In today’s world, the riskiest investments are in the Middle East and Africa, whilst Big Oil’s greenwashing campaign is in full swing, as described in RGnB.org. Aren’t Big Oils and Hydrocarbon economies of the MENA in cahoots?
The above Image is of Canva
Big Oil’s greenwashing campaign
A released new memo and documents last week showed how the fossil fuel industry engages in “greenwashing” to obscure its massive long-term investments in fossil fuels and failure to reduce emissions meaningfully, writes Dan Bacher.
The new documents are part of a Committee’s ongoing investigation into the “fossil fuel industry’s role in spreading climate disinformation and preventing action on climate change,” according to a press statement.
“Even though Big Oil CEOs admitted to my Committee that their products are causing a climate emergency, today’s documents reveal that the industry has no real plans to clean up its act and is barreling ahead with plans to pump more dirty fuels for decades to come,” said Chairwoman Maloney.
Syria, Yemen, and Libya were on the list of the highest-risk countries in the third quarter of 2022
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) have been identified as the region with the highest risk offerings, with a score of 54 out of 100, for investors driven by “social unrest, food insecurity, rising debt, and inflation,” according to a leading data and analytics company, GlobalData.
Syria, Yemen, and Libya were on the list of the highest-risk countries in the third quarter of 2022.
The research showed that the Americas region’s risk score was 47.7 out of 100 during the third quarter, making it the second-highest area with investment risk, followed by the Asia-Pacific region at 41 and Europe at 33.4.
“While rising oil prices have increased the revenue of major oil producers and exporters in the MEA, high fuel costs have adversely impacted low-income nations – especially given their heavy dependence on staple food imports from Russia and Ukraine,” GlobalData economic research analyst Puja Tiwari said.
Tiwari added: “Humanitarian crisis across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, along with skyrocketing poverty, is impacting the MEA region. Due to curtailment of wheat exports from two main producers in the world (especially wheat from Russia and Ukraine), many countries across the MEA are already facing a major food crisis.”
The research also showed that global risk rose from 44 and 44.9 out of 100 in the second and third quarters of 2022, respectively.
“While governments of major economies are undertaking various fiscal measures to deal with the rising prices, this will weigh on already strained government finances. Moreover, with several economies tightening monetary policy, the increased borrowing costs will remain another challenge moving into Q4 and beyond,” Tiwari said.
The featured image above is Credit: Robert Timoney / Alamy Stock Photo
Analysis: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit record high in 2022
Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement have increased by 1.0% in 2022, new estimates suggest, hitting a new record high of 36.6bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2).
The estimates come from the 2022 Global Carbon Budget report by the Global Carbon Project. It finds that the increase in fossil emissions in 2022 has been primarily driven by a strong increase in oil emissions as global travel continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Coal and gas emissions grew more slowly, though both had record emissions in 2022.
Total global CO2 emissions – including land use and fossil CO2 – increased by approximately 0.8% in 2022, driven by a combination of steady land-use emissions between 2021 and 2022 and increasing fossil CO2 emissions. However, total CO2 emissions remain below their highs set in 2019 and have been relatively flat since 2015.
The 17th edition of the Global Carbon Budget, which is published today, also reveals:
The remaining carbon budget keeping warming below 1.5C will be gone in nine years, if emissions remain at current levels.
The increase in global fossil emissions in 2022 was driven by a small increase in US emissions and a larger increase in Indian and rest-of-the-world emissions. Chinese emissions saw a small decline, while EU emissions remained largely unchanged from 2021.
Most of the increase in emissions was from oil. Coal saw a slight increase in emissions – somewhat smaller than might have been expected given the global energy crisis – while gas emissions remained flat and emissions from cement saw a slight decline
Global CO2 concentrations set a new record of 417.2 parts per million (ppm), up 2.5ppm from 2021 levels. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now 51% above pre-industrial levels.
The effects of climate change have reduced the CO2 uptake of the ocean sink by around 4% and the land sink by around 17%.
Global emissions remain relatively stable
The Global Carbon Project estimates that global emissions of CO2 – including land use and fossil CO2 – will remain relatively high at 40.5GtCO2 in 2022, but still below their 2019 peak of 40.9GtCO2.
The authors note that these emissions “are approximately constant since 2015” due to a modest decline in land-use emissions balancing out modest increases in fossil CO2.
The 2022 report includes small revisions to emissions estimates from previous years. The new figures suggest that emissions in recent years have been a little higher than those reported in the 2021 budget. The largest changes are in land-use emissions, which account for approximately three quarters of the upward revision in the 2022 budget over the past decade.
The figure below shows 2022 (solid blue line), 2021(dashed blue) and 2020 (dashed red) global CO2 emissions estimates from the Global Carbon Project, along with the uncertainty (shaded area) of the new 2022 budget. The new 2022 budget lies roughly halfway between the old 2020 budget (which showed continued growth in emissions) and the 2021 budget (which showed flat emissions).
Annual total global CO2 emissions – from fossil and land-use change – between 1959 and 2022 for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 versions of the Global Carbon Project’s Global Carbon Budget, in billions of tonnes of CO2 per year (GtCO2). Shaded area shows the estimated one-sigma uncertainty for the 2022 budget. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.While the apparent flattening of emissions in the 2022 budget is better than a world of increasing emissions, this good news comes with a few important caveats.
First, to meet global climate targets of limiting warming to well-below 2C, emissions do not just need to stabilise. They need to decline rapidly, reaching net-zero emissions in the latter half of the 21st century. As long as emissions remain significantly above zero, the world will continue to warm.
Second, the uncertainties surrounding land-use emissions remain quite high. Therefore, it is hard to rule out a scenario where these emissions have actually continued to increase over the past decade. Further research and data collection is needed to provide a better picture of trends in global land-use emissions in recent years.
The figure below breaks down global emissions (black line) in the 2022 budget into fossil (grey) and land-use (yellow) components. Fossil CO2 emissions represent the bulk of total global emissions in recent years, accounting for approximately 91% of emissions in 2022 (compared to 9% for land-use). This represents a large change from the first half of the 20th century, when land-use emissions were approximately the same as fossil emissions.
Global CO2 emissions (black line) separated out into from fossil (grey) and land-use change (yellow) components between 1959 and 2022 from the 2022 Global Carbon Budget. Note that fossil CO2 emissions are inclusive of the cement carbonation sink. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global emissions from land-use are expected to be approximately 3.9GtCO2 in 2022. This is a slight decline from 2021 emissions, but the large uncertainty in the estimate makes it difficult to be confident in year-to-year changes.
Three countries – Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – are responsible for approximately 60% of global land-use emissions. Land-use change emissions over time from those three countries (along with their estimated uncertainties) are shown in the figure below.
The Global Carbon Project finds that approximately half of the global emissions from deforestation (~6.7GtCO2 per year) are counterbalanced by reforestation (~3.5GtCO2 per year), while peat drainage and fires make a smaller contribution to emissions of around 0.8GtCO2.
The apparent decline in the net land-use emissions is likely driven by growing removals from reforestation, the report says.
Modest increase in fossil emissions despite declines in China
Despite a relatively modest increase of 1.0% in 2022 (with an uncertainty range of 0.1% to 1.9%), global fossil CO2 emissions will likely surpass the pre-pandemic high in 2019 to set a new record at 36.6GtCO2.
This represents a continued recovery in global emissions from the declines during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, as well as a failure of hopes that a “green recovery” could start taking emissions on a downward trend.
However, despite continued increases in fossil CO2 emissions, the rate of growth has slowed noticeably over the past decade.
The Global Carbon Project points out that “the latest data confirm that the rate of increase in fossil CO2 emissions has slowed, from +3% per year during the 2000s to about +0.5% per year in the past decade”.
The figure below shows global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, divided into emissions from China (red shading), India (yellow), the US (bright blue), EU (dark blue) and the remainder of the world (grey).
Annual fossil CO2 emissions for major emitters and rest-of-the-world from 1959-2022, excluding the cement carbonation sink as national-level values are not available. Note that 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The US will likely see emissions increase by around 1.5% in 2022, driven by a strong rise in gas emissions (+4.7%), a modest rise in oil emissions (+2%) and a strong decline in coal emissions (-4.6%).
The European Union (EU) is likely to see a 0.8% decline in emissions in 2022, driven by lower gas use associated with Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the resulting global energy market disruption.
EU demand for gas may be down by as much as 10% this year, while emissions from coal are expected to increase by close to 7% as it substitutes for high-cost gas.
In China, emissions declined by around 0.9% in 2022, primarily driven by continued lockdowns associated with Covid-19 that slowed both industrial activity and economic growth.
Chinese emissions show declines in emissions from oil (-2.8%), gas (-1.1%) and cement production (-7%), only showing a slight increase in emissions from coal (+0.1%). The Global Carbon Project notes that cement, in particular, played a large role in declining Chinese emissions due to a slowdown in the property market. (See Carbon Brief’s recent detailed analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta of China’s Q3 2022 emissions.)
Indian emissions are projected to increase by 6% in 2022, mostly due to a large (+5%) increase in coal emissions as well as higher (+10%) oil use as the transport sector recovers from pandemic declines.
The rest of the world (including international aviation and shipping) is projected to see a 1.7% increase in emissions, driven by a rise in coal (+1.6%), oil (+3.1%) and cement (+3%). Gas emissions in the rest of the world are projected to decline very slightly in 2022 (-0.1%).
The chart below shows total emissions for each year between 2019 and 2022, as well as the contributions from major emitters and the rest of the world countries. Annual emissions for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the estimates for 2022 are shown by the black bars. The coloured bars show the change in emissions between each set of years, broken down by country. Negative values show reductions in emissions, while positive values reflect emission increases.
Annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels (black bars) and drivers of changes between years by fuel (coloured bars), excluding the cement carbonation sink. Negative values indicate reductions in emissions. Note that the y-axis does not start at zero. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global fossil CO2 emissions are now approximately 0.9% higher than in 2019. While emissions in the US, EU and the rest of the world remain below pre-pandemic levels, emissions in China are now 5.8% above 2019 levels and are 9.3% above 2019 levels in India.
The figure below shows how global and national emissions in the years 2020 (blue bars), 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (red) compare to 2019 emissions.
Percent change in CO2 between 2019 and 2020, 2021 and 2022 for the world as a whole and for major emitting countries/regions. Note that global emissions are inclusive of the cement carbonation sink, but national inventories are not. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The Global Carbon Project also notes that emissions declined over the past decade (2012-21) in 24 nations despite continued domestic economic growth, bringing hope in long-term decoupling of CO2 emissions and the economy.
The 24 nations where emissions have declined over 2012-21. Source: Global Carbon Project.These 24 countries represent around a quarter of global CO2 emissions. Fifteen of these countries also had significant declines in consumption-based emissions, which account for emissions embodied in the import and export of goods.
Coal and gas hits record high emissions
Global fossil fuel emissions primarily result from the combustion of coal, oil and gas.
Coal is responsible for more emissions than any other fossil fuel, representing approximately 40% of global fossil CO2 emissions in 2022. Oil is the second largest contributor at 32% of fossil CO2, while gas and cement production round out the pack at 21% and 4%, respectively.
These percentages reflect both the amount of each fossil fuel consumed globally, but also differences in CO2 intensities. Coal results in the most CO2 emitted per unit of heat or energy produced, followed by oil and gas.
The figure below shows global CO2 emissions from different fuels over time. While coal emissions (grey shading) increased rapidly in the mid-2000s to support the unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy, it has largely plateaued since 2013. However, coal use increased significantly in 2021 and modestly in 2022, causing 2022 to slightly edge out 2014 and set a new record of 15.1GtCO2.
By contrast, gas (blue) and oil (red) emissions have steadily grown prior to the pandemic. Gas rapidly recovered from Covid-19 disruptions, setting new all-time records for emissions in both 2021 and 2022. Oil emissions, by contrast, still remain below pre-pandemic 2019 highs as travel has not fully recovered from its severe drop during the pandemic.
Annual CO2 emissions by fossil fuel from 1959-2022, excluding the cement carbonation sink. Note that 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global coal emissions are projected to rise by around 1% in 2022, relative to 2021 levels, driven primarily by increases in India, the EU and the rest of the world, despite continued declines in coal use in the US.
Oil emissions are projected to rise by around 2.2% in 2022, compared to 2021. This has been caused by continued recovery of the transport sector from pandemic-related disruptions, though it will remain below 2019 levels.
Gas emissions are expected to decline slightly by around 0.2%, driven primarily by large declines in gas use in the EU associated with high energy costs due to the war in Ukraine.
Cement emissions are projected to decrease by around 1.6%, caused largely by declines in Chinese cement production for construction.
The total emissions for each year between 2019 and 2022, as well as the change in emissions for each fuel between years, are shown in the figure below.
Annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels (black bars) and drivers of changes between years by fuel (coloured bars), excluding the cement carbonation sink. Negative values indicate reductions in emissions. Note that the y-axis does not start at zero. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
The global carbon ‘budget’
Every year, the Global Carbon Project provides an estimate of the “global carbon budget”.
This budget is based on estimates of the release of CO2 through human activity and its uptake by the oceans and land, with the remainder adding to atmospheric concentrations of this greenhouse gas.
(This differs from the commonly used term “remaining carbon budget”, referring to the amount of CO2 that can still be released in the future while keeping warming below global limits of 1.5 or 2C.)
The most recent budget, including estimated values for 2022, is shown in the figure below. Values above zero represent anthropogenic sources of CO2 – from fossil fuels and cement (grey shading) and land use (yellow) – while values below zero represent the growth in atmospheric CO2 (bright blue) and the ocean (dark blue) and land (green) “carbon sinks” that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
In short, any CO2 emissions that are not absorbed by the oceans or land vegetation will accumulate in the atmosphere. While observations of both emissions and carbon sinks have improved over time, the budget does not fully balance every year due to remaining uncertainties, particularly in sinks. On average, the budget imbalance is close to zero, but some individual years may have more emissions than sinks or vice versa.
Annual global carbon budget of sources and sinks from 1959-2022. Fossil CO2 emissions include the cement carbonation sink. 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The atmospheric CO2 concentration increased 2.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2021 and is projected to increase by around 2.5ppm in 2022, resulting in global atmospheric concentrations of 417.2ppm on average for the year.
This represents an increase in atmospheric CO2 of around 51%, relative to pre-industrial levels.
As the chart below illustrates, the fraction of CO2 emissions that end up in the atmosphere varies from year to year. The grey dashed lines shows that around 47% of total CO2 emissions have remained in the atmosphere each year over the past decade, with the remainder being taken up by ocean and land sinks.
The ocean carbon sink grew rapidly over the past two decades, absorbing approximately 26% of global emissions in 2022. The land sink has also continued to increase and is projected to absorb around 31% of global emissions in 2022. These sinks are expected to grow as CO2 emissions increase, as the amount of CO2 absorbed by both the ocean and land scales proportional to atmospheric concentrations.
However, these sinks cannot expand forever; effects of climate change – and the acidification of the surface oceans – are projected to weaken these sinks over time.
The new Global Carbon Budget report warns that climate change has already reduced the CO2 uptake of the ocean sink by around 4% and the land sink by around 17%, compared to a theoretical world without climate change.
If emissions continue to increase, the portion of global emissions remaining in the atmosphere – that is, the airborne fraction – will grow, making the amount of climate change the world experiences worse than it otherwise would be.
A carbon bomb is a fossil fuel extraction project, such as a coal mine, that can cause over a gigatonne of CO₂ emissions during its lifetime. That’s a billion tonnes – more than twice the UK’s annual emissions from a single project.
In our latest research, my colleagues and I found that there are 425 of these carbon bombs worldwide. Collectively, they can unleash over 1,000 gigatonnes of CO₂ emissions, which far exceeds the world’s carbon budget for staying below 1.5°C of warming (around 500 gigatonnes in 2017) – the world’s agreed target for limiting climate change.
Even though it is now recognised, even by the conservative International Energy Agency, that no new fossil fuel projects must be built to avert catastrophic climate change, fossil fuel companies are working on setting off dozens of new carbon bombs while raking in record profits off the back of temporarily high fossil fuel prices.
For decades, and thanks to efforts by the US, Saudi Arabia and other countries with entrenched fossil fuel interests, UN climate talks have avoided the obvious solution: halting fossil fuel extraction and use. It seems this taboo was finally broken in Glasgow in November 2021, where phasing down coal burning was mentioned in the officially adopted text of COP26 for the first time. But a credible plan from governments to limit fossil fuel extraction is still missing.
This next vital step in climate policy might become more tractable by framing each new mine or oilfield as a potential carbon bomb. It’s not hard to figure out that if some countries set off their bombs, others won’t be able to, because carbon space in the atmosphere is limited. This simple insight into the physics of climate change has so far been ignored by world leaders.
The carbon bombs concept helps us understand that rich countries like Germany digging lignite or Canada cooking tar sands to extract some of the world’s dirtiest oil takes up carbon space which means Saudi oil and Qatari gas will have to stay in the ground. Roughly 80% of all carbon bombs are concentrated in just 12 countries: China, US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Qatar, Canada, Iraq, India, Brazil, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Any one of these could convene talks on defusing carbon bombs.
Or perhaps another government that has similar projects under its belt, say Germany, Norway, Colombia or the UK, which is poised to increase drilling for gas in the North Sea. A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, akin to the cold war nuclear non-proliferation treaty which aimed to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, could bind national commitments in a global agreement.
The fuses not yet lit
When we compiled our list of carbon bombs to understand the global picture of fossil fuel extraction, we learned that 40% of these projects hadn’t started yet. This means that there is still time to scare away investors of new carbon bombs through campaigning and lawsuits.
Because these projects are so huge, they take years to prepare and operate on a timescale of decades – and their breakeven points, where they start generating a profit, invariably lie many years in the future.
For the climate movement, these huge, slow-moving targets are a constructive challenge which offer many opportunities for intervention, as recent sanctions against Russia have made clear: some Russian carbon bombs look unlikely to proceed without support from other countries.
Thanks to the interconnectedness of the fossil fuel industry globally, very few carbon bombs can go ahead without any foreign involvement, be it through finance, insurance or equipment manufactured abroad.
While the term “carbon bomb” sounds frightening, it bears great potential for transforming the way people look at the effort to mitigate climate change. The call to “reduce emissions” – a mantra that’s been repeated by governments for the past 30 years – isn’t sparking an emergency response on par with the challenge of the climate crisis. Meanwhile, talking about carbon bombs makes no secret of the fact that global heating kills people, just as bombs do.
Accepting industry money risks distorting research and allowing polluting firms to greenwash their reputations, says Zak Coleman. However before A fossil fuel divestment ‘how-to’, it is advisable not to overlook or ignore what has been said before now.
Fossil fuel research ties undermine universities’ climate change response
I became the University of Cambridge’s students’ union undergraduate president in the wake of the university’s historic decision to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. I felt hopeful. The university was waking up to the urgent need to combat the climate crisis. It finally understood the damaging consequences of lending its reputational legitimacy to the industry driving this emergency.
Or so I thought.
Working at the students’ union, I became increasingly aware that the university’s involvement with fossil fuel companies extended far beyond its investments. The BP Institute and the professorship of complex physical systems sponsored by offshore drilling company Schlumberger are just two of the countless industry links that Cambridge retains. Everywhere I looked, I saw the university inviting the very same companies it had just condemned as unconscionable investments to be senior partners in its core research activities.
This felt like an enormous betrayal. Universities are supposed to be committed to supporting young people and our futures. But here was my university collaborating extensively with the companies destroying that future.
But it’s not just the hypocrisy that concerns me. Universities’ research partnerships with the fossil fuel industry also undermine their ability to effectively address the climate emergency.
Let’s be clear. Industry executives have known about the devastating climate impacts of their business for more than 50 years. Instead of acting on the science, however, they spent millions of pounds spreading climate disinformation and expanded their fossil fuel operations. They continue to engage in extensive anti-climate political lobbying and resolutely focus the overwhelming majority of their business on fossil fuels, including building new infrastructure and exploring for new reserves. Meanwhile, the world’s top scientists and energy experts are clear that no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built if the world is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and avoid runaway climate breakdown.
In contrast, universities like Cambridge are respected globally for upholding the highest standards of scientific integrity and intellectual rigour. Like it or not, partnerships between such higher education institutions and companies that have spent decades ignoring, silencing and discrediting these universities’ very own scientists are a PR gift for the fossil fuel industry. They allow these firms to misrepresent themselves as reformed leaders of the green transition. They send a clear message to governments, policymakers and wider civil society: if universities like Cambridge deem these companies serious on climate-related issues, why shouldn’t we? Ultimately, they help to stall desperately overdue political action to address the climate emergency.
Accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry also raises serious questions about researchers’ ability to conduct truly independent climate-related research. Academics must be free to determine their own research agendas, speak their minds and publish their findings without fear of censorship, reprisal or the denial of funding for future projects. Yet numerous studies demonstrate that industry funding skews research agendas and outcomes in directions favourable to industry interests, and that common safeguarding measures are often inadequate mitigation. This is why, for decades, research institutions have rejected tobacco industry funding for public health research. The same principle must be extended to fossil fuel funding of climate-related research. Independent climate research is just too important to tolerate such risks.
Governments and universities now have a profound responsibility to provide alternatives to industry funding. This is especially true for our wealthiest universities, which frequently accept the most fossil fuel research funding. Indeed, despite being Europe’s wealthiest university, Cambridge accepted more from oil companies between 2017 and 2021than all other UK universities bar one – Imperial College London.
Such universities have large, well-established fundraising departments capable of raising phenomenal sums. Philanthropic giving to US universities rose by 6.9 per cent in 2021 alone, topping $52 billion (£40 billion). The notion that there are no alternatives to fossil fuel industry funding is dangerously false.
Last month, more than 500 leading academics signed an open letter calling for universities to cut research ties with the fossil fuel industry. Among those supporting the letter, which is still open for signatures, are Nobel Prize winners; the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson; and numerous scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
We know the fossil fuel industry will continue to ignore the calls of these distinguished climate experts. But we expect better from our universities. Our planet is in ecological cardiac arrest, yet it is the fossil fuel industry that our universities are helping keep on life support. It is long past time for this to end.
Zak Coleman is undergraduate president of the Cambridge Students’ Union. Twitter: @SU_PresidentUG
Kuwait Times‘ Shakir Reshamwala tells us that Many in Kuwait are willing to pay a fee for single-use plastic bags whilst others call for a complete ban on plastic or switch to paper bags
Many in Kuwait willing to pay a fee for single-use plastic bags
KUWAIT: Plastic bags seem to be everywhere – in parks, sewers, deserts, forests, oceans, and lately, in the news, after authorities in Dubai announced they are ending the free distribution of single-use plastic bags in a drive towards more sustainable practices. “In line with enhancing environmental sustainability and encouraging individuals to reduce the excessive use of plastics, the Executive Council of Dubai has approved the policy to limit single-use bags by imposing a tariff of 25 fils (about $0.07) on single-use bags,” the authorities said. The decision will come into force at the start of July in shops, restaurants, pharmacies and for home deliveries.
In Kuwait, there are no restrictions on single-use plastic bags, and despite attempts by supermarkets to promote reusable bags, there aren’t many takers due to their relatively high cost and the freely available plastic bags. It is common for baggers at supermarkets to place each item in separate bags, and it is not uncommon to see shoppers shamelessly grab a bunch of extra bags at checkout counters.
Nevertheless, people are waking up to the threat these plastic bags pose to the environment. In an online survey conducted by Kuwait Times whether Kuwait should also charge for single-use plastic bags, a majority of respondents voted in favor of such a move. Many however pointed out they do reuse them as garbage bags. Others called on authorities to go a step further and ban plastic bags altogether, expressing skepticism whether a token charge will deter their usage.
“There is a charge on plastic bags worldwide. Why not in Kuwait too?” one user responded. “Sell reusable canvas bags at checkouts. I’m tired of seeing a sea of plastic everywhere I go,” said another. Other respondents to the survey called for using paper bags instead, while some pointed out that waste in Kuwait needs to be segregated to make recycling easier.
Those against charging for plastic bags had their own reasons. “Ban plastic bags but use recyclable alternatives. Everything here is already expensive and overpriced. We consumers are suffering, so adding even a little more to the equation makes no sense,” commented a user. “We use those bags for the trash, so let them be free,” wrote another.
Explaining their decision, the authorities in Dubai vowed that this is the first step of a strategy planned over several stages, aimed at completely banning single-use plastic bags within two years. “With sustainability becoming a global priority, changing the behavior of the community to reduce the environmental footprint of individuals is crucial to preserve natural resources and environmental habitats,” the authorities said. In March 2020, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced its “new environmental policy” aiming to eliminate single-use plastics by 2021 – but regulations have yet to be applied.
A report by wildlife group WWF last week warned plastic has infiltrated all parts of the ocean and is now found “in the smallest plankton up to the largest whale”, calling for urgent efforts to create an international treaty on plastics. According to some estimates, between 19 and 23 million tons of plastic waste is washed into the world’s waterways every year, the WWF report said. In one 2021 study, 386 fish species were found to have ingested plastic, out of 555 tested. Separate research, looking at the major commercially fished species, found up to 30 percent of cod in a sample caught in the North Sea had microplastics in their stomach.
To be fair, authorities in Kuwait are not totally oblivious to the plastic problem. In a first step, the Environment Public Authority last year distributed one million ecofriendly bags to cooperative societies in all the governorates, part of a campaign to raise public awareness about environment protection and minimize the use of plastic bags. The ecobags are made of organic materials that disintegrate in hot water without any harmful effects on the air, soil or water. Each ecobag is strong enough to carry up to 10 kg – although the weight of expectations over this move is seemingly a lot higher.
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