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Good news you probably didn't hear about
Vaccine distribution is finally picking up speed outside rich countries. COVAX, the global vaccine sharing initiative, delivered a record-breaking 309 million doses of covid vaccine across 70 low and middle income countries last month, and this month, reached the milestone of one billion doses distributed worldwide. WaPo
Cancer mortality rates in the United States have dropped by a third since the 90s due to 'major progress' in early detection and treatment for lung cancer. Lung cancer mortality decreased by 5% each year between 2015 and 2019 and is attributed to annual screenings and smoking prevention programs. CNN
I'm an oncologist, so I'm an inveterate optimist. But I think the key message for the public is that there's room for optimism across all types of cancer.
Dr. Deb Schrag, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre
Last weekend, Uganda conducted a door to door vaccination program to immunise eight million children against polio - in just three days. Uganda has achieved incredible results in childhood health over the past 20 years, with the mortality rate for under fives dropping by more than half. East African
A ground-breaking change to health regulations in Canada will allow patients suffering from serious mental health illnesses to access psychedelic therapies, including psilocybin and MDMA. The amendment represents a 'seismic shift' towards the legalization of psychedelics, which can be effective in treating PTSD and depression. Calgary Herald
UNICEF has updated data on global child mortality trends, and it's really good news. Thus far, the pandemic has not resulted in the feared reversal - rather, child mortality actually decreased in 2020, to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births. The longer term trends are even more encouraging, with the under five mortality rate falling by more than half since 2000.
Tanzania has lifted a 20-year ban preventing adolescent mothers from attending school. The ban was rooted in policy from the 1960s that included a mandatory pregnancy test and potential arrest if pregnant. Under the new law, young mothers will be allowed to resume their formal education after giving birth. Citizen
Canada and France have just outlawed conversion therapy, passing comprehensive legislation within days of each other. Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Albania, and Germany have already fully or partially banned the practice and another 11 countries, including New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, and Britain are currently working towards reform.
Further victories for human rights around the globe. A Taiwanese court made a landmark ruling allowing a man to legally adopt his husband’s non-biological child, Israel has lifted its surrogacy ban, allowing single men and same-sex couples to pursue surrogacy, and new legislation in the Faroe Islands has granted equal parental rights for same-sex couples.
Fatal police shootings in America dropped by 13% between 2020 and 2021, reaching the lowest annual number on record. Biggest drop? Florida. Increased public accountability and initiatives replacing armed officers with healthcare and social workers for mental-health related 911 calls contributed to the decline. ABC
The Kenyan government has made a historic commitment to the rights of women and girls, vowing to end gender-based violence by 2026. $23 million has been allocated to prevention and response services, research, and the establishment of a survivors’ fund. The achievement comes after decades of tireless advocacy. Gates Foundation
Landmark legislation in the Philippines has banned child marriage, constituting the practice as child abuse. This is a big, big moment for the country with one of the world's highest rates of child marriage. Bravo to the activists who made this happen. SCMP
Technology, education, and community efforts have helped Bangladesh reduce cyclone-related deaths more than 100-fold since 1970. The country’s multi-layered approach is leading the way for other developing countries to better manage the risks of climate disasters. New Humanitarian
Our parents did not learn about disasters when they were young, but we do. Climate change will bring bigger disasters in the future, but we know we can prepare for them. We are not afraid.
Purnima Sadhu, 16-year-old student in Bangladesh
The only home we've ever known *
Ecuador has expanded its protected waters by 60,000 km2, building upon the existing Galapagos Marine Reserve, which already protects 138,000 km2 of ocean from extractive activities. Together, Costa Rica and Ecuador have now connected two of the world’s most biologically significant and productive marine habitats. DW
These islands teach us something about ourselves.
What if we didn't set ourselves up as masters over this Earth, but as its protectors?
Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador
Ten countries in the western Indian ocean are joining forces to create a network of marine conservation areas dubbed the ‘Great Blue Wall’. The first stage of the project will be in the Pemba Channel off the coast of Tanzania, and focus on restoring coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows. Mongabay
An international group of researchers has compiled the first database of marine conservation efforts in China, and the results have surprised everyone. The country has 326 protected areas covering almost 13% of its territorial waters — and the researchers still aren't sure they've found all of them. Hakai
Over a thousand fin whales were seen swimming last week in the seas off Antarctica, the same ones in which they were driven to near-extinction last century. Conor Ryan, the @whale_nerd that spotted them, said that in 20 years at sea he's never seen anything like it. “Words fail me. I've seen maybe 100 fins here before in previous years."
A new survey in India has found forest and tree cover has increased by 2,261 km2 since 2019, and now covers almost a quarter of the geographical area of the country. While the government will continue conservation efforts, its focus will also turn to enriching the quality of these existing areas. Live Mint
Policy changes in the UK mean that farmers will now receive taxpayers’ cash to rewild their land. Previously, farmers were given grants based on how much land they farmed, but will now be paid for environmental improvements instead. Rewilding is having a big of a moment in the UK; the Independent has a great list of some of the projects already underway.
For the first time this century, Beijing’s air quality met China’s national standards in 2021. The biggest achievement was the reduction of PM2.5, the most dangerous pollutant, which fell 13% last year, with levels down to a third of what they were a decade ago. CREA
France has started 2022 on the front foot, with a ban on plastic packaging for 30 fruits and vegetables coming into effect on the 1st January. An estimated 37% of fresh produce was sold in plastic packaging in France last year and the new measures should eliminate over a billion pieces of packaging per year. Guardian
Organisations in New York that throw out more than two tonnes of food each week will be required to donate or compost the waste under new legislation. The law will help the 2.2 million people struggling with food insecurity and cut emissions from the millions of tonnes of food waste produced each year. Eco Watch
Giraffe populations across Africa have rebounded by 20% since 2015. Targeted conservation measures, relocation programs and field research have contributed to the rise. Scientists also recently uncovered genetic evidence that there may be four species of giraffe rather than one, three of which have considerably increased in population. NatGeo
A historic win for animal rights in Italy, with new legislation banning fur farming across the country. The amendment includes an immediate ban on the breeding of mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and chinchillas and the closure of 10 remaining mink farms by June 30, 2022. Italy is the 16th European country to outlaw the practice. Ecowatch
In thirty years of the animal rights battle this is our best victory. Finally, a parliamentary vote sanctions the end of unspeakable suffering inflicted on animals only in the name of profit and vanity.”
Michela Vittoria Brambilla, President of the Parliamentary Intergroup for Animal Rights Italy
New data from wildlife surveys shows Mexico’s endangered jaguar population increased by 20% between 2010 and 2018, giving conservationists confirmation that their strategies are working. Protection measures have included the creation of wildlife corridors and incentive programs with local communities.
Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it
The Czech Republic has brought forward its coal phase out date to 2033, five years ahead of its original target, Slovenia says it will stop using coal for electricity by the same date, South East Asia’s largest coal miner just announced it's divesting its entire coal business, and India's richest person is investing $80 billion in clean energy in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Wind became the main source of electricity generation in Spain last year, registering 23% of total production. Overall, renewables produced 46% of the country's electricity in 2021, an increase of almost 10% compared to 2020. A decade ago, renewables' share was less than 15%. Windpower Monthly
Texas is still the US state that most people associate most closely with the fossil fuels industry (a century's worth of fortunes, won and and lost, tends to have that effect). So you might be surprised to hear that nearly 40% of the Lone Star state's power was carbon free in 2021. Drill baby drill?
Good news down under. Australian homes and businesses installed just over 3GW of rooftop solar in 2021, a new annual record. There's now about 17GW of solar on the country's roofs, not because Australians think it's the right thing to do, but because they think it's the cheaper thing to do. Oh, and the state of South Australia just ran for one week on wind and sunshine alone.
Better move those goalposts, baseload’ologists.
Scotland has just finished leasing a mind-boggling 25GW of offshore wind. Even more amazing, almost 60% will be floating turbines, the first time this technology will be deployed commercially at scale. That has huge global significance; it means that offshore wind can be built in places with deeper coastlines, like Japan and Taiwan. FT
A new regulation has been issued by China's SASAC (a ministerial-level organization directly underneath the all-powerful State Council), stating that all state-owned enterprises need to achieve a 50% share of renewables in installed power capacity by 2025. In case it's not apparent, this is a really big deal.
Staying with China, new data shows the country's EV market continues to go gangbusters. Sales, which skyrocked by 154% last year to 3.3 million, are forecast to almost double again this year. The best-selling vehicle in the country? A $4,500, tiny, no-frills, three-door vehicle about the same size as a Smart car, called the Yuling Mini.
Meanwhile, the diesel death march is picking up pace in Europe. Sales of EVs overtook diesel models for the first time ever in December. That's a big milestone! More than a fifth of new cars sold across 18 European markets, including the UK, were powered exclusively by batteries, while diesel, once the most popular engine option, accounted for less than 19% of sales. FT
Chrysler says it will stop producing combustion engine powered vehicles by 2028, Hyundai is closing its combustion engine development division, and the all-electric Porsche Taycan is now outselling the 911. “Now, it is inevitable to convert into electrification.”
For a view of where things are heading, Norway's experience is instructive. Only 8% of new cars sold there last year ran purely on gasoline or diesel, while two thirds were electric, and most of the rest were hybrids. The view of Norwegians as environmental diehards is wrong too - they started with exactly the same EV skepticism we're seeing in other parts of the world right now. NYT
That's it for this edition, thanks for reading! So good to be back with you all, and a belated happy new year. A warm welcome to all our new subscribers too, it's great to have you on board.
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and that you managed to get some kind of respite from the madness out there over the festive season.
We'll see you in a fortnight.