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Press release: 9 June 2022
The Flemish authorities have decided today to dismiss an appeal made by ClientEarth and 13 NGOs against the approval of petrochemicals giant INEOS’ plastics project in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. The environmental groups now plan to challenge that approval in court.
The decision was taken by the Environmental Ministry of Flanders. It follows an appeal submitted by the environmental groups against the Province of Antwerp’s approval of INEOS’ new permit for ‘Project One’.
Reacting to the decision, ClientEarth lawyer Tatiana Luján said: “The Flemish authorities’ decision to double down and persevere with this project is concerning. Project One will use fossil fuels to make the building blocks of plastics, which will not only intensify local plastic pollution, and exacerbate climate issues, but also carries great financial risk by adding more unnecessary plastic to an already inundated market.
“We have repeatedly argued that the project’s astonishing array of climate, environment and financial impacts that would be felt at each stage of its lifecycle continue to go unaccounted for. The consequences of getting it wrong now will have repercussions for generations to come. It’s incomprehensible why the Flemish authorities would back this project given these risks.
“We do not plan to take this decision lying down. Challenging this decision in court is a given if we want to protect people and the planet from the irreversible damage this project would cause.”
ClientEarth is working with the following organisations to stop the expansion of the INEOS plastics complex: Natuurbeschermingsvereniging De Steltkluut, Klimaatzaak, Greenpeace Belgium, Fairfin, BOS+, Recycling Netwerk Benelux, Grootouders voor het Klimaat, Climaxi, Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL), WWF Belgium, Zero Waste Europe, Gallifrey Foundation and Plastic Soup Foundation.
The decision to dismiss the environmental groups’ appeal was taken by the Environmental Ministry of Flanders.
The new permit is INEOS’ fresh attempt to get the project signed off after first cutting the project in half before deciding to drop its initial permit all together last year. Prior to this decision, the environmental groups had challenged and successfully blocked INEOS’ first permit for the €3 billion project.
ClientEarth and its partners have consistently taken legal action against INEOS’ permitting procedure, arguing that the Flemish authorities failed to fully assess the environmental impacts of the expansion – a clear breach of EU and national laws. The groups’ initial legal case delayed the project by over a year.
Up to 167,000 tonnes of pre-production plastic pellets are estimated to leak into the environment in Europe every year, making pellets the second largest source of primary microplastic pollution.
Plastic production is the largest driver of petrochemicals, which are derived from oil and gas. Petrochemical companies are therefore key drivers of the global fossil fuel demand, as they use the derivatives of fossil fuels to primarily make plastics.
A recent report by FairFin revealed that several of the world’s biggest international banks have collectively invested almost €22 billion in just two petrochemical companies – INEOS and Borealis – over the past five years, exposing themselves to significant financial risk.
According to INEOS’ Environmental Impact Assessment for Project One, about 90% of the ethylene production worldwide is for plastic applications. According to IEEFA, approximately 63% of the global production of ethylene can be linked to the production of plastic that aligns very closely with the definition of single-use plastics.
A report by Material Economics observed that plastics operate like a slow-burn combustion system as it releases carbon emissions at each stage of its life cycle. According to the report, even with a high recycling rate of 70% (against less than 10% today), some two-thirds of the carbon would be released as CO2 to the atmosphere within 15 years.
A recent analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), also shows the existential risks facing Project One. The briefing questions the viability of the project by identifying a series of weak financial conditions that it faces if it were to go ahead.
Tatiana Luján is a Colombian-qualified lawyer.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.