and consider attending one of their upcoming events on September 12 and October 24–25. You may also take action to support their work by volunteering or donating. 

Climate Week NYC is upcoming next week, and the third negotiating session of the UN Plastics Treaty is happening in Nairobi, Kenya, this November. It’s time to push representatives of the world’s biggest plastic polluter—the U.S.— to take strong and urgent action on the interconnected issues of plastic pollution and the climate crisis.