Good News on Women's Rights in Indonesia, Germany's Easter Agreement, and Turtles in the Seychelles

Plus, the most successful charity event of all time, blood deliveries by drone in Rwanda, an electric vehicle boom in the United Kingdom, ocean conservation in Australia, and recoveries for bears, rhinos, gorillas, salmon, sea lions and walruses.

Good News on Women's Rights in Indonesia, Germany's Easter Agreement, and Turtles in the Seychelles
View of a high voltage transmission tower (electricity pylon) by twilight on January 11, 2022 in Niederaussem, Germany.

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 the subscriber fee goes to charity.

Become a paid subscriber

Good news you probably didn't hear about


Two amazing vaccine stories to kick things off. Nepal has introduced the typhoid vaccine into its routine immunisation programme, aiming to reach 95% of the country's 7.5 million children. And in Bangladesh, a three day COVID-19 vaccination campaign reached a staggering 12 million people, bringing the proportion of the vaccinated population to 72%.

Drones in Rwanda have made over 265,000 commercial deliveries of medical supplies, and account for three quarters of blood donations delivered outside Kigali. The blood arrives an average of 90 minutes earlier than by road, and there's been a 67% decrease in blood product expiration after the drone delivery programme was put in place. The Lancet

A new report from the UK's Health Security Agency shows there has been considerable progress towards eliminating hepatitis C as a public health problem in England. The prevalence of chronic hepatitis C declined to around 81,000 in 2020 (compared to 129,000 in 2015) – a 37% fall amongst the general population. UKHSA

The US Centre for Disease Control and Detection has released new data showing that cancer, the country's second leading cause of mortality, has seen historic drops in death rates in the last two decades. Between 2001 to 2020, cancer death rates fell by 27%, from 196.5 deaths per 100,000 people, to to 144.1 per 100,000. "The goal is now to turn cancer into a chronic disease rather than a fatal one."

*Deaths per 100,000 standard population. Source: CDC

Remember how someone once proposed building a wall to divide Texas and Mexico? Well thanks to a grassroots collaboration between the border towns of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, a binational river park will be created instead. The joint restoration project will span approximately 10 km and focus on the conservation of the Rio Grande River. Dezeen

Over 460 acres of ancestral land has been returned to the Rappahannock Tribe at Fornes Cliffs in Virginia. The land is also home to one of the largest nesting populations of bald eagles on the Atlantic coast and the tribe plan to create a replica 16th-century village to educate visitors about their history, and train tribal youth in traditional river knowledge. Smithsonian

One of Massachusetts' oldest prisons is shutting down, thanks to reduced incarceration rates and high maintenance costs.The prison is operating at only 68% capacity, because the state now has the lowest proportion of people in jail in 35 years. WBUR

The fruit of that work — the lowest level of incarceration in decades — was achieved by providing at-risk individuals with pathways to positive life choices, creating new re-entry services, and empowering returning citizens to rebuild their lives in meaningful ways.
Terrence Reidy, Public Safety and Security Secretary, Massachussets

Six years after deliberations first began, Indonesia has passed a landmark bill to tackle sexual violence, providing a legal framework for victims to seek justice. A majority of lawmakers backed the bill in parliament, successfully overcoming conservative opposition in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country. "This is surely a step forward." Al Jazeera

Indonesian activists celebrate parliament's passing of the sexual violence bill in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 12.

The number of women dying during pregnancy or in childbirth across India continues to fall. Government figures published last month revealed that the maternal mortality rate dropped from 122 per 100,000 births in 2015, to 103 per 100,000 in 2019. Experts say India is now on track to hit the UN’s target of less than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030. Telegraph

According to the IMF, India has almost eradicated extreme poverty and brought down consumption inequality to its lowest levels in 40 years. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty is now less than 1%, and has remained steady even during the pandemic on the back of 'in-kind' subsidies, especially food rations. Hindustan Times

Following Iceland’s success, 60 organisations in the United Kingdom have signed up for the world’s biggest four-day week trial. Starting in June, the trial will measure the impact of reduced hours on productivity, environment, and gender equality. 3,000 workers will take part, working one day less for their usual pay. Euro News

An international fundraising event in Warsaw last Saturday managed to raise over $10 billion from governments, companies and foundations for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, completely filling the UN Refugee Agency’s funding gap. That makes it the most successful charity event in human history. Global Citizen

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


There's an extremely important and hopeful paper out in Nature this week. The researchers find that if all the countries of the world fulfil their climate commitments, we will likely limit climate change to just under 2°C. To put this in context, when we started this newsletter in 2015, the world was on track for 4-5°C. Seven years later, we're in a position to meet the Paris Agreement.

What's even more encouraging about the paper is that the modeling only looks at national pledges, and doesn’t account for the more ambitious plans of cities, states, and corporations. Volkswagen's zero emissions strategy after all, has a bigger impact than Guinea’s, and California’s decarbonization plans matter more than Tuvalu's.

What does this mean for the climate emergency? The bad news is that 1.5°C is no longer in reach because the fossil fuels industry managed to delay action for so many years. That's a tragedy. The good news is that staying below 2°C now seems eminently possible. It's going to require an enormous amount of work, and there are plenty of battles still to come. But the horror scenarios of just a few years ago are no longer in play, and that's gotta be worth celebrating.

This survey includes estimates based on current policies, nations’ intended climate policies, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), for 2030, and pledges for net-zero emissions. The analysis suggests warming will be at the low end of the range presented, but only if net-zero pledges are fulfilled.

While we're on the subject of climate hope, check out this analysis from Kingsmill Bond, an energy strategist, who predicts that Putin’s aggression will drive a faster shift to clean energy, catalyzing market conditions and political appetite for renewables to displace fossil fuels. Canary

In more 'Vladimir Putin, Strategic Genius' news, both Japan and the European Union have announced they will be phasing out their imports of Russian coal. That will affect more than a quarter of all Russian coal exports, amounting to around €8 billion loss of revenue per year for Russia.

Russia's ambitions in the Arctic are dead in the water too. Novatek and Gazprom, the country's two biggest fossil gas companies, are fully dependent on western technology, and the latest round of sanctions from the EU have effectively crippled their Arctic operations. With the halt in LNG projects, Russia will not be able to achieve its dreams of a Northern Sea Route either. Barent Observer

Germany's new government just released its 'Easter Agreement,' the most ambitious clean energy target among all industrialised nations. It's the country's biggest energy reform in decades, a new policy that frees up land for clean energy production, speeds up permit procedures, and aims to achieve a 100% renewable power supply by 2035. Deutsche Welle

Portugal is accelerating its energy transition, with a new goal to increase the share of renewables in electricity production to 80% by 2026, four years earlier than previously planned. "Portugal has already taken very significant measures in the energy transition, but the evolution and duration of the war in Ukraine must necessarily imply new measures.” PV Tech

Up to 75% of the electricity flowing into the Irish grid can now come from variable renewable sources. It's the first national power system in the world  to reach this level, overcoming 'major technical challenges' to succesfully integrate electricity from wind farms, solar farms and interconnectors linking it with other countries. ReNews

Making electricity grids sexy again. Credit: EirGrid

Buoyed by a surge in investment and new projects, wind power has become Spain's main source of electricity generation, and just in time, as Europe seeks to curb its energy imports from Russia. The country now plans to become the 'energy breadbasket' of Europe, aiming to generate 74% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. TechXplore

The Philippines is massively ramping up its solar capacity, with planned projects growing 10-fold in the last year. As of March 2022, the country has 13 GW of solar in the pipeline, up from a paltry 1.3 GW in March 2021, with wind power also growing substantially. PV Tech

Taiwan is planning a massive clean energy spending spree, in an effort to accelerate its energy transition. Government and state-owned companies will spend about $32 billion between 2022 and 2030 on renewable technologies, grid infrastructure and energy storage. Bloomberg

Good news: 83% of all new power capacity added in the United States in 2021 was renewable, while fossil gas additions were down 50% compared to 2019. The US also set a major renewable energy milestone earlier this month: wind power was the country's second-highest source of electricity, edging out nuclear and coal for the first time since the EIA began gathering the data. CNN

Maryland has become the latest US state to mandate an end to carbon emissions on a net basis economy-wide by the middle of the century. The package, which includes substantial environmental-justice provisions, has instantly become one of the country’s most aggressive climate change laws. Canary

Japan's three largest banks, amongst the largest remaining financiers of coal in the world, have announced they will stop financing new thermal coal mining. The three institutions are thought to have billions of dollars in outstanding loans to the coal mining industry, a tally expected to decline gradually with the end of new financing. Nikkei

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, one of the largest private domestic banks in the Philippines, says it will stop providing financial support for existing coal plants by 2031. In December 2020, it became the first Philippines bank to announce it would no longer provide financial support for new coal power projects. Business Mirror

Consumers in the United Kingdom bought more electric cars in March 2021 than in whole of 2019, despite the overall car market being down by 14% year on year. “At the current rate, sales of new electric vehicles will overtake both traditional petrol and diesel sales by 2025." Guardian

Canada just joined the ranks of countries and states planning to ban sales of combustion engine cars, requiring all new passenger car sales to be zero-emissions by 2035. The government will gradually ramp up pressure on automakers, requiring at least 20% zero-emissions sales by 2026 and 60% by 2030. Engadget

A picture from the future: over 90% of vehicles sold in Norway last month were electric. Yes, it's a small country, yes incentives, but this shows what's possible, and how the switch is likely to happen sooner than many expect. What's particularly encouraging is seeing how EVs are starting to eat into overall distance travelled by all cars. Clean Technica

The world is about to pass another important milestone in electric vehicle adoption. Bloomberg is estimating that 20 million plug-in vehicles will be on the road globally by June 2022. That’s remarkable growth from only one million in 2016, and way, way faster than anyone (including BNEF) predicted even a year ago.

It’s worth keeping in mind just what a huge task it is to convert the world’s entire vehicle fleet. There are 1.2 billion light-duty passenger vehicles on the road globally. At the end of 2022, just over 2% of them will be electric. There’s still a long way to go. But the momentum is building.

The only home we've ever known *


Australia has just created a 744,000 km2 marine park around Christmas Island and the Cocos-Keeling atoll, south of Indonesia. Bigger than Texas, and over twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef marine park, it joins a network of 60 others around the country, spanning more than four million km2 — a staggering 45% of Australia's waters. ABC

Australia is expanding its Indigenous Rangers Program, which will see a substantial increase in First Nations people involved in various 'caring for Country' activities, from protecting marine turtles to monitoring illegal fishing and conducting low-intensity burns. Over the next six years, $636.4 million will fund over 1,000 new rangers and 88 new ranger groups across the country. SMH

Ranger Aaron Morgan at the Budj Bim Indigenous Protection Area inspects a fish trap at Lake Condah. 

An indigenous community on the southwest coast of Colombia has helped establish a new marine protected area, conserving one of the country’s most undisturbed ecosystems. The Isla Ají MPA will cover 9,425 hectares of coastal ecosystems and 15,174 hectares of marine ecosystems, and is the result of more than two decades of negotiations. WCS

The US non-profit Rainforest Trust has protected over one million acres of habitat across Belize, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in 2022 alone. Since inception the trust has protected 38 million acres of habitat with 99% of forest area still standing post-protection. The trust is well on its way to achieving its pledge of an additional 125 million acres by 2025.

Nepal’s first official bird sanctuary, the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex, will protect over 360 bird species, including the endangered great hornbill, the lesser adjutant stork, and Indian spotted eagle. Spanning 2,563 hecta, the complex is one of the world’s most important wetlands, providing a critical wildlife corridor for animals like the Bengal tiger and red-crowned roofed turtle. Mongabay

Scotland’s forests are expanding at breakneck speed: the share of the country that is forested has increased from just under 6% at the beginning of the 20th century, to around 18% today. Scotland now has nearly as much forest as it did 1,000 years ago, and the government has set a target for 21% by 2032. New Statesman

Data from OurWorldinData, photo by Ian Rutherford / Alamy

The state of Victoria, Australia is restoring an area five times the size of Melbourne, with plans to spend $31 million to revegetate parcels of land, capturing carbon and creating habitat for endangered wildlife. The scheme, known as BushBank, includes $7 million in grants for traditional owner corporations for restoration on country. Guardian

Starbucks has joined a growing global movement to eliminate PFAS, a group of chemicals widely used in everyday products, and linked to a range of health problems, from cancer to thyroid and immune issues. The coffee giant will remove all PFAS in its packaging by the end of 2023. Burger King, McDonalds and Taco Bell have also committed to ending PFAS packaging by 2025. EHN

A scheme to reintroduce brown bears to the Pyrenees in Spain has achieved remarkable success, with 70 individuals identified in 2021, the highest number for a century. There have been 15 pups born over the course of last year, and 114 newborns since the scheme was launched in 1996. Guardian

The populations of two of the world’s most iconic animals – gorillas and rhinos - are benefiting from a new understanding that conservation can serve a dual goal of protecting wildlife and enhancing human livelihoods. In Assam, India, more than 400 poachers were offered salaries to become wildlife rangers, and as a result the population of the one-horned rhinoceros has registered an increase of 200. In Uganda, endangered mountain gorilla families hace welcomed at least 34 new babies during the pandemic, thanks to work of ranger/community groups established to mediate human-gorilla conflicts.

The one-horned rhinoceros was once driven to the verge of extinction, with less than 200 left by the end of the 19th century. Conservation efforts have revived the species and brought their worldwide numbers to around 3,000 now — the bulk of them in Kaziranga, Assam and Chitwan, Nepal. Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee

Californian rice farmers and ecologists have joined forces to restore Chinook salmon runs by flooding rice fields with water from the Sacramento River, mimicking the region’s original ecological rhythms. Inspired by traditional methods from Asia, the 'salmon-rice project' has recorded an 80% survival rate for juveniles, which are growing five times faster due to lush zooplankton from decomposed rice straws.

Svalbard's walruses are back. In 1952, they were almost extinct, thanks to more than 300 years of ivory hunting. So the Norwegian government banned commercial hunting of these endangered creatures, and they began to rebound. In 2006, there were 2,629 walruses in Svalbard. Today, that number is at 5,503. Smithsonian

There is a welcome and wonderful sight appearing on beaches in the Seychelles. The endangered green turtle is making a comeback, after several decades of protection and monitoring. More than 15,000 annual clutches are now appearing, up from 3,000 in the 1960s. "This is just the beginning. There's potential for this population to double, triple, we're not even sure." The Week

South Australia's endangered sea lion population has been given a chance to bounce back after a decade-long marine conservation program substantially reduced their deaths in fishing nets. Researchers say there's been 98% reduction in sea lion bycatch mortality in gillnet fisheries since the strategy was implemented. ABC

Photo by @rosie.leaney

Thanks for reading, and happy Easter, Ramadan and Passover. Wishing you and your loved ones all the best. We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,

FC HQ

FC logo
Intelligent optimism, down under. You're receiving the free edition. You can upgrade to the premium edition over here (it comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet, and one third of your fee goes to charity).We offset the carbon cost of creating this newsletter by planting trees. If you need to unsubscribe, you'll break our hearts but we understand that it's us, not you. There's a button for that below. We're also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter