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Taiwan — A massive plastics facility proposed in St. James, Louisiana by Formosa Plastics Group would increase greenhouse gas emissions, contradicting the company’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The discovery by Stop Formosa Plastics Coalition comes as Formosa Plastics holds their annual shareholder meeting in Taiwan today. 

Formosa Plastics Group issued a statement saying that it intends to go carbon neutral by 2050, with a goal of 20 and 35 percent emissions reductions by 2025 and 2030. The $12 billion manufacturing complex, known as the “Sunshine Project,” would emit 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gasses per year if approved, which would increase the emissions of Formosa Petrochemicals Corporation, the subsidiary which owns the new complex, by 50 percent compared to the 27 million tons it reported in 2019. 

Proposed in the heart of a historic Black community, the Sunshine Project would be one of the world’s largest plastics plants. Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that the company is building in Louisiana because the facility’s pollution would not be allowed in Taiwan. The facility would mean the destruction of 5th District communities, including Freetown, founded by enslaved people who fought for and won their emancipation.

Formosa Plastics’ Sunshine Project would be the largest new source of greenhouse gasses of any oil, gas or chemical infrastructure project in the United States. According to the company’s own information submitted to the state, the facility would also double the toxic air pollution in St. James Parish. In nearly 70 incidents between 2000 and 2018, Formosa Plastics was fined more than $20 million by the US federal government across at least six sites in the US. And in December 2019, Formosa Plastics settled with frontline environmental advocates for $50 million, the largest environmental penalty ever paid to community groups, after a federal judge held the company was a “serial offender” against environmental laws.

Formosa Plastics’ statement that it “strives to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050” is riddled with loopholes. Climate Action 100+, a coalition of major institutional investors that has established a Net Zero Company Benchmark, finds that the statement “does not meet any criteria” for making a genuine zero emissions pledge, since the statement lacks an explicit commitment or binding language.

Formosa Plastics’ net zero pledge is also silent on Scope 3 emissions – the “indirect” greenhouse gas emissions produced through the whole value chain of the products that the company supplies raw materials for, which are a very significant part of its overall climate impact. 

What is already clear, however, is that developing a huge new production facility in St. James Parish would massively increase the greenhouse gas emissions that Formosa Plastics claims it will reduce – not to mention all of the other air pollutants that come with those, which could harm the local community.

Statement from Sharon Lavigne, Founder and Director of Rise St. James:

“It’s way past time for Formosa Plastics, our modern-day death sentence, to pack up and leave.  Formosa Plastics is not only a death sentence for St. James, Louisiana but throughout the Gulf Coast weakening  New Orleans, La seafood and cultural heritage. Formosa Plastics’ Net Zero pledge has loopholes so big that you could drive a Hummer through them. The Sunshine Project would massively increase greenhouse gas emissions, as well as many other air pollutants that could harm the local community. Its Net Zero pledge is little more than an attempt to greenwash the company’s very bad track record on climate and the environment.” – Sharon Lavigne, Founder and Director of Rise St. James 

Concerned residents and activists from around the world spoke in opposition to Formosa’s proposal:

“Formosa Plastics shouldn’t be allowed to build this plant in our community or anywhere else. If Formosa comes into Saint James Parish, it will be a death sentence for so many of us who reside on the East and West of the Mississippi River. St James Parish Council should do its job and protect us by withdrawing Formosa’s land use permit.” — Barbara Washington, Inclusive Louisiana and St. James Parish Resident

“I was honored to be asked by my American friends fighting tirelessly against the Sunshine Project to help share their voices with Formosa Plastics’ shareholders and the general public in Taiwan. Formosa Plastics wants to hide the huge risks Sunshine Project brings to the local community, environment and the climate. ” — Huiting Hsu, Taiwanese activist against Formosa Plastics

“Why should we poison yet another Black community to make plastics we don’t need from fossil fuels that drive us towards climate catastrophe? We shouldn’t.” — Ethan Buckner, Earthworks Energy Campaigner

“Formosa Plastics should listen to this community and abandon this terrible project. It would pollute an African American community already in poor health just to make more plastic the world doesn’t want or need. Communities, oceans and our climate would all be harmed by Formosa’s massive plastic plant.” — Delia Ridge Creamer, Campaigner for Center for Biological Diversity

“The Formosa Sunshine Project was sold to investors on the premise of a positive future for plastics and to local decision makers with a promise of good local jobs—but neither of those seems real. The oil, gas, and plastic sector is in long-term decline, and petrochemical plants like the Sunshine Project clearly pose a significant risk to human health and economic security. The Sunshine Project will bring devastation and disappointment to St. James Parish.” — Jane Patton, Senior Campaigner, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

For More Information:

Renisha Sullivan, Rise St. James, Renisha@garywatsonllc.com

Oscar Reyes, Friends of the Earth U.S., oereye@gmail.com