Important to link plastic to climate change

Important to link plastic to climate change

I was very honoured to join the board of MISTRA STEPS in 2021. I have followed the programme for some time and think it is a leading research project in the EU on sustainable and circular plastics.

With my background as an economist and working at the European Environmental Agency, EEA, the policy relevant pathways aspects of the programme are closest to me. In this area, I can help with advice and EU and global perspectives on the plastics agenda. I also value a lot the parts of the programme that I know in less detail and learn a lot from – mainly the chemical and technical aspects of plastics and its lifecycle.

STEPS pathways very influential
STEPS is being very influential in the work on the pathways. It is really making a difference. The EEA has picked up on the findings and are using it in our assessments, briefings and interactions with the other EU Institutions and Member States. Linking plastics with climate change is very important as pointed to by STEPS researchers and should be highlighted more in research and policy agendas across Europe. Citizens are very interested in the plastics challenges and policies are developed. In late 2022, we expect  EU initiatives on bio-based and biodegradable plastics and on reducing microplastics from various sources.

I find the plastics pathways developed by STEPS to be an easy and understandable way to communicate about options for the future, about what could be done, as it can be strategic and  detailed at the same time. In an EEA  project that I lead about pathways to circular plastics, we are identifying good  examples across Europe. The three pathways we have identified, based on research done by STEPS, is communicated by us to the European Commission, the EU Parliament and Member States and we hope and trust that they will take it on board. Hopefully, in this way, I contribute make the distance shorter and bridge the gap between research findings and policymakers in the EU.

Using and producing more plastic
I think that I can provide valuable inputs to STEPS on what I see is happening and in the plastics horizon in EU and on a global level. Now there are activities to reduce plastics pollution on all levels, regional, national, international and STEPS research and findings could and should be taken further in the future, One example of important STEPS research findings is on how the petrochemical industry is increasing its investment in the production of plastics – chocking and revealing to many.

The trend that we are producing – and using – more plastics now than ever, causing huge impacts on the environment and climate change, needs to be discussed and continuously challenged. My role is to feed this kind of information and knowledge to the European Commission, the EU Parliament and other bodies that can work on both a shift to other materials, more circular plastics and also to see how we can use less plastics overall.  We also need to find ways of harmonizing policies better, at least throughout Europe, and hopefully also worldwide through a global plastics agreement.

STEPS excellent research should continue
There are a number of other projects in the EU that are focused on plastics, but I find STEPS to be on the forefront with top notch and innovative research and approaches. Therefore, I think it is important to secure that there will be some form of continuation and I will try to contribute to ensuring this. The plastics challenges are very far from being solved across Europe and the world.

I look forward to being part of the programme in the years ahead and hope to see more outreach activities to share the knowledge and create even more awareness on the challenges and opportunities of plastics. In Sweden, I know there will be a focus on climate change and environmental impact during the Stockholm 50+ days in June 2022 with participants from across the world and this could be a good and important opportunity to present STEPS research.

Lars Fogh Mortensen
European Environment Agency (EEA)