Garbage at the sea side

The Revolution Plastics team are attending COP26 to show how plastics worsen climate change

We’re attending the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow this week, specifically to highlight the impact of plastics on climate change and the environment.

COP26 is a critical moment for the world to commit and take transformative action to cut carbon emissions and avoid further global temperature rises. 

Our researchers will be there in person to showcase some of the high-profile activities and climate research the University is leading to fight the climate crisis. 

How do plastics contribute to climate change?

  • More than 99% of plastic is made of fossil fuels and around 19% of greenhouse gases comes from fossil fuel extraction.
  • In 2019, the production of plastics added over 850 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
  • By 2050, it is estimated that the plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and up to 15% of the annual carbon budget.

(Source: Plastics and Climate, 2019, Centre for International Environmental Law)

Our activities at COP26 

We'll be showcasing our projects and research at the following events and activities at COP26 in Glasgow.

Global Plastics Policy Centre launch

Prof. Steve Fletcher and Dr. Cressida Bowyer will be in Glasgow from 3–7 November to launch the University’s Global Plastics Policy Centre and highlight the impact plastic pollution has on climate change. 

The Centre, supported by the Flotilla Foundation, will undertake evidence-based analysis of plastics policies worldwide to help generate sustainable solutions to tackle plastic pollution around the world. 

Roundtable event

Prof. Steve Fletcher will host a breakfast round-table with politicians, policy makers and opinion formers in Glasgow on 4 November. Speakers announced to date include:

  • Philip Dunne MP – Chair of the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee
  • Maurice Golden MSP – Spokesperson for the Low Carbon Economy, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party 
  • Cory Reynolds – Corporate Affairs Director and Head of Sustainability, Biffa
  • Dr Madeleine Berg – Project Manager, Fidra
  • Peter Singleton – Research, Innovation and Evidence Manager, SEPA
  • Claudia Beamish – COP26 spokesperson, Scottish Labour Party
  • Marcus Gover – Chief Executive, WRAP

The event will also provide an opportunity to introduce delegates to the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative and Global Plastics Policy Centre.

Empowering communities to reduce plastic pollution in the global south

Researchers from our Revolution Plastics team will be in the Green Zone exhibition area at COP26 on Friday 5 November. They’ll demonstrate how high levels of community engagement and empowerment are being achieved with low cost creative methods in some of the world’s worst hit areas. This includes a stunning life sized ‘Total Trash Talisman’; as well as music videos, films, interactive theatre and social media campaigns. 

Our exhibition will be a visual treat, with high impact examples of work that is being undertaken with partners in Bangladesh and Kenya. The ‘Total Trash Talisman’ is inspired by artists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been created from plastic waste around the UK. It’s designed to shock, amuse and engage visitors to COP26 — in exactly the same way the Sustainable Transitions to End Plastic Pollution (STEPP) project campaigns are doing in their target areas.

Follow our team during the live events by searching the hashtag #COP26plastics on Twitter. 

You can also join various talks and events virtually via the COP26 YouTube channel.


Showcasing our plastic eating enzyme research

Prof. John McGeehan’s pioneering plastic eating enzyme research is forming part of the Universities Network’s Climate Innovation Showcase which aims to demonstrate the role of universities in tackling the climate emergency. The exhibition of Images of Climate Innovation and a programme of events will be held on the University of Strathclyde campus in the Ramshorn Theatre in the centre of Glasgow. 

Raising awareness through music

music video created as part of the STEPP project is featured as part of the UKRI COP26 Virtual Platform. Created by Kenya-based artists Eleanor, Igwe Ke, Nelmo Newsong and Fralee Bolo, the video raises awareness about plastic pollution.

Watch the music video

Other climate change events and activities

We’ve been involved in other projects, sharing our expertise and research through a series of events.

Using creativity to tackle plastic waste and climate change

In the run up to the UN climate conference, we held a COP26 Universities Network webinar hosted by the Kenyan eco-journalist and campaigner James Wakibia

Plastics, Climate and the Art of Making Change brought together Portsmouth researchers and collaborators to discuss how addressing plastic pollution goes hand-in-hand with climate action. From reusing flip flops as building materials for boats to plastic drums for floating homes in flood-prone areas, the event demonstrated the impact of plastic waste and solutions within countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Examples from our STEPP project showed how creative methods are being used to engage local communities in tackling plastic waste in the Global South. Watch the recording of the full webinar here.

Portsmouth Climate Festival

As well as attending the conference in Glasgow, we’re also bringing the climate conversation closer to home with Portsmouth Climate Festival.

  • 2–4 November — See renewable energy solutions in action on campus
    Experts from the University’s School of Energy and Electronic Engineering are hosting drop-in events to showcase renewable energy solutions for a warming world. They’ll demonstrate how to convert food waste into fuel for heating, cooking or powering vehicles and how to turn sunshine into electricity.
  • 12 November — Climate Question Time and Festival Closing Event
    As COP26 comes to a close on Friday 12 Nov, join us at the No. 6 Cinema in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for the closing event of the Portsmouth Climate Festival. The event will feature a Question Time-style panel discussion and the opportunity to question an expert panel who will discuss what happened at COP26 and what it means for climate action in Portsmouth. Please book via Eventbrite.

Meet our team at COP26

Prof. Steve Fletcher is Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy, and Director of the Sustainability and the Environment research theme, at the University of Portsmouth. Professor Fletcher also leads the University's Revolution Plastics initiative, driving interdisciplinary research and innovation to solve challenges in production, use and disposal of plastics. He is also Ocean Lead of the UN International Resource Panel.

Dr. Cressida Bowyer is a Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Science and Health and the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries. Dr Bowyer is also Deputy Lead for Revolution Plastics. A biological scientist by training and having previously worked in the arts, the primary purpose of Cressida’s research is to address global problems such as air quality, lung health and plastic pollution.

Dr. Erika Hughes is Academic Lead for Performance in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Portsmouth. As a scholar of political performance, youth, and community, Erika explores how narratives in performance say much about societal norms. Her global research and creative work sits at the intersection of memory, history, and performance. 

Teresiah Wurai is a Gender and Development aficionado, research associate at the University of Portsmouth and was chosen for the Chevening Scholarship in 2020/21. Teresiah has rich experience of working with women and young people from the Global North and South.