Net-zero is impossible without an overhaul of the waste sector, write climate coalition in an open letter to the Prime Minister.
Written by Extinction Rebellion and signed by campaign groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, the letter warns that emissions from waste disposal are growing rapidly due to the expansion of carbon-intensive energy from waste (EfW) incineration plants.
The past decade has seen a rapid growth of EfW incineration capacity.
Last year waste incineration was responsible for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and provided the UK with just 2.4% of its electricity generation.
In the open letter, the campaign groups are calling on the government to introduce a new law that would require the waste sector to decarbonise by 2035.
The letter also offers the government a Circular Economy Blueprint. The blueprint demonstrates that continued large-scale waste incineration impairs the transition to a circular economy.
Once EfW infrastructure is in place, a local authority is contractually obligated to continue burning materials so that the EfW facility can operate at capacity, typically for at least 10 years.
As a result of such contracts, millions of tonnes of materials that are readily recyclable or compostable are being burnt throughout the UK; today these materials account for more than 50% of the waste that goes to incineration.
Dr Anne Velenturf from the Resource Recovery from Waste programme, who also signed the letter said: ‘Building EfW plants now when we need to decarbonise, is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement and the UK’s legally binding net-zero commitments.
‘Extracting resources and manufacturing products costs a lot of energy and we should not let such invested energy go to waste in incineration plants. Ministers must consider whether planned construction of incinerators is compliant with climate obligations, otherwise, the government effectively inhibits the decarbonisation of the UK economy.’
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