12 min read

Good News, 16th October 2021

An incredible new weapon in the war against one of humanity's oldest and deadliest foes. Plus, good news on landmines, healthcare in India and Haiti, a coal ban in China's industrial heartland, the end of overfishing in the United States, and a massive new marine reserve in the Atlantic.
Good News, 16th October 2021

A fortnightly roundup of good news from around the world. This is the free edition. For the full experience, you can upgrade to the weekly premium edition, which also comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet. One third of your subscriber fee goes to charity.

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Introducing MiracleFeet, an amazing charity we just discovered that's on a mission to create universal access for treatment of clubfoot, one of leading causes of physical disability in the world. Founded in 2010 by parents of children born with clubfoot, they use a simple, low cost treatment to give kids the extraordinary gift of lifelong mobility, independence, and opportunity.

We're sending them US$5,000 to cover the cost of 250 braces, made of shoes that clip into a plastic bar. They're currently used at clinics in 19 of the countries where MiracleFeet works. These braces are going specifically to children in the Philippines. Thank you to all of our paying subscribers for making this possible.

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Good news you probably didn't hear about


The world has gained a new weapon in the war on malaria, among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases. In a momentous and long-awaited decision, the World Health Organization has approved the rollout of a malaria vaccine (the first ever for a parasitic disease) to protect children in Africa. NYT

India has the largest public health insurance scheme in the world, providing 500 million people with free healthcare. Since its launch three years ago, over 20 million treatments worth approximately $3.5 billion have been provided for the country's poorest citizens. In a new update announced last week, transgender operations and treatments will now be covered too.

In an unexpected public health victory, Haiti has successfully controlled the largest cholera epidemic ever recorded in a single country, while simultaneously improving maternal and child healthcare. There have been no confirmed cases of cholera since January 2019, and the quality of maternal and child health has improved significantly in the last decade thanks dto a program that pays local clinics when they meet predetermined targets. World Bank

According to the World Air Quality report, 84% of countries experienced better air quality in 2020 compared to 2019, due to the decline in industry and transport during COVID lockdowns. The report collected data from 106 countries, with Singapore, China, and Thailand recording the greatest reductions. CNN

"The connection between Covid-19 and air pollution has shone new light on the latter, especially as many locations have observed visibly cleaner air - revealing that air quality improvements are possible with urgent, collective action."

More than 110,000 landmines covering 135 km2 were destroyed globally last year, a new annual record. Four of the world’s most heavily mined countries - Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq - accounted for 95% of the clearances, an exceptional achievement, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic. Over a million landmines have been cleared in the last decade. ReliefWeb

Landmine Girls: meet the all-women squad clearing out Vietnam's unexploded bombs. Reuters

Bad news travels, good news doesn’t. When Afghanistan’s government collapsed, the whole world watched. But when Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, produces the planet's most effective democratically elected leader – President Joko Widodo – almost no one outside the archipelago knows the story. Project Syndicate

Brazil’s highest court has upheld a ban on missionaries entering reserves that are home to isolated and recently contacted Indigenous people. The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Indigenous organizations against a law passed in July 2020 that allowed missionaries to remain inside reserves despite the pandemic, in violation of Brazil’s official policy in place since 1987. Mongabay

The European Parliament has voted in support of banning biometric mass surveillance, stating that individuals should only be monitored if they have been suspected of a crime. The landmark resolution would put an end to the automated recognition of people in public spaces through biometrics, and also prohibit predictive policing which increases the risk of discrimination. Pro Privacy

100 of the world’s biggest companies will now pay a minimum tax rate of 15% and be accountable to the countries they operate in, thanks to the first global revamp of corporate tax rules in over a decade. 136 countries have signed the new agreement, which will raise an additional $150 billion per year that will go to citizens, rather than line the pockets of CEOs. Politico

Following the lead of Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam, the UK's second largest city, Birmingham, is set to transform into a super-sized, low-traffic neighbourhood with a new plan to divert car traffic out of the city and introduce zero-emissions cross-city buses, cycle ways and pedestrian lanes. Guardian


Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


Big announcements from climate laggards this week. Russia has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060, Turkey has finally ratified the Paris Agreement, and the UAE has become the first petro-state to commit to net zero by 2050. Critics say these pledges aren't enough, but they're missing the point. They're not promises. They're ratchets - once announced, they only increase in ambition.

Huge domino down. Guangdong, China's most populous province and one of its most industrialized, has banned the construction of coal plants in the Pearl River Delta, the first ever crackdown on coal by a major Chinese province. Crude oil processing will also be forbidden, along with other industries like cement, plate glass, chemical pulping, raw leather tanning and steel. SP Global

Another North American pipeline down too. The proposed PennEast Pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, one of the last remaining projects set to pull gas from the biggest gas shale basin in the United States, has been cancelled due to legal and regulatory challenges. Reuters

China has begun construction on the largest and most ambitious clean energy project of all time, 100GW of wind and solar in its western desert. That’s more than the entire existing wind and solar capacity of India, and will be able to generate four times as much power as the Three Gorges Dam. Bloomberg

The Biden administration has begun a process to identify, demarcate and start leasing federal waters for offshore wind installations across the entire US coastline - Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine, the coasts of the mid-Atlantic States, North Carolina and South Carolina, California and Oregon. The first leases will be ready by 2025. NYT

Global energy storage is growing so quickly and at such a large scale it’s difficult to grasp the significance. 12.4 GW of capacity, mostly batteries, is on track to be installed in 2021, up from 4.9 GW in 2020, which was already a record. To put that into perspective, the world installed 1 GW of new capacity in 2016. Five years later, we're doing that every month. Inside Climate News

Workers install battery modules at the 409 MW Manatee Energy Storage Center in Florida. Once completed this will be the largest battery storage project in the world. 

California just passed a law requiring the carbon emissions per ton of cement produced to be cut by 40% percent below 2019 levels by 2035. It's the first time ever a US state has required specific reductions from an economic sector, and puts it right out at the front of the global effort to decarbonize the cement industry. Canary

The global steel industry is moving far quicker than expected in tackling the challenge of decarbonization. "The steel industry is now at a tipping point. For years, we've watched small pilot projects demonstrate cleaner steelmaking processes, but they weren't really moving the needle. Now it’s different." Canary

The International Council on Mining and Metals, one third of the global mining and metals industry, has committed to net zero direct and indirect carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. Made up of 28 of the world's biggest mining companies, with 650 sites in over 5o countries, it sends a clear signal on where things are heading for the rest of the industry. Reuters

Two dozen countries have joined a US and EU-led effort to slash methane emissions by 30% by 2030, giving a new 'Global Methane Pledge' momentum ahead of COP26. Nigeria, Japan and Pakistan are among the new signatories to the agreement, which will have a significant impact on reducing global warming. Reuters

Everyone's scrambling to get their commitments in before things kick off in Glasgow. The International Air Transport Association, which groups 290 airlines, including dozens of state carriers, has also committed to net zero by 2050, in a move that ties the sector's climate action to the 2015 Paris accord for the first time ever. Reuters

New York's city council just passed a bill requiring all of the city’s 885 diesel school buses to be converted to fully electric models by 2035. This is in line with the city's recent decision to allow only zero-emission passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to be sold from 2035. We Go Electric

Life comes at you fast when you're a car manufacturer these days. Cars powered by combustion engines now make up less than 10% of sales in Norway, and forecasts suggest the country's last sale of a new petrol or diesel car will come in April 2022, three years ahead of what was already the world's most ambitious target. Like we said: ratchets. Drive

Electron pump

Another week, another Ivy League university ditching fossil fuels. They're falling thick and fast now. This time it's Dartmouth which says that new fossil fuel investments will no longer be allowed in its endowment, and existing holdings will be allowed to expire once their contracts end.

The European Banking Authority says it's seeing clear signs that banks are dropping clients that pose a climate risk, and redirecting capital away from polluting industries. Loans account for two-thirds of the $22 trillion in exposure that the world's biggest financial institutions have to carbon intensive industries. Once they start drying up, things get very ugly for fossil fuels. Bloomberg

In a first for an Indian financial institution, the Federal Bank will not finance any new thermal coal mines or the expansion of existing mines, and has also ruled out support for new coal projects or the expansion of existing ones. This is a big deal: the first major domino in a country where the divestment movement is only just getting started. Mercom


The only home we've ever known


The US government is reinstating environmental protections for three major national monuments ripped away by the Trump administration. The Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England, America's first marine monument, will all have their boundaries restored. NYT

Stars illuminate the landscape of Bears Ears National Monument. WTAF is wrong with people that try to strip protections from these places, seriously? Image credit: Marc Toso

A federal judge has overturned the US Bureau of Land Management’s decision to lease 58,000 acres of public land in western Colorado for oil and gas extraction, agreeing with conservation groups that fracking and drilling will worsen air quality and threaten public health. “This is a huge win for public health and the wild places of Colorado that deserve protection." CBL

Three years ago, Pakistan launched the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, a plan to reforest vast swathes of one of the most deforested countries in the world. Critics scoffed, but they're being forced to eat their words: the country is on track to plant 1.5 billion trees by the end of 2021, and is also conducting one of the biggest mangrove restoration projects in the world. Dunya

Pakistan's efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Mongolia, another country suffering from severe desertification, just announced it's going to spend around 1% of its GDP to plant a billion trees by 2030. Montsame

Overfishing in US waters has essentially ended. As of 2017, 85% of US fish stocks were no longer overfished, the highest number since record keeping began, and active overfishing had been eliminated in 91% of stocks. It's not just good news for the planet, but for fishing communities too. “We’re catching bigger fish and getting more bang for our buck." Reasons to be Cheerful

In the 1990s, red snapper were being depleted in the Gulf of Mexico. When regulators tried limiting the season, fisherfolk raced to catch as many as possible. As a result, fish stocks continued to decline. When they switched to a system in which catch limits were adjusted up or down depending on the number of fish, it became in the fisherfolks’ interest to fish sustainably. It worked. By 2013 red snapper was taken off the 'avoid' list for consumers, stocks began to rebound, fishing costs went down and prices went up. 

Refugees in Cameroon have planted 360,000 trees around the Minawao Refugee Camp, transforming 100 hectares of desert into thriving forest and vegetation. The ecological and humanitarian win is part of a unique program aimed to restore the area, after the arrival of 70,000 refugees accelerated desertification. When they go home, ‘they will leave behind a greener and more developed village." UNHCR.

France will ban plastic packaging for over 30 fruits and vegetables from January 2022. The measure will save more than one billion tonnes of plastic packaging per year and is part of the government’s program to phase out single use plastic on all produce by 2026. Reuters

California has passed the strictest recycling law in the US, requiring manufacturers to ensure items with the 'chasing arrows' recycling symbol are actually recyclable. The bill also strengthens rules for what can be used in compost to prevent soil contamination, and requires labels to inform consumers what can be composted too. AP

Winemakers in California are using barn owls and other birds of prey as a cost-effective and pesticide-free alternative to eliminate pests. 80% of Californian vineyards, who used to rely on toxic chemicals to protect vines (which impacted other local wildlife) now have barn owl nest boxes. Bay Nature

Pest control

The population of the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla has doubled, with current numbers of 6,800 up from 3,800 in 2016. The good news is attributed to conservation in the Oku Community Forests in the Congo, where the population has remained stable thanks to habitat conservation and local community engagement. Mongabay

Consumption of wildlife has dropped by almost 30% across China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the USA due to shifting cultural tastes and concerns about COVID-19. Governments are also stepping in, with China banning the consumption of wild animals last year and Vietnam also introducing restrictions. Globe Scan

China has pledged US$230 million to support conservation in developing countries, and will create several new national parks of its own, covering 230,000 km2 and protecting nearly 30% of the country’s key terrestrial wildlife species, including pandas, tigers and leopards. Conservation

An ambitious project to create a 50 million tree corridor between Liverpool and Hull in northern England has taken a step forward after the government pledged £15m to the cause. That's enough for a million trees in the next year, on top of the three million already planted as part of the Northern Forest initiative. BBC

A vast area of the Atlantic Ocean off the south west coast of Ireland is to be designated as a marine protected area in an international effort to protect 5 million seabirds across 22 different species. The MPA, known as the North-Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea Basin, will protect an area of 641 612 km2. Irish Times

Location of the proposed MPA within OSPAR, the mechanism by which 15 governments & the EU cooperate to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic.

That's it for this edition, hope you enjoyed it.

A huge thank you again to all our paying subscribers for making the MiracleFeet donation possible. It really helps.

We'll see you again in a fortnight.

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