Good News Digest #5
Bad news related to climate change is hitting us at all angles. Fear and urgency are dominating the climate conversation. Yet positive climate stories and solutions are equally, if not more effective drivers of climate action.
They prove that solutions are working and are ready to be scaled. They show that nature is resilient and comes up with surprising ways of preserving itself. They send a clear signal to governments, policymakers, corporations and the wider public that there is a growing demand for cleaner technology and climate policy.
If you feel like you are drowning in bad news, we have collected lasts week’s climate change success stories to get you through the week.
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More pledges to fight climate change
Edinburgh, UK — Last Tuesday, the City of Edinburgh Council pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2030. Edinburgh is already on course to meet its current target of reducing its carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, having reduced its emissions by 33% already since 2005.
Mercedes-Benz — The car manufacturer just announced its intentions to make its entire fleet carbon-neutral in the next 20 years. The plan, dubbed “Ambition2039,” sets the target date for meeting that goal at 2039, undercutting Volkswagen’s similar milestone date of 2050.
Germany — In a first for the sector, the world's fourth largest maker of concrete pledged to cut emissions by 2050 in line with Paris Agreement. It committed to slash direct emissions by 15 per cent per tonne of its products and indirect emissions by 65 per cent a tonne by 2030 from 2016 levels. Currently employing around 58,000 people in 60 countries, the commitment is a powerful, international signal that the built-environment is transitioning towards a zero-carbon future.
Madison, Wisconsin — Madison Gas & Electric has set a goal to eventually eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from the electricity it sells by 2050. The plan will rely on significant new renewable energy resources, reducing the use of fossil fuels and helping customers become more energy efficient.
United Kingdom — Construction and property development giant Skanska has committed to reduce the carbon emissions of its business to zero by 2045. The pledge covers the company’s existing, planned and partially completed projects as well as its entire supply chain. Skanska will purchase renewable electricity to be used during its own construction and building operations and will invest more heavily in technologies to minimize the energy use of its buildings, including on-site renewable arrays and low-carbon heating and cooling systems.
New York — New York regulators on Wednesday rejected the construction of a heavily disputed, nearly $1 billion natural gas pipeline, that planned to run 37 miles, connecting natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. Business leaders and energy companies warned that the pipeline could devastate the state’s economy, further endanger fragile ecosystems, handcuff New York to fossil fuels and prevent the transition toward renewables.
London, UK — Since BP’s 2018 carbon emissions rose to their highest in six years, activists and an increasing number of shareholders are lobbying to ensure its operations are in line with goals set by the 2015 Paris climate deal to curb global warming.
Oregon — Last Friday, Oregon’s carbon cap and trade bill took a significant step toward passage as lawmakers moved it out of committee with an 8-to-5 vote, along party lines. If passed, Oregon would become the second state with an economy-wide emissions cap and pricing mechanism. Under the bill, the state would place an overall limit on emissions and then sell a set number of pollution permits or “allowances” to the highest bidder.
Canberra, Australia — October marks the date when the third stage of South Australia's Hornsdale wind farm comes online in Canberra, which is the last installment of renewable energy it needs to claim 100 per cent renewable power. This fulfills the government pledge to reach the target by 2020. Canberrans pay $5 a week on top of their average power bill to fund the scheme.
Japan — As well as committing to 100% renewable power for the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan plans to offset all unavoidable CO₂ emissions, ensure that all products are sourced according to a strict sustainability code, and use lease and rental services so that 99% of procured goods will be recycled or reused. For example, athletes’ uniforms will be made from recycled fabric, and Japanese citizens have donated used electronics from which all medals will be created. If such a vision is achieved, Tokyo could significantly raise the bar for future games.
Electric Vehicles — Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that sales of passenger electric vehicles will reach 50 million by 2038, exceeding the projected 47 million units of conventional passenger vehicle sales.
North Dakota — While oil and other traditional fossil fuels are still dominant, the clean energy sector is growing, and companies across the state continue to recruit workers to meet the needs of a growing renewable energy sector. Last year, wind turbines generated about 26 per cent of all electricity in the state. The percentage of coal-generated electricity has fallen from 70 per cent in 2016 to 66 per cent last year.
Changing the climate conversation
TV — According to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, shows should have more plot lines and references to climate change to help tackle the issue (ie. showing people recycling and discussing environmental issues).
The Guardian — The newspaper has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown.” Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity,” “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic.”
Elections and climate change
2020 Elections — Washington Governor Jay Inslee, dubbed the country’s first climate candidate, just released his climate change platform. The Evergreen Economy Plan outlines how to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045, through $9 trillion in federal and private spending over the next decade.
Germany — The “new election is a climate election.” Climate change is the number 1 issue in the German elections for the European Union. After years of low voter turnout, 63 per cent of people say they are closely following the election.
Seattle, Washington — Engineers are creating life-enhancing designs to improve marine habitats and encourage biodiversity. In the waters of Elliott Bay, Washington State, the $688-million Central Waterfront redesign creates a habitat that more closely mimics a natural shoreline. This includes niches, hidden surfaces, shadow, sunlight, and micro-currents that promote the growth of the tiny organisms young salmon feed on—and shallower waters that provide juvenile fish greater safety from predators.
According to a study, the scientists developed a new form of plastic that actually allows for a closed-loop and zero-waste recycling process. The plastic is called poly(diketoenamine) or PDK, and it would remain just as strong and valuable after each time it is recycled, unlike traditional plastic.
Everglades, Florida — After receiving letters and prodding by Florida’s state and federal lawmakers, President Donald Trump changed course Monday, announcing his support of a $200 million push to fund projects aimed at restoring Florida’s Everglades via Twitter.
Utqiaġvik, Alaska — For the last 3 years, Dr. Leslie Field and the research team at her Silicon Valley nonprofit Ice 911 have been testing an unusual solution to restore Arctic ice. Their findings so far: when silica microbreads are spread across ice, they become a reflective shield against the sun. Ice treated with these beads grows thicker and more reflective with each application. Models suggests that spreading the beads in only a few strategic areas could reverse melting across the Arctic.
Ladakh, Kashmir — Ice stupa, a kind of artiﬁcial glacier, are created in winter using runoﬀ or spring water that’s been piped underground and downslope. The water is released at night, when temperatures can drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit. It shoots through a sprinkler into the air and freezes. They start to melt in March and the meltwater helps farmers get through the crucial spring planting season.
In other news
Dairy milk's annual sales in the U.S. dropped by $1.1 billion from 2017 to 2018, and according to a new report by Global Market Insights, the dairy alternatives market will be worth more than $37.5 billion by 2025 (over double the market value in 2018). This trend is good news for the environment, as consuming less animal products is one of the most important things individuals can do to combat climate change.
France — French President Emmanuel Macron has tapped Kering, parent company of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Alexander McQueen and others, to lead a global fashion industry sustainability initiative. France, where luxury fashion is a lucrative sector, wants brands from around the world to commit to progress on issues including ocean health, biodiversity and climate change. Specific targets could include eliminating disposable plastics within three years or converting to renewable energy sources by 2030.
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