Global Leaders to Meet This Month to Negotiate Production Cuts in Plastics Treaty

Berkeley, CA, USA– In advance of the fourth round of United Nations negotiations for an international plastics treaty in Ottawa April 23-29, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) has released a groundbreaking study revealing the enormous climate impact of plastic production. According to LBNL’s study, 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions from primary plastic production happen before the polymerization stage. This reinforces the importance of the treaty covering the entire life cycle of plastic, from extraction to disposal, as enshrined in the 175-country agreement  Resolution  5/14, which forms the basis for the treaty talks.

In response to the report, Dr. Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Dr. Jorge Emmanuel of Siliman University, Philippines, and Dr. Sam Adu-Kumi, former Director of the Chemicals Control and Management Centre of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana, have contextualized LBNL’s findings within the Paris Climate Agreement and global carbon budget. GAIA’s calculations (incorporating the data from the LBNL report):

● Plastics’ impact on the climate starts with extraction. To fully capture, measure, evaluate, and address the impacts of plastic pollution, assessment and regulatory controls must consider the complete lifecycle, beginning with extraction.

● Growth in plastic production alone will doom international climate goals. Even if every other source of greenhouse gas emissions – transportation, electricity, agriculture, heavy industry, etc. – were to miraculously and completely decarbonize in 2024, at current growth rates, primary plastic production alone would completely consume the global carbon budget as early as 2060 and no later than 2083.

● Deep, rapid cuts in plastic production are required by the Paris Agreement. To avoid breaching the 1.5°C limit set by the Paris Agreement, primary plastic production must decrease by at least 12% to 17% per year, starting in 2024.

A key tension point in the negotiations thus far is over including ambitious and binding plastic production cuts in the final treaty. The vast majority of countries engaged in the negotiation process have remained open to including production reduction targets in the treaty. However a small but vocal minority, primarily made up of fossil fuel-producing nations, have sought to sabotage the talks through  obstruction tactics and by arguing that plastic pollution starts only at the disposal stage. In light of the new data from LBNL, this small group’s obstruction imperils the world’s ability to decarbonize in time to avoid climate disaster.

The petrochemical industry itself has had a significant presence at the negotiations– 143 industry lobbyists registered to attend INC-3, a larger group than any national delegation or civil society organization, and has gained extensive access to government representatives from around the world. Civil society is calling for their removal from further negotiations to avoid conflict of interest.

GAIA Science and Policy Director and Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, Dr. Neil Tangri, states: “While global leaders are trying to negotiate a solution to the plastic crisis, the petrochemical industry is investing billions of dollars in making the problem rapidly worse. We need a global agreement to stop this cancerous growth, bring down plastic production, and usher in a world with less plastic and less pollution.”

Dr. Sam Adu-Kumi, former Director of the Chemicals Control and Management Centre of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ghana, says, “Africa has been one of the most ambitious regions in the plastics treaty negotiations. We recognize the impact of plastic pollution on our people’s health, environment, and livelihoods and we know from experience that upstream measures are needed to enable downstream success in combating plastic pollution.”

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, Adjunct Professor and Research Faculty Fellow, Siliman University, Dumaguete, Philippines, states, “The Philippines is on the frontlines of both climate change and plastic pollution. Heat waves, powerful typhoons and flooding are getting worse, and the petrochemical industry has displaced our traditional systems with mountains of plastic that poison our communities. Whether the treaty includes plastic production cuts is not just a policy debate. It’s a matter of survival.”


Dr. Neil Tangri was an expert reviewer of the LBNL report, and the conclusions cited above are based on that report’s data. A full description of the methodology can be found below. A full policy brief uncovering how this new data can be understood within the context of the plastics treaty negotiations will be available on Friday, April 19, 2024, at 7 am EST. To receive an embargoed copy of this report, please contact

For more information about the upcoming plastics treaty negotiations (INC-4), please see our press kit. 

Press contacts: Claire Arkin, Global Communications Lead | +1 973 444 4869


1 Friedlingstein et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2020”; Friedlingstein et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2021”; Friedlingstein et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2022”; Friedlingstein et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2023.”

2 Lamboll et al., “Assessing the Size and Uncertainty of Remaining Carbon Budgets.”

3 Bachmann et al., “Towards Circular Plastics within Planetary Boundaries.”

4 Geyer, Jambeck, and Law, “Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made”; Desalegn and Tangl, “Banning Vs Taxing, Reviewing the Potential Opportunities and Challenges of Plastic Products”; Shanmugam et al., “Polymer Recycling in Additive Manufacturing.”


Carbon budget: The IPCC estimated the remaining carbon budget at the end of 2019 to be 400

Gt CO2 for a 67% chance of remaining below 1.5°C, and 500 Gt CO2 for a 50% chance. We updated these figures with the annual carbon budgets from 2020 to 2023.1 A more recent analysis finds that the remaining carbon budget is ~30 Gt CO2 smaller than the IPCC estimates used in this policy brief.2  This would imply the need for even steeper production cuts. An important caveat is that these figures refer only to carbon dioxide and not the other greenhouse gasses. Given the current rise in methane emissions and atmospheric concentrations, this certainly results in an overestimation of the remaining carbon budget as of the end of 2023. Allotting shares of the carbon budget to different sectors is a political choice rather than a scientific one. For this calculation, we assume that the share of plastic in global emissions would remain constant at 5.3% even though plastic’s contribution to the global economy has been estimated at only 1.1%.3

Overshoot: Plastic production has grown between 3.1% and 4.4% per year since 2010, depending on data sources.4 Karali et al. chose a range of 2.5% to 4% growth trajectories. We extrapolated the range of growth trajectories to find when plastics would consume the entire remaining carbon budget. This entails the highly unrealistic assumption that there are no other greenhouse gas emissions during this time; it is done for illustrative purposes alone.

Drawdown: For more realistic scenarios, we calculated the rate of drawdown required, beginning in 2024, if plastic production is to fit within its allotted carbon budget. The results depend primarily on the allotment of the carbon budget and secondarily on the degree of safety desired around achieving the 1.5°C goal as reflected in the IPCC’s likelihood estimate of meeting this goal. We also added a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario based on continued growth with no production cuts. Results from the highlighted scenarios are below:


Chance of achieving 1.5 °C goal

Plastic production growth, 2020-2023

Required production cuts beginning 2024





Slow transition




Business as usual




No cut – growing at 3.45%