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This Week in Sustainability News 10.03

Learn about sustainable plastics, food's massive impact on climate change, methane bombs, and more, with our summary of this week's sustainability news.

This past week was filled with interesting sustainability and climate news, we’ve summarised the top stories below.

Over 1,000 'super-emitters' released methane in 2022

  • More than 1,000 "super-emitter" sites around the world, mostly from oil and gas facilities, released methane into the atmosphere in 2022, according to new data.
  • One site emitted methane at a rate equivalent to 67 million cars, making it the worst single leak identified.
  • The research also revealed 55 "methane bombs" - fossil fuel extraction sites where future gas leaks would release methane equivalent to 30 years of US greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Methane emissions currently account for 25% of global heating and have increased significantly since 2007.
  • Experts suggest that tackling leaks from fossil fuel sites is the fastest and cheapest way to reduce methane emissions, which are a major threat to efforts to keep global heating below 1.5°C.

Top 15 nations by number of methane super-emitter events shown. Guardian graphic. Source: Kayrros Methane Watch. Learn more

A sustainable plastics industry is possible

  • A new study has found that it is possible for the plastics industry be sustainable, but only if it achieves a recycling rate of at least 74%.
  • The researchers found that, to respect planetary boundaries, recycled plastic waste must become the main raw material for plastic products, with only a maximum of 26% of new plastic to be produced from carbon.
  • However, recycling plastic waste alone will not be enough to transition to a circular economy. The recycling process also needs to be improved to become as efficient as other chemical processes.
  • Moreover, it will be necessary to address demand and assign a higher value to plastic products, view plastic as a high-quality material, and consider the entire life cycle of products when designing sustainable processes.

Learn more

Global food consumption alone could contribute up to 0.9°C of warming by 2100

In a study published this week in Nature, researchers developed a global food consumption GHG emissions inventory. Using a reduced-complexity climate model, they evaluated the future warming contribution associated with these emissions, as well as the potential benefits of certain mitigation measures.

Key findings:

  • Global food consumption alone could contribute up to 0.9°C of warming above present-day levels by the end of the century.
  • Methane is responsible for the majority of the projected increase, accounting for nearly 60% of the warming associated with food consumption by the end of the century.
  • Consumption of dairy and meat is responsible for more than half of the warming by the year 2030 and through to 2100.
  • Rice also contributes to a large fraction of end-of-century warming (19%), whereas vegetables, grains, seafood, oils, beverages, eggs, fruit, and all other uncategorised food items each contribute 5% or less.
  • Decarbonisation of the energy sector by 2050 could decrease end-of-century warming associated with global food consumption by ~17% or an additional 0.15 °C.
  • Universal adoption of healthier diets could decrease warming due to food consumption by 0.19 °C by 2100.
  • Pursuing improved production practices, energy decarbonisation, healthy diets, and reduced food waste simultaneously can avoid 0.5 °C of additional future warming by 2100 (more than 55% of the anticipated warming from sustaining global food consumption).

Relative contribution of food groups to global mean surface air temperature responses to future food consumption GHG emissions under a high-population projection. From: Future warming from global food consumption. Learn more

UK Government provided £20bn more support to fossil fuels than renewables since 2015

  • The UK government has provided £20bn more support to fossil fuel producers than to renewables since 2015, according to research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.
  • Fossil fuel companies have received close to £80bn in support, while renewable energy was given £60bn.
  • A fifth of the money given directly to the fossil fuel industry was used to support new extraction and mining.
  • Support for fossil fuel extraction rose by 20% in 2021 to nearly £2bn.
  • The Liberal Democrat climate and energy spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, criticised the government for failing to tax the profits of oil and gas companies and for giving them billions in taxpayer money instead of investing in renewables.
  • Hobhouse called for net-zero to be at the heart of all policy decisions to secure a green future.

Learn more

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