5th November 2021 - 9th December 2021
Portugal has shut down its last coal-fired power plant, nine years ahead of its 2030 target. It's the fourth country in the European Union to stop burning coal - Belgium quit coal in 2016, and Austria and Sweden followed suit in 2020. AP
India has achieved its target of having 40% of installed electricity powered by non-fossil fuel energy sources. Energy, mainly from renewables and a small amount of nuclear sources, generates 156.83 of 390.8 GW of the country's electricity. India is committed to reaching 500 GW of clean energy by 2030. Economic Times
Germany’s new government has announced a new climate protection programme that will bring forward its coal exit by 8 years to 2030. The country's aim is to increase renewable capacity from 65% to 80% of its electricity needs. C'mon Australia! Reuters
Canada is fast-tracking legislation to ban the practice of LGBTQ+ “conversion therapy". If successful, Canada will join Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, and Malta where the practice is already banned. Guardian
Another win for for LGBTQ+ rights. In Chile, landmark legalisation has finally recognised same-sex marriage. The victory comes after a 4 year campaign by activists and the new legislation will enable same-sex couples to adopt children. Chile joins a growing list of Catholic Latin American countries who have legalised same-sex marriage including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and 14 of Mexico's 32 states. BBC
Good news for a furry friends in Spain. New legislation now recognises animals as “sentient beings". 200,000 animals are abandoned in Spain each year and advocates have fought hard since 2017 for this law, which will protect animals from being mistreated, abandoned, or separated from one of their owners in the case of a divorce or separation. IFL Science
The largest-ever study of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, has revealed the psychedelic drug is a highly effective alternative for treatment-resistant depression. 29.1% of patients in the highest dose group were in remission 3 weeks after a single dose, and more than a quarter of those patients sustained remission three months after. STAT News
- Lars Christian Wilde, Co-founder and President of Compass
Researchers in Cambridge are developing a biodegradable glitter made from cellulose nanocrystals rather than microplastics. Although cellulose is naturally clear, it creates colours through a process called self-assembly, in which the crystals align and twist. Although the glitter alternative will be pollution-free, it promises to be just as annoying for parents! Eco Watch
The WHO just released a new report detailing astonishing progress on measles. Between 2000 and 2020 the annual number of measles deaths fell by 94%, from 1,072,800 to 60,700, averting an estimated 31.7 million deaths. That's a lot of lives saved! Might be worth remembering the next time someone complains about how awful the world is. WHO
The WHO also just released its Global Tobacco Trends report, showing that in 2000, around a third of the global population over the age of 15 were tobacco users. By 2020, this had declined to under a quarter, and is projected to fall even further to a fifth by 2025. Reminder: tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer, with 1 in 8 cases and 1 in 5 deaths caused by smoking.
The Canadian Cancer Society says there has been significant progress in the fight against prostate cancer. Since peaking in 1995, Canada's prostate cancer death rate has been cut in half, from 45.1 to 22.7 per 100,000 people. One in eight men can expect to get the disease in their lifetime; thanks to science, it's no longer the death sentence it used to be. Newswire
The HPV vaccine has reduced cases of cervical cancer amongst young women in England by nearly 90% since 2008. Cervical cancer kills more than 300,000 women around the world each year but that number is set to fall dramatically, with over 100 countries now using the vaccine as part of a global plan to eliminate the disease. BBC
A new civil law in the United Arab Emirates will allow non-Muslims to marry, divorce and get joint child custody, making it the first Gulf country to reform marriage and divorce laws that were formerly based on religious principles. Last year the UAE also decriminalized premarital sexual relations, relaxed rules around alcohol and criminalized the practice of honour killing. Reuters
A victory for the LGBTQIA+ rights in Spain with new legislation giving single women, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people access to medically assisted reproduction in the public health system, where it is free of charge. Advocates fought for six years to overturn previous legislation that limited free IVF to heterosexual women with partners. The Star
The Spanish government is also taking on the problem of childhood obesity by banning advertising for unhealthy foods such as chocolate, juices, and ice creams to children. The regulations will come into force next year across TV, radio, internet, social media, and apps. El Pais
Is it possible for a city to make 50% of transport walkable and cyclable? Vancouver hit that goal five years ahead of target in 2015, with half of all inner-city trips taken by walking, biking, or transit rather than car. Now Paris is on a mission to do something similar, with a new set of plans to make the city 100% cyclable over the next five years. Bloomberg
Thirty years ago, assisted dying was only legal in Switzerland. Since 2015 however, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, Colombia, five Australian states, ten American states and most recently Portugal have legalized the practice. Campaigns in Catholic countries like Chile, Ireland, Italy, and Uruguay are making slow but steady progress too. Economist
More than two in three Americans now support legalizing marijuana, maintaining the record-high level reached last year. A decade ago less than half of the country was in favour. This might just be one of the most successful rebrands of all time. It's not weed or pot any more, it's medicine. Gallup
The Social Progress Index measures health, safety, education, technology, and human rights across 99.97% of the world’s population. In its latest report, it says that 147 nations recorded a better score than they did a decade ago, with just four countries (the US, Brazil, Syria and South Sudan) doing worse. “Social progress is advancing across the world, but it remains slow and uneven.”
China will plant 36,000 km2 of new forest (more than the total area of Belgium) every year until 2025 as it bids to combat climate change and protect natural habitats. Over the next five years officials say they will also expand the national park system, create wildlife corridors to alleviate habitat fragmentation, and crack down further on illegal wildlife trade. Reuters
A rare forest honeybee, presumed to be wiped out by disease, has been discovered in the ancient woodlands of Blenheim Palace, a 400-acre paradise of biodiversity subjected to minimal human intervention. The honeybees are thought to be the last wild descendants of Britain’s native honeybee and seem to have evolved the ability to survive the varroa mite. Guardian
A reserve spanning Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia will become the first UNESCO biosphere to cover five different countries. Dubbed the ‘Amazon of Europe’, the new biosphere will protect floodplains, forests, gravel banks, and backwaters, and look after a huge number of animal species, including the highest density of breeding white-tailed eagles in continental Europe. Euro News
The State of the Thames Report, led by the Zoological Society of London, says the river is now home to 92 bird species and 115 marine species, including sharks, seahorses, eels, and seals. Water quality has improved too, with dissolved oxygen concentrations showing an increase from 2007 to 2020. Not bad for a river declared ‘biologically dead’ in 1957. Nature recovers if we let it. BBC
The restoration of Rabbit Island off the coast of Louisiana has resulted in a thriving local bird population with biologists counting 16 times more bird nests than expected. The island had eroded to 200 acres, but dredging funded by settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill added another 102 acres for wildlife last year. AP
More than 20 years after the US Fish and Wildlife Service deemed the Canada lynx a threatened species, the agency has agreed on a recovery plan for the elusive, forest-dwelling carnivores. Last week the agency settled with six conservation groups that sued it over its management of lynx. “This is a victory for lynx, science, and for everyone who values healthy ecosystems.” Aspen Times
Animal rights activists have taken home another win in the battle to end cosmetic testing after New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law that will ban the sale of animal-tested beauty products in the state. The law will come into force from 1 March 2022, with those disregarding the rules facing a penalty of up to US$1,000 per product sale. Cosmetics Business
After five years of pressure from animal rights activists, travel company Expedia will stop selling holiday packages that include performances by captive dolphins and whales, as part of a global movement by travel companies to stop promoting unethical animal attractions. Guardian
For the first time, scientists will map the world’s underground fungal networks, which until now have been largely unexplored. Understanding these interconnected webs called mycelium could help us tackle climate change. Fungal networks store billions of tonnes of CO2 and act as nutrient “highways” for plants and trees and allow them to communicate. The map will identify sites with the potential to store more C02 and help protect them from external threats like agricultural fertilisers. Guardian
Nepal is on track to become the first country to double its tiger population in 2022. It's part of TX2, a global imitative supported by Russia, Nepal and 13 other countries. Nepal’s tiger population has grown steadily from 121 tigers 11 years ago, to 235 tigers 3 years ago and the country is likely to reach the 250-mark next year. The Star
After 35 years of conservation, the population of the endangered Burrowing Parrot in Chile has increased from 217 in 1986 to over 4000. The success is largely due to the protection of Río de los Cipreses National Reserve which contains the native plants that are a vital part of their diet. Evolve to Ecology
WildEast, an innovative project in East Angila in the UK, will rewild an area 3 times the size of New York City and create wildlife corridors across some of the country's most intensely farmed land. The project, initiated by 3 estate owners who all committed their land, aims to restore biodiversity to 618,000 acres by 2070. Mongabay
This could be the world’s biggest sex event! Coral along the Great Barrier Reef has spawned; releasing trillions of eggs and sperm into the ocean and giving ecologists hope for the reef’s recovery. Two-thirds of the coral across the reef was damaged by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Marine scientists and local tourism operators are using ‘coral IVF’ to collect the eggs from part of the reef that have spawned significantly and transport them to restore parts of the reef that have suffered the most damage. NPR
New hope for China’s coastal wetlands with satellite imagery showing significant recovery over the last 10 years. After decades of destruction, mainly due to economic development wetland areas decreased between 1984 and 2011 but started rebounding after 2012. The turnaround is attributed to several conservation projects that started in the 1990s, when China realised the importance of these vital ecosystems and sprung into action. Mongabay
16th October 2021 - 5th November 2021
The largest and most successful vaccination drive of all time continues: India just surpassed a billion doses, making it the second country in the world to hit this mark. China leads the tally with over two billion, while Brazil has dispensed 258 million and Indonesia 172 million. Gobal total is now seven billion and counting. Quartz
One of the four major flu viruses that circulate in humans might have gone extinct thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yamagata virus has not been detected since April 2020 anywhere in the world. Together with the Victoria virus, it used to be responsible for somewhere between 290,000 and 650,000 global deaths every year. ABC
A rapid roll-out of a new polio vaccine across six countries in Africa has resulted in over 80 million children gaining protection against the disease. With decreased risk of side effects, the new vaccine was the first to be authorised by WHO for Emergency Use, which has enabled a faster response to polio outbreaks this year. WHO
Rwanda managed to reduce its annual malaria cases from 4.8 million in 2016 to 1.8 million in 2020, and severe cases from 18,000 to 3,000 during the same period. The overall death rate during that time has plummeted by almost 70%, and the government is now trialling drones that spray anti-mosquito insecticides. RBC
Despite experiencing rapid rates of demographic growth and urbanisation, Senegal has been extraordinarily successful in managing sanitation. Thanks to visionary government programs, the rate of access to sanitation in urban areas has risen from 61.7% in 2013 to 74% in 2020, and in rural areas from 38.7% to 50.7% during the same period. Afrik21
The proportion of Brazil's population with access to sewerage facilities has increased from 45% to 54% in the last decade. During that time, hospitalisations due to waterborne diseases decreased by over 50%, from 603,623 to 273,403. Among children under four the reduction in hospitalisations has been even more pronounced, at almost 60%. Trata Institute
Stroke is a hidden killer - the second-leading cause of death worldwide, and the third-leading cause of death and disability combined. A new report in The Lancet suggests that quietly and largely uncelebrated, we're making progress. Between 1990 and 2019, the age-standardised incidence of strokes has decreased by 17%, and deaths by 36%.
The number of people killed in wars around the world fell in 2020, the second consecutive year of declines. Total battle related fatalities last year were approximately 120,000, a 30% reduction since 2018. The decrease was largely driven by reductions in Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. SIPRI
Pakistan is an unheralded development success story from the last two decades. Between 1990 and 2019, life expectancy at birth increased by 7.2 years, average schooling increased by 2.9 years, average income rose by 64%, and poverty declined from over 50% to just over 20%. The pandemic has been a setback, but most Pakistanis are still far better off than they were a generation ago. UNDP
Tamil Nadu has become the second Indian state to grant workers the 'right to sit.' For centuries, salespeople in India have been forced to work on their feet without access to a chair. The new law is a victory for labour rights activists, and will require store owners to provide seating and allow employees to sit down whenever possible. Reuters
Chile has taken its first step towards legalising abortion with Congress approving a plan to expand current legislation that restricts the procedure to rape cases or when a woman's life is endangered. Across Latin America, it is now legal for women to choose what happens to their bodies in Agentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and three Mexican states. Al Jazeera
In a mountainous, desert nation of 35 million people known for its mosques, mausoleums and ancient Silk Road sites, 80% of eligible voters just cast votes in a presidential election. It's a testament to the strength of emerging democratic norms in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan's neighbour, with officials there calling it “one of the historical achievements of our people.” JPost
Bangladesh is planning to remove Islam as the state religion and revert to its secular 1972 Constitution. It’s hoped the move will unite the country and tackle a growing radical Islamist movement that’s resulted in violence against Hindu temples. Islam was made the state religion by a Constitutional amendment during the late 1980s.
A significant majority of people in wealthy countries now believe that having people of different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds improves society. In the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, 8 out of 10 people believe greater diversity is a benefit, and even in relatively culturally homogenous countries like Japan and Greece, the share has increased by double digits since the question was last asked four years ago. Pew
Less than a week before the start of COP26, activists announced that endowments, portfolios and pension funds worth just shy of $40 trillion have now committed to full or partial abstinence from coal, gas and oil stocks. That’s larger than the gross domestic product of the United States and China combined. NYT
One of the world’s largest pension funds, the Dutch ABP, is selling its €15bn-worth of holdings in fossil fuel companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, claiming it has been unable to persuade the sector to transition quickly enough towards decarbonisation. Guardian
A sizeable chunk of the global cement sector has committed to slashing emissions by a quarter this decade – and to be carbon neutral by 2050. The target was just announced by the Global Cement and Concrete Association, which represents about 80% of the industry outside of China
In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in global trade, a coalition of companies that includes Amazon and Ikea has pledged to use only ocean shippers that use zero-carbon fuel by 2040. Washington Post
A coalition of philanthropic donors will spend more than $220 million to support the diplomatic effort spearheaded by the U.S. and the European Union to lower methane emissions, the largest private commitment ever toward this effort. AP
After years of pushing from environmental justice advocates, California has agreed to dramatically restrict oil and gas drilling, setting a new one kilometre limit away from from homes and schools. It's a huge victory in the climate fight because it instantly sets around a third of the state off limits to oil drilling. OilPrice
Quebec has decided to put an end to any further fossil fuel extraction. "Closing the door on fossil fuel extraction is a huge victory, made possible by relentless opposition from citizens to both shale gas and conventional oil and gas exploitation." National Observer
Did you know that the Tesla Model 3 was the best selling car in Europe last month? Not the best selling electric vehicle - the best selling car, overall. Oh, and Hertz just bought 100,000 of them for its new fleet, the largest electric car order of all time.
The government of Chile has announced the ban of sales of most internal combustion vehicles in favor of battery-electric variants starting in 2035. Under the new electric transport strategy, all sales of light and medium vehicles, public transport and heavy trucks will have to be zero-emissions. We Go Electric
New York is vying for the title of 'the greenest big city on earth' with the return of whales off the coast of Staten Island, endangered butterflies, rare native bees, coyotes in Central Park and exotic insects not seen for decades in Brooklyn. It’s down to a 40-year conservation effort of tree planting, pesticide bans, and the conversion of former landfills into nature sanctuaries. NYT
An endangered Saharan antelope, known as the mhorr, or Dama gazelle, is on the road to recovery thanks to a rescue mission by an army captain from Spain 50 years ago. The descendants of the rescued gazelles given refuge in the Doñana Park in southern Spain now number 4,000 and have been reintroduced in Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal. El Pais
For the first time in 60 years, cheetahs have returned to Mozambique, with two males and two females transported to Maputo Special Reserve as part of a rewilding project to reintroduce carnivores to ecologically restored landscapes and expand the shrunken gene pool. Daily Maverick
The population of wild Amur tigers in China, commonly referred to as Siberian Tigers, has rebounded from only 8 big cats in the 1990s to around 60 today. The good news is due to stronger environmental regulations and the creation of several reserves, including the largest tiger refuge in the world. Mongabay
Sea turtle populations are thriving in Cape Verde, with the number of nests increasing from 10,000 to almost 200,000 in the past six years. It's thanks to 20 years of conservation measures and new laws to criminalise killing, trade, and consumption of sea turtles. Beaches from India to the US have also recorded exponential increases in nesting. Guardian
Malawi has dramatically reduced wildlife poaching and trafficking in the past five years, thanks to tougher penalties for convicted criminals. 90% of wildlife criminals have served an average of four and half years in prison since the legislation was amended in 2017, and no international ivory seizures have been linked to the country since. NYT
Ten years ago, the first blow was struck against the Elwha dam, amidst much celebration. The rewilding of the Elwha River has paid off, with the ecosystem bouncing back and chinook salmon returning to the waters after a hundred year absence. This beautiful photo essay shows how quickly nature can bounce back, if we let it. Orion
Two locations in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley Resort State Park have been added to a new state program to protect rare plant and animal species. The areas are home to 2,200 acres of rare conifer swamps, red spruce forest, over 40 rare plants and 12 rare invertebrates. Wowktv
The Biden administration is supporting a 20-year moratorium on copper mining in a national forest to protect the 'unique natural wonder' of Minnesota's Boundary Waters. It’s a major win for environmental groups who have endured a stop-start process under previous administrations. Salem News
Mexico has banned cosmetic testing on animals after Save Ralph, an animated film about a rabbit cosmetic tester, spurred 1.3 million people to petition for new legislation. Mexico is the first country in North America and 41st country in the world to enact the ban. Tree Hugger
Nova Scotia is creating the world's first wild refuge for ex-marine park whales. The 40-hectare coastal sanctuary will be 300 times larger than the biggest tank in any marine park and designed to accommodate up to eight beluga whales. The refuge plans to welcome its first whales early 2023. Globe & Mail
Indonesia has restored over 50,000 hectares of mangrove forests in the past two years, from 3.31 million hectares in 2019 to 3.36 million today, thanks to a planting project in villages across East Kalimantan. The new ecosystems will help improve biodiversity and mitigate the impact of climate change. WIF
Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica just announced the creation of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, a fishing-free zone covering more than 500,000 km2 in one of the world’s most important migratory routes for turtles, whales, sharks and rays. The new interconnected area contains some of the richest pockets of ocean biodiversity on the planet, including the Galápagos Islands. Guardian
2nd October 2021 - 15th October 2021
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 Ban
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
18th September 2021 - 1st October 2021
New Ireland has become the first province in Papua New Guinea to successfully reduce transmission of lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis - a remarkable achievement in a country where transmission rates are as high as 70%. “We are proud to be the first province in our country to achieve this historical milestone and come very close to getting rid of this terrible disease.” WHO
In May this year, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health embarked on a first of its kind vaccination drive aimed at under-15s. In just ten days, they managed to vaccinate four million kids and teenagers against typhoid and cholera. The campaign has since been extended to reach six million, and the vaccine has been successfully added to Zimbabwe’s routine immunization schedule. WHO
Health authorities in Yemen have managed to control the explosive cholera outbreak that started in 2017, thanks to an unprecedented effort to get medicine and vaccines to those affected. Global cases of cholera plummeted by almost two thirds last year, thanks to a 68% decrease in cases in Yemen, and a 23% decrease from all other countries. WHO
A court in Jakarta has ruled that the Indonesian government has failed to protect citizens’ rights to clean air. The landmark decision requires the President and ministers to tighten national air quality standards to protect human health and the environment, and oversee efforts to cut pollution that directly affects air quality in Jakarta. The Independent
In one of the largest shifts of public opinion ever recorded, Gallup says that 94% of American adults now approve of interracial marriage, a huge leap from 4% when the poll began in 1958. People over the age of 50 experienced the biggest shift, increasing their approval by 64% in the past 30 years. Can't help but think of Max Planck's legendary quote:
A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
More than 97% of people in Bangladesh now have access to electricity, up from 62% in 2014. That's something like 60 million people who have gained access in the last seven years. Included in that number are around six million solar home systems, the largest off-grid network in the world. New Age
For the first time in Germany’s history, 85,000 people living with disabilities were eligible to vote in the recent election. The victory marks a turning point for disability rights and is thanks to new legislation that passed in 2019, after decades of lobbying from activists and NGOs. DW
Queensland will become the fifth Australian state to legalize voluntary assisted dying. The new laws, which have been 30 years in the making, will take effect from January 2023 and allow people over the age of 18 who meet the criteria to seek medical assistance to end their life. ABC
362,000 marijuana cases in New Jersey have been dismissed and 1,200 people released from probation as new drug laws take effect. New Jersey joins Illinois which has cleared 500,000 marijuana-related records, and California which has expunged 200,000. NJ
Switzerland will become the 30th country to legalize gay marriage, after 64.1% of the population voted in favour of reform. The victory comes after a long campaign by advocates, and a demand from the opposition government for the issue be decided by public referendum in 2020. BBC
The Philippine Senate has approved a bill to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old, overturning a century-old law on statutory rape. It’s a historic win for child rights advocates who fought for this for years, and a huge step forward for a country with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world. Benar News
Four brave women in South Africa have successfully overturned a set of apartheid-era marriage laws that denied women equal property rights. Thanks to Elizabeth Gumede, Thokozani Maphumulo, Matodzi Ramuhovhi and Agnes Sithole, around 400,000 elderly black women will now have equal access to matrimonial property. Berea Mail
In 2009, Mexico City became the first Mexican state out of 32 to legalize same-sex marriage. Eleven years later, that number has reached 23, after Sonora, a large northern state, approved a new law on Thursday - a day after the central state of Queretaro, long regarded as one of the most conservative in the country, approved similar legislation. VOA
The microstate of San Marino has ended a 150-year ban on abortion, making it one of the last countries in Europe to grant women full autonomy over their bodies. Total bans on the procedure remain in Malta, Andorra, and the Vatican, while Poland reintroduced restrictions earlier this year. CGTN
A landmark victory for LGBTQ+ rights, with a Taiwan court overturning a rule that required trans people to have surgery to remove their reproductive organs before they could be legally recognised in their correct gender. "Self-determined gender is a cornerstone of a person’s identity, and this ruling highlights the advancement of gender equality and human rights in Taiwan.” Pink News
Xi Jinping says that China “will not finance or build new coal-fired power projects abroad." Difficult to overstate how important this is; in all the years we've been reporting on the clean energy transition, it's one of the biggest pieces of news we've ever shared. Beijing is by far the largest source of financing for coal plants globally, and the decision sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that the end of the fossil fuel era is now in sight. But of course, as a regular reader you knew that already :) DW
Decarbonization is a combination of big moments, like Xi's announcement, but also thousands of tiny little steps. Across millions of backyards in America, there's a quiet revolution taking place, as the roar and fumes of petrol-powered leaf blowers, mowers and trimmers is replaced by the silent hum of battery-powered ones. "My guys won’t even touch a gas hedge trimmer anymore." AP
Sri Lanka will cease building new coal-fired power plants, and has set a target of achieving 70% of all its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030. "Our aim is to transition away from fossil fuels, promote decarbonization, and make Sri Lanka a carbon neutral country by 2050." Reuters
The Romanian government has committed to ending all coal power production by 2032, with the bulk gone by 2025. It's the 19th country in Europe to announce a coal phase-out, and if the experience of countries like Portugal and Greece tell us anything, it’s that once a commitment has been made, the actual exit comes far faster than first planned. Beyond Coal
Colombia has issued a new power plan that rules out building any new coal plants, and relies on major growth of solar, wind and hydro generation. The new plan effectively scuppers two proposed coal plants – the 465 MW Termobijao power station and the 1125 MW La Luna plant – which have been permitted but for which construction has not yet commenced. BNAmericas
Vattenfall, the biggest energy producer in the Nordic region, with 50% market share, just brought its net zero target forward by a decade to 2040. “The climate crisis is for real and not only do we have a responsibility to step up and move fast, we also see many opportunities in being a leader in this urgent transition." Reuters
Italy's biggest energy utility Enel, is accelerating the retirement of its coal fleet, bringing the end date forward from 2030 to 2027. It also plans to triple renewable energy generation from 49 GW today to 145 GW by 2030, and increase electric vehicle charging points from 186,000 to more than 4 million.
The US EPA has issued its first major regulation directly limiting greenhouse gases, requiring an 85% reduction of HFCs by 2036. This will eliminate the equivalent of 4.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, three years’ worth of emissions from the electricity sector. Fridge and air conditioning lobbyists, it seems, don't have quite the same clout as their Exxon counterparts. NYT
China has also agreed to limit emissions of HFCs, as the country begins enforcing its obligations under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which took effect this month. Reuters
Remember Australia's mega wildfires of 2019/2020? Around 80% of the 715 million tons of carbon dioxide that was released has already been sucked out of the atmosphere by giant ocean algal blooms seeded by the nutrient-rich ash. Thanks Gaia. New Scientist
In the weeks since Harvard divested from fossil fuels, many others have followed, including Boston University, the University of Minnesota, and the MacArthur Foundation. Ten of the twenty richest colleges in America have now divested, the result of countless hours of work by activists helping to rob coal, gas and oil companies of their social license. The Crucial Years
Unless you’re a Canadian retiree, you’ve probably never heard of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. It’s Canada’s second-biggest pension fund and the world’s twelfth biggest, and now it's divesting too - another $315 billion out of play for the fossil fuel industry. CBC
FirstRand, Africa’s biggest bank by market value, is ending its funding of new coal-fired power stations immediately and will halt the financing of any new projects to mine coal over the next five years. It's the second African bank to ban lending for new coal plants, after Nedbank, which made the decision earlier this year. Bloomberg
Ford, the company that brought humanity the production line, is spending $11.4 billion to build two new factories in Tennessee and Kentucky for batteries and electric pickup trucks. Together, they'll create over 11,000 jobs, and the Tennessee factory will be Ford’s largest ever — and its first new American vehicle-assembly plant in decades. Atlantic
The EV revolution is happening far quicker than anyone realises (except regular readers of this newsletter). In Germany, 21.7% of all cars produced in July were electric, compared with 6.8% in March 2020 and 3.2% in January 2019. Meanwhile, in China, 17.8% of all new cars sold in August were either electric or hybrids - up 180% year on year.
The UN brought more than 20 world leaders together with representatives from indigenous communities and the private and philanthropic sectors, to ‘commit to momentous action for nature, climate, and people’. Nat GeoHere are the highlights:
- The largest-ever philanthropic commitment for conservation. Nine organizations joined forces to launch the Protecting Our Planet Challenge, pledging $5 billion to conserve 30% of the planet by 2030 and support indigenous stewardship of native territories.
- The Finance for Biodiversity Pledge, 75 financial institutions worth a collective €12 trillion in assets, committed to protect and restore biodiversity through their activities, and reduce existing investments which are harmful to nature.
- Costa Rica announced it will ramp up its ocean protection from 2.5% to 30% and will also expand the area designated to the Cocos Islands National Park.
- Nigeria will establish 10 new national parks across the country and create new marine protected areas.
- Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia presented the ‘Amazon of Europe’, the world’s first five-nation biosphere reserve spanning 700km between the countries.
A partnership between five conservation groups in Kentucky has pulled off the largest dam removal in the state’s history. The Green River, one of the most bio-diverse river systems in America, will soon flow freely for the first time in 70 years. Good news for 150 fish species, over 70 species of mussel and 43 endemic species that call it home. BG
After decades of negotiations, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have finalized a $1.9 billion water rights settlement that resolves thousands of tribal claims to waterways throughout western Montana. The agreement also provides funding for habitat restoration and officially transfers control of the National Bison Range to First Nations. Grist
Some of Australia's most beautiful natural sites, including the Daintree, the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, have been returned to Aboriginal custodianship. After years of negotiations, four parks covering more than 160,000 hectares will now be co-managed by the Queensland government and the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, and eventually transition to being run solely by First Nations people. ABC
A South-African-based conservation group has been gifted a $100 million philanthropic grant to help sustain some of the most biodiverse and threatened landscapes on the planet. The group manages 19 protected areas that cover 14.7 million hectares across Africa. Mongabay
Half a million acres of Scottish Highlands, stretching from Loch Ness to Kintail, and encompassing Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel, will be rewilded over the next 30 years thanks to a community led project known as the Affric Highlands. It will become Europe's tenth official rewilding area. Irish Tech News
From 2023, the sale of fruit and vegetables in plastic wrapping will be banned in supermarkets and grocery stores in Spain. The ban is one of a series of measures from the country's new Ministry for Ecological Transition, who are also planning alternatives to bottled water and single-use drinking cups at public events. El Pais
Big wins for animal rights in Hawaii with the passing of seven new laws. The intentional killing of sharks has been banned, along with the release of balloons that threaten marine life. Cosmetics that use animal testing are now prohibited and new laws have been passed to improve companion animal welfare and protect vets from liability for providing emergency treatments. World Animal Rights
The EU has voted to phase out the use of animals in laboratory experiments, calling for systemic changes to scientific research methods. Over eight million animals, including monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, and rats, will be saved from the invasive experiments Europe carries out each year. Totally Vegan Buzz
4th September 2021 - 17th September 2021
The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa has been way too slow, but that's about to change, after the African Union announced it has pooled enough money with the Caribbean to secure 400 million doses of the J&J vaccine - enough to immunize a third of the continent by the end of this year. World Bank
Under India's flagship Jal Jeevan Mission, millions of people have gained access to clean water in the last two years. About 11.2 million, or 38% of all households in disease-vulnerable regions now have access to clean water, up from 2.9% in 2019, and another 11.8 million, 35% of the total, now have running tap water, up from 7.9% in 2019. HT
A massive collaborative effort by religious groups in America is providing newly arrived Afghan refugees with food, clothing, legal assistance and housing. “It’s incredible. It’s an interfaith effort that involved Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, Jews, Episcopalians ... Hindus ... as well as nonfaith communities who just believe that maybe it’s not a matter of faith, but a matter of who we are as a nation.” AP
US poverty fell to 9.1% last year, the lowest level ever recorded and a significant decline from 11.8% in 2019. Thanks to federal relief enacted at the start of the pandemic, nearly 8.5 million people were lifted out of poverty, and childhood poverty experienced its largest ever one year decrease, dropping from 15.8% to 11.9%. WaPo
There are some amazing stories hidden in the new Gates Foundation report. Last year Benin, where malaria is the leading cause of death, created a new, digitized system for bed nets, distributing 7.6 million across the country in just 20 days. In Pakistan, an emergency cash program provided assistance to over 40% of the population, two-thirds of whom were women, bringing 10 million of them into the formal financial system for the first time (h/t to our friends at The Progress Network for this one).
The number of leprosy cases around the world plummeted last year, with new cases falling by 37% and total cases by 27% compared to 2019. While this is partially due to less reporting as a result of COVID-19, it's in line with longer term trends, especially for children. The proportion of child cases has decreased from 9.2% in 2011 to 7.4% in 2019 and to just 6.8% in 2020. WHO
Malaysian women have won the right to pass citizenship onto their children born overseas, a privilege previously only granted to men. It’s part of a global movement to amend discriminatory citizenship laws that trap women in abusive relationships and deny children access to education and healthcare. CS Monitor
From next year, France will offer free birth control for all women aged 25 and under to target a decline in contraceptive use among young women due to cost. Contraceptive methods are already free in Britain, and Spain offers free birth control pills and subsidizes other forms of contraception. NPR
For the first time ever, half of lawmakers in Mexico’s lower house of Congress are female, and women are set to lead nearly a quarter of the country's states after recent midterm elections. This follows an ambitious reform passed in 2019 for “gender parity in everything." MS
Mexico’s Supreme Court has made it legal for all citizens to choose what happens to their bodies, in a landmark decision to decriminalize abortion. It's a major human rights victory in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations, and a sign of changing attitudes across Latin America, following a similar move by Argentina earlier this year. BBC
The UN has passed a historic resolution to stamp out ritualistic killings in Africa that target children, women, and people with disabilities and albinism. Member states will now be required to develop specific measures to tackle the issue. “This resolution is an important step to stop the horrific, human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft.” East African
A big step forward for LGBTQIA+ rights in Israel after the government lifted restrictions on blood donations by gay men. It follows the United Kingdom and the United States, who have both eased similar restrictions over the past year. AP
Barcelona is giving citizens free, unlimited public transport for three years when they give up their private vehicles. Since the program began in 2017, more than 12,000 ‘T-green tickets’ have been awarded, reducing the city’s traffic by 10,613 cars and 1,735 motorcycles. Eltis
In the past six years, Paris has done more than almost any city in the world to take space back from cars, opening linear parks on old highways along the Seine, phasing out diesel cars, opening bus lanes, raising parking meter prices and plowing bike lanes down hundreds of streets. It's working.
A massive moment for the climate divestment movement, after Harvard, the richest university on earth, announced that it no longer has any direct investments in fossil fuel companies, and that its indirect investments through private equity funds would be allowed to lapse. Congratulations to the activists who fought for this for so many years.
Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, is walking away from Canada's Trans Mountain tar sands expansion. It's the 16th insurer to quit the project, a major victory for indigenous communities and environmental activists who've campaigned against it for years. Insurance Business Canada
In the six years since the Paris Agreement was signed, the global pipeline of new coal plants has shrunk dramatically. More than three quarters of planned projects have been shelved, 44 governments have committed to ending coal, and a further 33 have cancelled their pipelines. The remaining pipeline is now spread across just 37 countries, 16 of which have only one project. Carbon Brief
India has the second scariest coal pipeline on the planet: 33 GW under construction and 29 GW in pre-construction. In reality, most of that is a mirage. The plants under construction are destined to be stranded assets, there has been no movement in the 29 GW of pre-construction capacity, and no new coal-fired power plants announced at all in the last 12 months. IEEFA
Greece has historically been one of the most coal-reliant economies in Europe - in 2015, half of all energy was produced from lignite, the dirtiest form of coal. In a shift that would have been inconceivable a few years ago, lignite's share is now down to around 10%, and the country is on track to close its last coal plant by 2025. Money talks. SP Global
Solar installations are booming in France. In 2021 the country has installed more solar than in any other year in history - and that's just from the first six months of the year. Although solar is still only 3.1% of total electricity consumption, this represents a new kind of growth the country has not experienced before. PV
The Phillipines just awarded 928 renewable energy contracts with a combined capacity of 30 GW. This comes off the back of the country's ban on new greenfield coal plants in October last year. “We are proactively pursuing policies and programs that will help us secure a sustainable, competitive energy future for the coming generations." Manila Standard
Illinois, the 18th largest economy in the world, and the fifth largest economy in the US, just passed what it's calling "the most pro-worker, pro-climate legislation in the country." The bill mandates zero emissions from the power sector by 2045, a five fold increase in renewables, and funding for a just transition for communities affected by coal and gas closures. Gizmodo
New York's new governor, Kathy Hochul, has signed a bill into law that will require all passenger vehicles sold in the state to be emissions-free by 2035. The law makes New York the second state after California to announce a phase out date for greenhouse gas emissions in cars and light trucks. The Hill
Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer by volume, and the last big remaining holdout on EVs, is finally coming to the party. It just announced plans to spend $13.5 billion to develop batteries and an accompanying supply system, and will release 70 electric cars globally by 2025, including 15 fully-electric vehicles. Verge
Hyundai will not sell any more more combustion vehicles in Europe after 2035, and in the rest of the world after 2040. their CEO, Jaehoon Chang, is the latest in a long line of industrialists to suddenly develop a conscience. “Climate change is an undeniable challenge that requires the greatest and most urgent attention of all.” Electrive
The first customer ready trucks from Rivian have rolled off the production line at their headquarters in the Prairie State, in a big moment for EV enthusiasts. Forget the F-150 or the Cybertruck; this is the future of the battery electric pickup. If you haven't heard of this company yet, do yourself a favour and check this out.
The population of four endangered tuna species - Atlantic bluefin, Southern bluefin, Albacore and Yellowfin - are all showing signs of recovery thanks to the enforcement of fishing quotas over the past decade. While all those populations are still critically endangered, it shows that regulation and enforcement is capable of turning the tide. Nat Geo
Until ten or fifteen years ago, the vast majority of table eggs were produced in cage systems. Today, that's no longer the case. Thanks to animal activists and shifting consumer tastes, cage-free eggs now represent the majority of eggs produced in the UK, the EU and Australia. The Poultry Site
A welcome conservation victory in our own backyard, with news that the population of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot has jumped from 150 to 1,500 in the past 30 years. It’s the first time the status of an animal in Australia has changed from 'extinct in the wild' to 'endangered.' BBC
The population of Australia's largest wombat species is back from the brink too, after almost being wiped out in the 1980s. ABC
Conservationists in Austin, Texas have won a legal battle to reclaim protected critical habitat for a rare species of salamander to help bolster their population against proposed developments and climate change. The protected areas include an underground aquifer, spring outlets and spring runs. Biological Diversity
Slovakia has passed a new law banning dog owners from keeping dogs on chains. The legislation, the result of years of campaigning by NGOs, will be effective from 1st January 2022 for young dogs, and will come into full effect in 2024. "Despite big compromises, this is a huge victory for animal rights in this country." Slovak Spectator
Western Australia has become the first Australian state to end native forest logging, with a ban effective from the start of 2024. The government will invest $350m to expand softwood timber plantations and $50m to support affected workers and communities. Guardian
A rewilding project in England that reclaimed 128,000 acres of industrial wasteland three decades ago has blossomed from a single tree into what's now known as the National Forest. The forest has created 5,000 new jobs and there are plans to create a new 25-acre wood to remember those who've died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Euro News
A conservation project to save Yorkshire’s peatlands has carried out restoration work on 5,048 ha of blanket bog, and is delivering huge environmental benefits, having already saved 48 million tonnes of carbon from being released. Peat is an unsung hero of conservation, delivering one of most effective forms of natural carbon capture, flood control and ecosystem recovery. The Guardian
In a remarkable feat of eco-engineering, oysters are saving Kutubdia Island in Bangladesh from fast-rising seas. Marine scientists have worked with island locals for nine years to create oyster-encrusted reefs that buffer the coastline from waves and support marine life, pi0neering a new model that may transform coastline management around the world. BBC
One of the world’s largest tyre graveyards, in Kuwait, is being revitalized into a new urban development, thanks to a recycling plant that has started converting the 42 million old tyres into consumer products. The new plant has a capacity of 3 million tyres per year. WEF
The EPA has restored protections to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, blocking construction of a proposed pebble mine near the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Native communities and commercial fishermen have fought against the mine for decades, which would threaten 200 species of birds, 40 different land animals and all five species of Pacific salmon. Backpacker
20th August 2021 - 3rd September 2021
India and China are hitting new records on daily vaccinations. On Monday, India administered over 10 million doses in a single day, and then followed up on Tuesday with over 12 million. Meanwhile, China is averaging 20 million people per day - a rate that would vaccinate the entire population of the UK in little more than six days.
A new approach to combating malaria has managed to reduce deaths and illness in children by 70%. The trial, conducted in 6,000 children in Burkina Faso and Mali over 17 months, combined a new malaria vaccine with anti-malarial drugs given at a time of year when children are most vulnerable. BBC
48 million people in West Africa were vaccinated against yellow fever in 2020, a significant increase compared to 2019. This was despite a 6-month interruption due to the pandemic - a remarkable achievement made possible by thousands of healthcare workers who figured out a way to make the rollout safe. WHO
In the past two decades, almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa has made gains in female literacy. In 2000, the proportion of women who could read and write was around 46%; today, it's close to 60%. Even more encouragingly, the literacy rate for young women (15-24 yo) has soared to 72%, and is now just below their male peers. Borgen
Incarceration rates in the United States fell to a 24 year low in 2019 - and then plummeted again by 14% in 2020, to 1.8 million people. There are now half a million fewer people in prison in America compared to 13 years ago, thanks to largely unheralded changes in criminal laws, sentencing patterns and a decline in violent crimes. Vera
A state court in North Carolina has ruled that people who were previously incarcerated now have the right to vote. The decision, which takes immediate effect, stands to impact upwards of 55,000 people previously denied access to the franchise. Law & Crime
A collective housing project in Thailand is empowering underprivileged communities by forming co-operatives to negotiate land deals. More than 130,000 households have benefited, and funding for another 1.2 million houses has been made available, including free units for single mums and the elderly. Reuters
Following the legalisation of the drug “Kratom” in Thailand, over 10,000 offenders have been released from prison and their criminal records wiped clean. Kratom leaves contain Mitragynine, a substance that reduces pain and chronic symptoms of diabetes and high blood pressure. Pattaya Mail
Earlier this year, we reported some good news on SDG7: over a billion people have gained access to electricity in the past decade. According to Bloomberg, while some of that was achieved by new power lines, a lot was also achieved by installing small solar systems designed to power villages, farms or single homes. To date, more than 180 million off-grid solar systems have been sold worldwide, and 420 million people now get their electricity from those systems.
A major human rights victory in Somalia’s Puntland region, after the government approved a bill to outlaw female genital mutilation in a country where most girls are still forced to undergo the practice. The bill includes harsh penalties for hospitals, midwives, and traditional circumcisers who perform the barbaric practice. Reuters
There's been a welcome win for democracy in Zambia, with voters peacefully electing a new president for the third time in the country’s history. Despite fears of political unrest, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema won in a landslide against President Edgar Lungu. All Africa
China just banned written exams for six- and seven-year-olds, as part of sweeping education reforms aimed at relieving pressure in its hyper-competitive school system. Education officials are saying that pressure on pupils from a young age "harms their mental and physical health." China banned written homework for first- and second-graders earlier this year. France24
The US government authorized the PAWS ACT (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members for Veterans Therapy) authorizing service dogs for veterans with PTSD. The dogs will learn how to shield a veteran from an overwhelming crowd or wake them up if they're having a nightmare. At the end of the program, the veteran trainers will be able adopt their canine pupils. NPR
Switzerland has pledged $12 billion over the next three years to reduce global poverty and increase peacekeeping measures. The ambitious plan will target the refugee crisis and work to stabilise conflict zones where people are forced to flee. Borgen
Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city has created a large network of “green corridors” across the city to offset rising temperatures. The shady walkways and bike lanes have reduced average temperatures in parts of the city by 2°C since they were built in 2018. Price tag? Just $16.3-million. Japan Times
Three years ago, Spain's government signed an agreement with trade unions and energy companies to shut down its entire coal industry and begin a just transition. The last coal mine is now due to close in December, and coal consumption will end completely by 2030. "We expect that the next year is going to be greener, but it's always greener than we expect. This is exponential."ABC
Norway's sovereign wealth fund - the largest in the world, with over $1.3 trillion in assets, including 1.4% of the world's stocks and shares - just added a new set of environmental criteria to its investment standards, putting serious pressure on natural resource extraction companies, including several of Russia’s energy giants. Barent Observer
The world's largest shipping company, Maersk, just spent $1.4 billion (yes, that's 'billion') on eight new vessels that will be able to run on carbon-neutral fuel. That price tag is 10-15% more expensive than usual, suggesting the company is serious about its carbon neutrality efforts. Long way to go still, but this is an encouraging signal. Reuters
Denmark and Costa Rica are creating an alliance of nations committed to ending both the consumption and production of gas and oil. It's modeled on the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was formed in 2017 and now boasts 41 members. "This would mark a significant shift in global geopolitics on fossil fuels." Gizmodo
In 2019, the UK became the first country in the world to set a net zero emissions target. Three years later, over 70% of world emissions are now covered by net-zero legislation, have net-zero emissions legislation under discussion, or occur where net-zero is the policy position of the government. Things change slowly... then they change very fast. BNEF
Installations of renewable energy projects in the United States hit a new high in the first six months of 2021. Just over 9.9 GW of onshore and offshore wind, battery storage, and utility-scale solar capacity was added in the first half of the year, a 17% increase over the same period in 2020. Power Mag
Vietnam's gotten the memo. Last year, rooftop solar went from 378 MW to 9.8 GW. The country now boasts the highest installed capacity of solar in Southeast Asia. In the last few months Vietnam has also scrapped plans for 9.5 GW of coal-fired power. None of this is an accident. It's due to well designed feed-in-tariffs, tax incentives and waivers of land leases. VN Express
The Australian government may be in complete denial about climate change, but investors aren't. Total assets under management by ethical investment funds in Australia leapt by 30% last year, and now account for 40 cents of every professionally managed dollar. Meanwhile, half of the top 100 listed companies have committed to net zero targets, up from a fifth a year ago. ReutersAli Allawi, the deputy prime minister and finance minister of Iraq, has made an unprecedented call to fellow oil producers to move away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy, ahead of a key OPEC meeting. "Renewable energy offers the ability to build a cleaner and more efficient electricity sector." Guardian
A joint project by Swedish steel company SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall, and mining company LKAB just delivered the world’s first batch of fossil-free steel. The economics don't work yet for this yet, but it's an important milestone on their way to the goal of commercial production in 2026. Forbes
Global EV sales are cranking. Around 2.65 million new cars were bought during the first half of 2021, an increase of 168% over 2020. This hyper-growth needs to be seen relative to a low base from the pandemic, but it's still super impressive. 6.3% of all cars sold globally so far this year have been battery or hybrid vehicles.
The world is officially rid of leaded petrol, after a refinery in Algeria used up the last stockpile in July. Most developed countries banned it in the 80s and 90s, but it took a 20 year campaign by the UN to get rid of it in Africa and the Middle East. It’s estimated elimination will prevent more than 1.2 million deaths annually. Quartz
Little by little, India is restoring its mangroves. After a century of losses, between 1987 and 2019, the country increased net mangrove cover by 93,000 ha, a rise of about 25%. It's one of the largest and most successful mangrove restoration efforts of all time. World Bank
One year after the Great American Outdoors Act was signed, more than $285 million in projects are underway across the national forest system in 40 states, with another 1,000 improvement projects — including campgrounds, trails and visitor centers — in the pipeline. Roll Call
The US EPA has finally banned the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. This was supposed to happen in 2016, but Trump's EPA reversed the decision in one of its many acts of environmental and public health vandalism. It's a long overdue victory, coming after 14 years of pressure from environmental and labour groups. Conversation
Another Trump era ruling has been reversed, which allowed sand mining on beaches protected by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. It's a crucial environmental victory that will keep pristine, undeveloped beaches intact, where they provide a home for coastal birds and a buffer against storm surges and rising seas. Audabon
Third time's the charm. A federal judge has thrown out Trump administration approvals, granted in late 2020, for a large planned oil project on Alaska’s North Slope, saying the process was flawed and didn’t include mitigation measures for wildlife. Guardian
Actually, make that four. A federal judge in Arizona has reintroduced protections for waterways and wetlands across the US, reversing the Trump Administration’s rollback of pollution controls. The move, spurred on by local tribes and environmental groups, will ensure clean drinking water for millions of Americans and safe habitat for thousands of wildlife species. WaPo
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken the snail darter off the endangered list. Originally declared endangered in 1975 because of dam construction, the small fish is no longer at risk after being transplanted to other rivers, where numbers are increasing. It's the culmination of decades of unsung work by conservation heroes. WaPo
Africa’s largest tropical rainforest, Salonga National Park, has been removed from UNESCO’s list of threatened sites, following 20 years of sustained conservation work and anti-poaching measures. The park plays an important role in climate regulation and is also home to many vulnerable or endangered species, including bonobo monkeys, the bush elephant, and the Congo peacock. Newsweek
Beijing, once known as one of the world's most polluted cities, recorded just ten days of heavy air pollution last year, a drop of nearly 80% since 2015. On good days, residents now speak of 'Beijing blue.' Last month, the city, which is home to 21 million people, recorded its best monthly air quality since records began. CNN
Kenya's Wildlife Service says that for the first time in 21 years, not a single rhinoceros was poached in the country’s national parks in 2020. The agency credits a new strategy that focuses on providing rangers with housing, equipment and support to be able to respond around the clock. VOA
Chinese officials have announced that they no longer consider giant pandas an endangered species. There are now 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild, thanks to a series of conservation initiatives in recent years. Those initiatives have also benefited other species: Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises are all seeing population increases too. NPR
The number of beavers in Scotland has more than doubled in the last three years. There are now over 1,000 wild animals in lakes and rivers across Scotland's southern Highlands. Hunted to extinction 400 years ago in the UK, they're now back thanks to illegal re-wilding efforts by environmental activists. BBC
17th June 2021 - 2nd July 2021
A moment of appreciation for a successful, multi-generational effort to eliminate malaria in China. It's the 40th nation in the world to achieve malaria-free status, and the first in the western Pacific region in 30 years. Not bad for a country that used to report 30 million cases per year in the 1940s.
Bangladesh, home to 160 million people, has been heralded a ‘development miracle’ in the Daily Star as it celebrates its 50th year of independence. Since 1991, GDP per capita has increased seven fold, 24 million people have been lifted out of poverty, life expectancy has risen to 73 years, infant and maternal mortality rates have fallen by a factor of five and the literacy rate has increase from 35% to 74%.
A study in The Lancet of 21 low, medium and high income countries has found that there has been no increase in suicide rates and that 12 countries actually recorded a decrease. This good news has been attributed to increased awareness, better access to mental health services, financial relief packages and new connection points within local communities.
Some good news from Tanzania too, which will allow pregnant girls and teen mothers the opportunity to resume secondary education, overturning a 4-year ban, and Saudi Arabia has officially allowed single, divorced or widowed women to live independently in a house without permission from a father or any other male guardian. “An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. Families can no longer file lawsuits against their daughters who choose to live alone.”
In Canada, a welcome win for LGBTQI+ rights with the passage of a historic bill criminalizing conversion therapy. Further south, Connecticut has restored voting rights to people with past convictions, marking a milestone in the push to end criminal disenfranchisement,
In Europe, 33 cities have signed an International Alliance of Safe Harbours Agreement allowing them to take in more refugees rescued at sea, in a bid to distribute the load more evenly away from hotspots in the Mediterranean. In Iran, a set of reforms has been passed to ensure that proper schooling is made available to all migrants, including thousands of undocumented children.
Efforts to force multinational companies to pay their fair share have taken a decisive step forward after the world's largest economies agreed to sweeping changes to the global tax system, setting an international minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%.
More than 1,800 schools in the Indian state of West Bengal have installed mini-solar plants in the past two years, and there are plans to expand installations by 1,000 schools a year until the number reaches 25,000. Schools have used the savings for tree-planting, additional teachers, computer classes and sanitation upkeep. Reuters
Workers with disabilities in Hawaii will be guaranteed fair wages, after an old labour law that allowed employers to pay them less was given the boot. It's welcome news for the 26,000 people who live in Hawaii with some form of disability. Guardian
In Montana, 18,000 acres of wildlife reserve, known as the National Bison Range, has been formally handed back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and in Maine, the Passamaquoddy tribe have bought back their ancestral land of Pine Island, with the help of a grant from conservation charities.
Heralded as ‘a law of laws’, the EU has approved landmark legislation to enshrine greenhouse gas emissions targets in law, requiring a 55% reduction by 2030, net zero by 2050, and the creation of a carbon budget for 2030-2050 that meets climate goals. It's a very, very big deal. It comes off the back of a very bad few weeks for fossil fuels, after a Brussels court ruled that Belgium’s failure to meet climate targets is a violation of human rights, and recognized 58,000 citizens as co-plaintiffs. The historic judgement follows similar, recent rulings in the Netherlands, Germany and France.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the first three months of 2021 saw 2.5 Hoover Dams worth of capacity added to the US grid, a 46% increase compared to the same period in 2020. Solar and wind accounted for 99% of all new power generation capacity in Q1. Endgame for coal and gas. That's certainly how Maine sees it, after becoming the first state in the United States to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
The world's industrialists and financiers can certainly smell the blood in the water. Fossil fuels billionaire and Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is making 'a green pivot' with a $10.1 billion investment into clean energy over the next three years. “I envision a future when our country will be transformed from a large importer of fossil energy to a large exporter of clean solar energy solutions.”
Could his newfound enthusiasm for the fate of the planet have something to do with a new piece of reporting from the Financial Times? According to the latest estimates, the vast majority of new coal-power plants being planned around the world will not make back their upfront costs. Specificially, 92% of facilities proposed or under construction globally would cost more to build than the future cash flow they would generate. Pipelines? More like pipe dreams.
Case in point: since 2014, Chinese companies have financed 52 overseas coal projects, worth a combined $160 billion. It's one of the worst investment decisions of all time. Only one plant has gone into operation, and 33 have been shelved or cancelled, with plenty more still to come. No new projects were announced at all in 2020.
Right on cue, China’s biggest bank has dumped a plan to finance a $3 billion coal-fired power plant in Zimbabwe, Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co has eagerly offloaded its investments into Indonesian coal, and South Korea's three big insurance companies will stop underwriting coal-power projects, thanks in part to some serious people power.
There's more. One of Malaysia's biggest banks, RHB, has announced a coal exit by 2022, in Bangladesh, regulators are scrapping plans for 10 coal-fired power plants in favour of renewable energy (that's another 8GW off the table, k thanks), and North Macedonia and Montenegro have become the first countries in the Western Balkans to announce coal exits, saying they will close their plants by 2027 and 2035 respectively.
Canada has certainly seen the writing on the wall, announcing a ban on the sale of new fuel-burning cars and light-duty trucks from 2035, and there's been a rare bit of good news in our backyard too. In a bid to become the 'Norway of Australia' the state of New South Wales has unveiled a massive $490 million package of new incentives, tax cuts and spending on fast-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Volkswagen has announced it will stop making combustion engines in Europe by 2035, Ford and Volvo said they would start all-electric production in Europe by 2030, and Audi has declared that from 2026 it will no longer launch new combustion engine models, not even hybrids. Only pure battery vehicles will be developed. That's five years away.
The entire landmass of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, 3,800 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that you've definitely seen in a nature documentary, will be designated as a protected area, complementing the existing 1.24 million square kilometre marine reserve.
Following the shutdown of coal mining in the Svalbard region of Norway, the government has started cleanup operations and expanded the boundaries of a national park by 2,914 km2 to include the former coal sites. “Our goal is for Svalbard to be one of the best-managed wilderness areas in the world."
In other conservation news, a vast area of breathtaking beauty ranging through Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo is about to become a national park, creating one of the largest protected areas in Europe.
In New Zealand single-use plastics will be phased out by 2025, with bans on cotton buds, packaging, cutlery, straws, and fruit labels beginning next year. The measures could reduce over 2 billion single-use items from landfill each year.
Gabon has passed new laws to protect the country’s 69 species of sharks and rays. The landmark measures include new laws to fully regulate shark and ray catches, and highlight a new global initiative launched on World Ocean Day to save endangered marine species.
Tanzania is hopeful of reaching a ‘zero-elephant-poaching’ target after making thousands of arrests, including 21 kingpins of the illegal trafficking trade. Since 2014, the elephant population has increased by 17,000, remarkable progress for a country that once had the unenviable status of the world’s elephant killing fields.
In the United Arab Emirates, the population of the endangered Arabian oryx has increased by 22% in four years thanks to a reintroduction program inside the country's largest nature reserve.
A ‘drastic times, drastic measures’ approach has proved successful for two radical conservation experiments on different sides of the globe. In Southwest America, the population of the Mexican wolf has been bolstered by a fostering program which placed captive born pups into wild dens, while in Australia, a ‘headstarting’ method has saved the bridled nailtail wallaby from extinction by giving juveniles a few years in protected areas, before released them back into the wild.
Animal rights activists in China have pulled off an incredible rescue mission, removing 101 moon bears from a bile extraction facility and transporting them over 1,200 km to a rehab centre. It took years of planning, and involved three convoys of nine trucks each, and a dedicated team of vets and carers who will continue to rehabilitate the bears as they settle into their new home.
5th June 2021 - 16th June 2021
The Keystone XL pipeline has been officially terminated, cementing one of the biggest environmental victories of all time. Activists managed to delay the $9 billion, 830,000 barrel per day, Alberta oil sands 'dirty climate bomb' for 12 years, and in the process, give birth to much of the modern climate movement. Take a moment to appreciate this, it's really sweet. Even the most idealistic frontline warriors didn't expect it to end this well.
It's amazing how quickly industrialists seem to develop a conscience when there's a threat to their bottom line. This time, it's Italian automotive giant Fiat that suddenly cares about the fate of the planet, saying it will be an all electric brand by 2030. "This is our greatest project." Indeed. Engadget
The United States has the world's second largest fleet of coal plants, and 80% of them are now either more expensive to continue operating compared to building new wind or solar, or are set to retire in the next four years. If you think the last four years were bad for US coal, the next four are going to make them feel like a cakewalk. Meanwhile, Romania, one of Europe's last remaining coal holdouts, says it will close all of its coal mines by 2032, introduce ecotaxes, discourage the registration of cars older than 15 years and boost scrapping schemes for polluting vehicles, and Canada says it will no longer approve thermal-coal mining projects. C'mon Straya.
Over half a million people in Senegal just gained access to clean electricity after two solar PV plants were switched on, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a massive $100 million off-grid solar project has been approved to bring power to three northern cities that currently have no connection to the grid. In Spain, renewables produced half of the country's electricity for the first time ever last month, reaching 50.7% of supply, and in Texas, four months after Republicans falsely blamed clean energy for the failure of the electric grid, investors have decided just what the state needs: more clean power. 15GW, the equivalent of Finland's entire electrical capacity, is now under construction or in advanced development, more than double three years ago. Bloomberg
There's been a new update on progress towards SDG7: the number of people without access to electricity has declined from 1.2 billion to 759 million in the past decade, the number connected to mini grids more than doubled during the same time period, and access to clean cooking solutions has grown by 1% annually.
The US government will make $1 billion in grants available to narrow the digital divide, expanding broadband access for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. Only half of households on tribal lands currently subscribe to a home internet service. The Verge
Your regular reminder that social attitudes can and do change, sometimes in the space of a single generation. Support for same-sex marriage in the United States is now at an all time high of 70%, up from 60% in 2015 when it was legalized, and from 27% in 1996, when Gallup first started asking the question. Hopefully we're also at the beginning of a similar shift in India, with news that Tamil Nadu has become the first Indian state to ban conversion 'therapy’ after an unprecedented and progressive judgment by the Madras High Court last week.
A decades-long effort to infuse mosquitoes with a virus-blocking microbe has culminated in a trial in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that achieved a 77% reduction in cases and an 86% reduction in people needing hospital care. Not only was the science behind this world class, it's also one of the best examples we've ever seen of community engagement. They had to convince 90% of the community before releasing the mosquitoes, requiring years of meetings, letting people in to see the labs, using Whatsapp for engagement, and employing over 10,000 local volunteers to place the mosquito eggs in people’s backyards. Development specialists take note: this is how to help, not through patronage, but through partnership.
The global effort to eradicate polio just received a major boost with the release of $5 billion in new funding from The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership by national governments and health groups. Most of it will be spent on vaccinations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two countries in the world where outbreaks of wild polio still occur. NYT
A coalition of more than 40 groups, ranging from local NGOs to governments to international organizations, has mobilized $43 million for efforts to restore degraded habitats in the Galápagos Islands. The initiative aims to reintroduce 13 extinct species, and help increase the population of 54 threatened species.
Indonesia is home to 7.9 million acres of mangroves, more than any other country. In 2020, the government announced a plan to replant an additional 1.5 million acres by 2024. In the background however, an unsung army of ordinary Indonesians has been toiling for decades to restore these habitats. South Korea also has some big tree planting plans, saying it will plant three billion new trees over the next 30 years after joining the WEF's One Trillion Trees initiative.
A revolutionary new conservation program in southern Ecuador, funded by a small fee on municipality water, has achieved spectacular success, re-wilding 1,500 ha and putting an additional 337,000 ha under conservation. It represents a simple, yet effective model that can be replicated across the world.. In other good news from South America, Chile has passed new legislation, based on recommendations from environmental groups presented back in 2019, that will reduce the country’s plastic waste by more than 23,000 tons per year.
The total value of meat products sold in Germany fell by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019. By contrast, sales of plant-based alternatives skyrocketed by 39%, suggesting there has been a permanent shift in tastes, especially from younger consumers. Furry friends will also be pleased to hear that Israel has become the first country to completely ban the sale of all fur products, including imports and exports. Expect this to be the first in a long list over the next few years.
The critically endangered Polish wolf has recovered to an estimated population of 3,000, a massive leap from the mere 60 in existence in the early 1970s. It's always the same story with these endangered species recoveries: decades of unseen, thankless work from scientists, conservationists and activists.
That's exactly what happened in Bulgaria, which now has a stable population of around 80 griffon vultures, more than 40 years after the birds were declared extinct in the Balkan nation. There are now at least 23 mating pairs, who have been breeding in the wild since 2016.
22nd May 2021 - 4th June 2021
A Black Wednesday for the oil industry, after a triple whammy of historic blows. Exxon Mobil lost a fight with shareholders last week over its reluctance to account for climate change, while Chevron's investors instructed the company to cut its emissions, and a Dutch court ordered Shell to slash emissions by 45% by 2030. “There’s no going back to where things were for oil and natural gas.” Politico
Eight Australian high school students and a Catholic nun may have doomed coal's future, following a court ruling that the federal environment minister has a duty of care to avoid harm to young people from climate change. This is an even bigger deal that the Shell ruling, because Australia is the world's largest exporter of coking coal and the second-largest for thermal coal. Reuters
The world's seven largest advanced economies have agreed to stop international financing of coal projects that emit carbon by the end of this year, and phase out support for all fossil fuels. This announcement leaves China isolated as the lender of last resort for promoters of new international coal projects. ABC
It’s adiós to oil and gas drilling in Spain, following new legislation requiring the complete phase out of fossil fuel production by 2042. Sales of ICE vehicles will be banned by 2040, and 74% of the country’s electricity must be renewable by 2030. Spain joins Denmark, France and Ireland in legislating the EU’s target of carbon neutrality by 2050. Grist
South Korea's $774.1 billion National Pension Service, the third largest pension fund in the world, will cease investments related to the construction of coal-fired power plants at home and abroad. That's the 51st coal exit policy from a financial institution announced this year, a 61% increase over 2020. Pensions & Investments
One fifth of all cars rolling off the production lines in Germany are now hybrid or electric. This is an astonishing change for the fourth largest maker of cars in the world - manufacturers are now producing 74,000 EVs a month, and Volkswagen is now the third largest EV maker in the world after Tesla and Renault-Nissan. The Driven
A new report from the WHO says there were 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2020, a decline of 30% since 2010, and the lowest total number since 1990. The UN's 90-90-90 targets are inching closer: 81% of people living with HIV know their status, 67% are receiving ARVs (up from 20% in 2010), 59% have suppressed viral loads, and 85% of pregnant women are receiving ARVs. Mirage
The same report says that 9.4 million people around the world are now receiving treatment for Hepatitis C, an almost 10-fold increase from the baseline of one million at the end of 2015. This scale-up of treatment has been sufficient to reverse the global trend of increasing mortality from Hepatitis C for the first time ever. ReliefWeb
The US government has put an end to the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols — known as the "Remain in Mexico" program, requiring asylum seekers to return to Mexico until their court dates in the United States. Advocates are calling it a “huge victory” that will save thousands of innocent people from squalid conditions and extortion, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Common Dreams
Ecuador has become the latest country in Latin America to be swept up in the 'green wave' abortion rights movement, following a ruling by the country's Constitutional Court decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape. “Never again will women be threatened with jail time, preventing them from making decisions about their reproductive life." Al Jazeera
Prisons across America are being repurposed into homeless shelters, educational farms, and even movie studios as years of declining crime rates force prison closures. Thanks to alternative penalties for non-violent crimes, the number of people incarcerated in the United States in 2020 plummeted by 1.7 million from 2019. AP
The US government has suspended all drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the country's largest tracts of untouched wilderness, and home to migrating waterfowl, caribou and polar bears. It's a big win for environmental groups and First Nations people who have campaigned to stop drilling for decades. NYT
Six years after the toxic haze crisis, the Indonesian government has restored more than 2 million hectares of damaged, carbon-rich peatlands and enhanced protection of the country's mangroves. The policy reset was driven by environmentalists who demanded action to curb fires, and last year, the country achieved its fourth consecutive year of decline in deforestation. Reuters
Glasgow has given the green light to a plan to create a massive urban forest consisting of 18 million trees in and around the city over the next 10 years. The Clyde Climate Forest will be planted in streets, former industrial or mining areas, as well as in the countryside and on the edges of farming land, increasing forest cover in the area from 17% to 20%. BBC
60 organizations, including Coles, Woolworths, Nestle and Coca-Cola have signed an ANZPAC plastics pact, that will make all plastic packaging in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. This landmark intervention comes after three years of negotiations and will drastically reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill and the ocean each year. ABC
The population of the critically endangered Saiga antelope in Kazakhstan has more than doubled to 842,000 since 2019. It’s a massive rebound for a species that made international headlines in 2015 after 200,000 animals died from a nasal bacterium spread in unusually warm weather. France24
The Florida panther has rebounded from a population of 20 to 200 in three decades. The long road to recovery began in 1995 with legislation for a genetic restoration plan, and just received another big boost from lawmakers with $100 million for land conversation and to build highway underpasses along migration corridors. NPR
1st May 2021 - 21st May 2021
A new paper in The Lancet has shown that de-worming initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa in the last two decades have resulted in a significant decline in cases among children, from 44% in 2000 to 13% in 2018. This is a huge win for one of the world's most underrated public health problems, improving the lives of millions of people and driving economic development.
Japan will be smoke-free within the next decade, following the announcement by tobacco giant Phillip Morris that it will phase-out conventional cigarettes. That's a pretty big deal for a country that has until very recently been considered a ‘smoker’s paradise’ and an outlier among OECD nations for cigarette use. Channel News Asia
A massive, bipartisan clean water infrastructure bill has been approved 89-2 by the US Senate. The legislation will improve water quality, remove lead pipes from schools, and update infrastructure for the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. 40% of the funds will target underserved, rural, and tribal communities. Grist
Stunting is when a child is too short for their age, and is one of the most important indicators of chronic or recurrent malnutrition. According to new data from the WHO, between 2010 and 2020, the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 fell from 27.7% to 22%. That means there are now around 30 million fewer children affected compared to a decade ago. Progress is slow, and it almost never makes headlines.
Another step forward for transgender rights in America with Utah's Supreme Court overturning a district judge’s decision to deny two transgender people the right to change their birth certificates. The ruling comes after a three year deliberation and creates an important precedent not just for the state, but the country as a whole. LGTBQ Nation
Earlier this year, Colombia granted millions of Venezuelan refugees legal status, allowing them to work and access healthcare and education. Three months later, the government has spent $187 million on providing migrant healthcare, and about half a million migrant children are attending public schools. "We gave Venezuelan migrants a license to dream." BBC
There's been so much good news on the clean energy front in the past few weeks, we don't even know where to start. Let's kick off with "oil and gas are now junk investments" according to some head-in-the-clouds, granola loving climate activist, oh wait it's *checks notes* the head of the International Energy Agency, Faith Birol. Sky News
The IEA's new Net Zero by 2050 report says that, after 250 years, humanity should now stop exploring for oil, gas, and coal. It's arguably as big a moment as the Paris Agreement; in one stroke, it completely wipes out the fossil fuel industry's last remaining justifications for new capacity. People throw around the word 'turning point' a lot but this really is one. New Yorker
The hits keep on coming. The IEA says last year's record surge in renewables is the 'new normal', and that 90% of all new energy built in 2021 and 2022 will be clean. Keep in mind, this is from an organization that was founded explicitly to promote coal, oil and gas. Welcome to an energy revolution driven not by altruism, or politics, but by the cold-blooded logic of the marketplace. Independent
Another crunchy greenie, Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Shell, has just announced that half of the oil giant's energy mix will be clean somewhere in the next decade. HALF. “If we do not make that type of process by the middle of this decade, we have a problem not just as a company but as a society." Bloody hippy. Bloomberg
The Sines coal plant in Portugal has been shut down nine years ahead of schedule, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 12%. A second and final plant is due to close in November which will make Portugal the fourth European country to eliminate coal, following in the footsteps of Belgium (2016), Austria (2020) and Sweden (2020). Beyond Coal
The US EPA has proposed a new rule that will phase-out the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, saving nearly $284 billion and preventing the equivalent of 187 million tons of CO2 emissions, roughly equal to the annual emissions of one in seven vehicles registered in the United States. AP
Electric car sales boomed by 40% in 2020, with Europe officially overtaking China, spurred on by subsidies and tighter fuel standards. Growth looks set to continue, with sales in the first quarter of 2021 more than doubling from the same period in 2020. There are now around 10 million EVs on the world's roads, plus about another one million vans, trucks and buses. Independent
Ford has unveiled its new electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning. Its petrol-powered counterpart, the F-150, is the biggest selling pickup truck in the United States. This thing is aimed squarely at the same customers. 360 km of range, 3.5 tonnes of towing capacity, 11 charging ports for your power tools, three days of backup electricity you can plug into your house. Price? $40,000. Verge
Animal rights activists in the UK have won a major victory with a landmark reform that legally recognizes animals as sentient beings. A range of new government measures will ban most live animal exports, the importation of hunting trophies like ivory and shark fins, and target puppy theft. The government has also pledged to uphold animal welfare in future trade deals. Guardian
A philanthropist in South Carolina has gifted 7,500 acres of highlands to conservation groups in the largest private land donation in the state’s history. The area is home to numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country. ABC13
Lawmakers in Florida have put their money where their mouth is, committing $100 million to preserve environmentally sensitive lands after passing legislation to preserve the migration paths for animals like the endangered Florida panther. It is the state's most significant spending on land conservation since 2014. WUSF
A major clean-up of New Zealand’s Kaipara Harbour begins this month, with community groups, landowners and local government working together to restore the water health of the 602,000 hectare catchment. 20 million native trees will be planted around the erosion-prone land to stop sediment running into the harbour. RNZ
Government incentives for pesticide free, wildlife-friendly farming in the UK have helped save Britain’s rarest butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, from near extinction. The population has soared by 25% over the past decade with one of the largest colonies found on an organic dairy farm in Dorset. Guardian
The US government has ramped up its protection of endangered humpback whales, declaring 300,000 km² of the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat. It’s a big win for conservationists who sued the federal government in 2018 over its failure to designate protected areas, which are proven to double the chance of species’ recovery. WAN
A crackdown on rhino poaching in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe has paid off with the number of rhinos poached dropping by 1,319 between 2015-2020. The sharp decline is thanks to tougher legislation, enforcement, and more sophisticated investigations. Conservationists have also switched tactics, empowering communities to become rhino custodians. Geographical
The population of Vietnam’s critically endangered monkey, the Delacour’s Langur, has quadrupled in the past 20 years thanks to the combined efforts of a German primatologist and local communities. Their collaboration resulted in the Van Long Nature Reserve established in 2001 to prevent habitat loss and poaching. Mongabay
Since 2010, almost 21 million km2 has been added to the world’s network of national parks and conservation areas, an area greater than the land mass of Russia. That means about 17% of land and inland water ecosystems and 8% of marine areas are now within formal protected areas, with the total coverage increasing by 42% in the last decade. Protected Planet
10th April 2021 - 30th April 2021
The Gambia has become the third African country to eliminate trachoma. It's an extraordinary achievement: in the mid-1980s, trachoma was responsible for almost 1 out of 5 cases of blindness. Behind it lies three decades of hard work by community volunteers, who played a crucial role in raising awareness and promoting behaviour change. Read their stories here.
After nearly a century, an effective malaria vaccine may finally be within reach after trials of a vaccine from Oxford recorded 77% efficacy in 450 children in Burkina Faso. Larger trials are now underway - if the vaccine gets through those, it will represent one of the biggest public health breakthroughs of all time. Guardian
Afghanistan has passed a new law that will, for the first time, include mothers’ names on their children’s birth certificates and ID cards. It's a major victory for women’s rights activists, who for several years have campaigned for both parents to be named under the social media hashtag #WhereIsMyName. It's especially significant for women who are widowed, divorced, separated, or dealing with abusive partners. HRW
The participation of women in the labour force in Saudi Arabia has surged by 64% in the last two years, thanks to recent reforms allowing women to drive, and changes to labour laws. Reminder - equal access to employment opportunities is one of the most important drivers for progress in human rights. Brookings
Nigeria has kicked off its largest electrification project ever, with an ambitious initiative that will give 25 million Nigerians access to cheap solar power. Access to affordable energy is a big part of the government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The rollout will begin with communities who are off the national power grid and eventually cover all 36 states. ESI
Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth over the past 15 years has resulted in poverty declining from 39% in 2004 to 19% in 2020. Growth has come from the transition from an agriculture-led to a service-led economy (services overtook agriculture in GDP in 2016) and the government is now targeting a poverty rate of 7% by 2030. IFS
A school feeding program in Venezuela has started providing daily meals to 185,000 children in areas where food shortages are most severe. The program is a major step forward in tackling increasing malnutrition rates and there are plans to expand the operation to reach 1.5 million students over the next two years. Reuters
The US government has launched the most ambitious food assistance program in the country's history to help the 25 million Americans who don’t have enough to eat. The campaign has increased food stamps by more than $1 billion a month and has expanded the produce allowance for pregnant women and children. NYT
Prostitution will no longer be prosecuted in Manhattan and thousands of cases, dating back decades, may also be dismissed. The reform is part of a growing national movement to change how the criminal justice system deals with sex workers. NYT
New Mexico has become the 16th US state to legalize recreational marijuana with retail sales to begin by April 2022. A legal cannabis industry could spawn a $318 million market and create over 11,000 jobs for one of America's poorer states. The reform will also clear the record for many people with past marijuana convictions. BI
Investors are fleeing from fossil fuels, with the value of share offerings in coal, oil and gas companies plummeting by $123 billion in the last decade. Clean energy IPOs also overtook carbon-heavy flotations for the first time in 2020 with renewables raising a record $11 billion from public equity offerings. Carbon Tracker
Big news from Europe: Poland, the continent's last major holdout on coal, has announced an agreement between the government and unions to phase out coal production by 2049. That's the first time the country's powerful mining sector has agreed to reduce its presence, finally admitting that the writing is now on the wall. DW
Electric cars in Germany, Europe’s largest auto market and the fourth largest in the world, accounted for 13.5% of sales last year - a significant jump from 2019’s overall share of 3%. With Volkswagen's ID.4 now rolling off the production lines, analysts expect that share to climb to over 25% by the end of 2021. Clean Technica
The Biden administration has become the last of the big carbon emitters to ramp up its climate goals, with a game-changing commitment to halving carbon emissions by 2030. This is a huge deal, kickstarting a decade of transformative industrial change. Here's what we're looking at over the next ten years. NYT
⚡ >50% of electricity from renewable energy (+20% from today).
💨 CO2 released from new natural gas plants to be captured and buried.
🛑 All 200 remaining coal plants shut down.
🚙 2/3 of new cars and SUVs sold to be battery-powered (+97% from today).
🏢 All new buildings heated by electricity instead of natural gas.
🏗 Cement, steel, and chemical industries adopting strict new energy-efficiency targets.
🛢 Oil and gas producers slashing methane emissions by 60%.
🌲 Expanding regenerative forestry and agricultural practices to pull 20% more CO2 from the air than today.
An inspiring collaboration in British Colombia between an Indigenous community, lawmakers and a mining company has permanently saved the eastern slopes of Mount Edziza from mining development. The agreement closes the book on any industrial activity in the area which is of great ecological and cultural importance. Narwhal
After nearly 20 years of negotiations, the Peruvian government has established the 10,000 km² Yavarí Tapiche Reserve for uncontacted peoples deep in the Amazon rainforest. “This constitutes a historic milestone in the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples in a situation of isolation and initial contact.” Mongabay
The Australian government has committed $100 million to ocean conservation, in an effort to protect ‘blue carbon’ environments. The funding will go towards ocean management and methods to draw down carbon with seagrass and mangroves. An additional $11.6m will be spent to establish nine Indigenous protected areas in sea country. West Australian
Conservationists have banded together to save one of the world’s most pristine rainforests from deforestation, purchasing a 950 km2 biodiversity hotspot and wildlife corridor at the intersection of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. The corridor secures the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, home to five species of wild cat (jaguars, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi and puma), spider monkeys, howler monkeys and hundreds of bird species. The Nature Conservancy
Good news for turtles in North Cyprus with nest counts of green turtles increasing by 162% and loggerhead turtles by 46% since 1993. Local conservation efforts began in 1983, with volunteers and scientists working tirelessly every nesting season to keep the nests safe from local predators and plastic waste. Mongabay
A four-year seagrass restoration project in the UK is now underway, hoping to turn the tide for local ecosystems impacted by pollution and dredging. The scheme will plant eight hectares of biodiverse-rich seagrass meadows off the south coast, providing safe habitat for an estimated 160,000 fish, including seahorses, and 200 million invertebrates. Positive News
Lehua Island in Hawaii and Redonda Isle in the Caribbean are both rodent-free after years of conservation efforts. Rats threatened wildlife and endangered species on both islands, but since their removal, signs of recovery to ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife populations have been almost immediate.
20th March 2021 - 9th April 2021
Côte d'Ivoire has become the second African country to successfully eliminate sleeping sickness. The public health milestone comes after 20 years of targeted screening and treatment programs in remote rural communities. Annual cases have decreased by more than 90% since the 1990s and the country will now shift focus to maintenance and keeping the disease out. WHO
There was a 50% decline in global cases of Guinea Worm in 2020, and a 20% decrease in animal infections. It's thanks to local communities who have monitored infections and protected water sources from contamination. 199 countries have now been certified as completely free of the disease. Carter Centre
Liberia has become the first African country to introduce the typhoid conjugate vaccine. More than 1.9 million children will receive the vaccine over the next few weeks, and once the campaign is done, the country will begin regular immunizations for all children at the age of 9 months. Coalition Against Typhoid
Kazakhstan is officially nuclear free, after scientists ground down the last 2.9 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, rendering it useless for bomb-making. The historic moment comes after 30 years of denuclearization, and remains one of the least celebrated, yet most successful examples of post-Cold War diplomacy. Atlantic
Suicides in the United States decreased by 5.6% in 2020, easing fears that lockdowns would drive the rate up. It's the third consecutive year that suicide rates have declined, amidst growing awareness of mental health problems, and an expanding range of support and crisis intervention services. Washington Post
France has taken a major step forward in protecting children against sexual abuse by setting the minimum age of sexual consent at 15. The new legislation follows years of campaigning by abuse survivors to bring France’s consent laws in line with most other western countries. Sex with minors under 15 will now be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. France24
Low-level, non-violent crimes will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore. The city temporarily suspended prosecution of drug possession, prostitution and misdemeanours to limit the spread of COVID-19 in jail, but after recording a 36% drop in property crimes, a 20% decline in violent crimes and a 39% decrease in the people entering the criminal justice system, officials have made the measures permanent. NBC
New York has become the 15th US state to legalize recreational marijuana. The state will immediately start expunging the criminal records of individuals with past marijuana-related convictions, and law enforcement in the state won’t be able to arrest or prosecute individuals for possession of marijuana up to three ounces. NBC
A year after passing its historic law to decriminalize abortion, New Zealand has passed legislation for paid bereavement for miscarriage. The new bill gives women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave and will also apply to parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy. ABC
Canada is on track to halve domestic poverty by 2030. Thanks to strong public policy, rates of both poverty and income inequality have fallen consistently since 2015, and the number of children below the poverty line has plummeted from 1.1 million to 680,000. Although the pandemic caused major economic disruption, government interventions have helped continue the downward trend. The Tyee
Economic growth and fossil fuels go hand in hand right? Maybe not. Since 2005, 32 countries with populations of over one million people have decoupled emissions from GDP, both for terrestrial emissions (within national borders) and consumption emissions (goods consumed in a country). Breakthrough
In a massive turnaround, Saudi Arabia, one of the world's leading oil producers, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 60%, increase the percentage of protected land to more than 30%, and plant 50 billion trees as part of the world’s biggest afforestation project. Arab News
The Biden Administration has designated a vast swathe of ocean between Long Island and the New Jersey coast as an offshore wind energy zone, in a move that will create over 6,000 permanent jobs. The government has set a target to create 30 GW of wind turbines along both coasts, capable of powering enough electricity for 10 million American homes for a year. NPR
Massachusetts has passed one of America’s most ambitious climate bills, outlining a clear path to net-zero by 2050. The Bay State will add gigawatts of offshore wind power, require cities and towns to adopt a net-zero building code, and set targets for electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage. The new law also codifies environmental justice policy, which to this point has been limited to executive orders and other regulatory decisions. Ars Technica
Thanks to progressive policies over the past 24 years, California has clocked up a 78% reduction in diesel particulate pollution, the toxic black stuff from car exhausts. Cleaner air has benefited public health, with 82% fewer deaths from heart and lung disease. Amazing progress, especially considering that California has more cars than any other state as well as the USA's two largest ports. Gizmodo
The US EPA is taking a tough new stance on approving new chemicals, bringing requirements into line with the Toxic Substances Control Act. Environmental groups have welcomed the changes. “By taking this step, EPA will reverse the illegal and unprotective approach the prior administration applied to hundreds of new chemicals over the last several years.”
The Mi’kmaq First Nations people of Nova Scotia have reclaimed their native fishing rights after becoming majority owners in one of the largest seafood businesses in North America. The landmark deal is part of a growing movement of indigenous people regaining control of their traditional food ways to restore the crucial marine and land habitats that have nourished their tribes for centuries.
A federal court in Alaska has rejected approval for offshore oil and gas activities due to potential noise pollution that would cause harm to the critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales. The court ruled that National Marine Fisheries Service failed to consider the direct impact when it approved activity in the area. WAN
In a quiet victory for animal welfare, 70 million hens have been raised cage-free in America over the past six years, as the use of battery cages rapidly declines. For over 15 years advocates have tirelessly campaigned against the inhumane practice, successfully shifting legislation and consumer trends. Progress continues, with Utah recently becoming the eighth state to ban battery cages. Vox
Animal rights activists are celebrating four wins in 48 hours with US federal rulings against trophy hunting, state-funded wildlife killing experiments, cage confinement, and a historic ban on fur. The victories come after decades of advocacy and reflect a turning tide against animal cruelty. Humane Society
The endangered Californian condor is returning to its home skies after nearly a century thanks to the efforts of the Yurok Tribe. After a decade of petitioning, the tribe has commenced building an approved captive breeding facility, with the first condors expected to arrive later this year. It follows the success of reintroduction programs in south and central California that have seen the free flying population increase to over 300 in the past 40 years. Guardian
The bald eagle has quadrupled its population in the past decade with more than 300,000 birds soaring across American skies. The recovery is a testament to the relentless work of scientists and conservationists who fought to ban pesticides and put the eagle on the endangered species list in 40 states. AP
In response to a decade of work by conservationists, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has set aside 593 km of rivers in Virgina and West Virgina as protected habitat for the candy darter (a small, brightly colored fish) and 510 km in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland for the yellow lance freshwater mussel.
The coronavirus pandemic has been great for whales. Not only did it help end commercial hunting, it also reduced underwater noise pollution, leaving whales free to communicate with one another and locate food without interruption. Ocean scientists are racing to collect data and hope this rare silence gives whales a chance to return to their natural behaviours and have more complex conversations. NBC
13th March 2021 - 19th March 2021
Mexican women with disabilities will have equal access to protection from domestic violence after the Senate amended the current law to include disability as one of the elements courts must assess when granting protection. The reform is a crucial step forward for women with disabilities who are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. OWP
A court in Pakistan has abolished the outdated practice of virginity tests on rape victims after human rights activists filed a lawsuit in the eastern city of Lahore. Activists have called it “landmark judgment” against a “demeaning and absurd” practice that will help improve the investigative and judicial process for victims of sexual violence. The judgement could also pave the way for further bans of the practice in other areas of Pakistan. NYT (right click and open in 'incognito mode')
Lebanon has criminalized sexual harassment with a landmark law that penalizes perpetrators with four years in prison and up to 50 times the minimum wage. The new law expands the definition of sexual harassment to “any recurring bad behaviour that is out of the ordinary, unwanted by the victim” and includes electronic harassment. It’s hoped the harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent and lead to broader cultural change. JPost
A court in Japan, the only G7 nation that still doesn't recognize gay marriage, has boosted the campaign to legalize it, after deciding it was ‘unconstitutional’ to deny same-sex couples the right to wed. Judges ruled the government's lack of recognition for three same-sex couples suing for psychological harm was in breach of a section of the constitution that requires equal laws for everyone. Guardian
Nine girls, aged between 7-14, have made legal history in Ecuador after suing the government over the pollution and climate impacts of oil industry flaring in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The court ruled in favour of the girls, who demanded an immediate end to all gas flares in their villages. The judges also noted that eliminating flaring would cut Ecuador’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 24%. Mongabay
It's official. Renewable energy generated more electricity than fossil fuels in Europe in 2020. Investments into solar and wind resulted in renewables accounting for 38% of the continent's electricity, taking a narrow lead over fossil fuels which generated 37%. This is incredible progress; a decade ago, renewables accounted for just over 20% of electricity. Forbes
Four big financial blows to coal this week. Swiss Re closed a major loophole in the reinsurance market, announcing the end of support for thermal coal by 2040; Citigroup became the first major US bank to rule out supporting plans for coal plant expansions by new clients; French insurance giant Axa will end its insurance policies with the German utility RWE; and HSBC will allow a resolution on exiting thermal coal to be put to shareholders at its forthcoming annual general meeting.
The IEA - arguably the most conservative energy body in the world - says that the global demand for gasoline has peaked, and is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels as efficiency gains and the shift to electric vehicles eclipse mobility growth in the developing world. Their forecast predicts that 60 million electric vehicles will be on roads by 2026, compared with 7.2 million in 2019. WSJ
Electric shockwaves continue to roil automakers around the world. This week, there were announcements from both Audi and Daimler-Mercedes that they will cease development of new combustion engines and adapt their existing engines to meet the EU’s strict emission guidelines. “In terms of products, there is no longer any rational reason to opt for a combustion engine in the near future”.
Thanks to an update by the EPA, coal plants in 12 US states will be required to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions, a major component of smog. It’s a big win for millions of people in downwind states exposed to dangerous air pollution blowing across their boundaries from upwind coal-fired power plants. The ruling is effective immediately. EDF
The Magpie River in Canada has been declared a living entity and granted legal rights after local environmental groups campaigned for permanent protection. 14 countries now have rivers and ecosystems have won protection with 'nature rights.' The growing global movement challenges the way western legal systems treat nature as property and is being implemented through laws, judicial decisions, constitutional amendments and United Nations resolutions. Reuters
Virginia has become the fourth state in America to ban cosmetic animal testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. California, Nevada and Illinois have also signed the Humane Cosmetics Act and hope to reintroduce federal legislation to make the ban standard across the country. 40 countries have now passed laws prohibiting or limiting cosmetic animal testing. Totally Vegan Buzz
6th March 2021 - 12th March 2021
Hungary will close its last coal plant in 2025, halving the time of its original plan to reach 90% carbon neutral electricity generation by 2030. The Matra power plant site will transition to a solar farm, replacing coal jobs with new opportunities for workers, who will also receive support from the EU’s transition fund. Seven European countries now have coal free 2025 targets. Euractiv
The Canadian government has committed $2.75 billion to help public transit and school buses transition to electric power over the next five years. It’s part of the government’s progressive plan to tackle climate change while creating new jobs in Canada’s growing electric van manufacturing industry. Funds will also be provided for the installation of new charging stations for zero-emission vehicles. Electrek
Infant mortality rates in the Philippines have dropped by 80% since the 1950s and are continuing to decline thanks to new regulations that allow hospital births to include traditional birth practices crucial to Filipino culture. Women who give birth in hospital can choose to have a traditional birth attendant help with delivery while also having access to necessary medicine. Borgen
Egypt used to have one of the highest hepatitis C burdens in the world - in 2015 it accounted for 40,000 deaths per year, 7.6% of all deaths—and depressed national GDP growth by 1.5%. Three years ago, the government started a huge public health effort, screening 67 million people, and providing free treatment for two million. It worked. This year the hepatitis C burden has fallen to 2%, and public health officials say they are on track to eliminate it altogether. Egypt Today
Australian researchers have found that the annual rates of new cases of adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is stable or falling in Australia, Europe, the United States, and a number of high income countries in Asia. The study is the first to focus on diabetes incidence, the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes each year rather than total number of people who suffer from the disease at any given time. Baker
A new study has shown that cancer deaths in Europe have plummeted in the last three decades. Compared to the peak mortality rate, recorded in 1988, 4.9 million cancer deaths will have been averted in the EU and over one million in the UK by the end of 2021. Predicted death rate declines between 2015 and 2021 include:
- 7.8% decline for breast cancer
- 4.8% decline for colorectal cancer in men and a 9.6% decline in women
- 8.7% decline for prostate cancer
- 3.5% decline for uterine cancer
- 8.9% decline for ovarian cancer
- 14.1% decline for stomach cancer in men and a 16.3% decline in women.
China has doubled the number of wild animals protected under its conservation rules, imposing hefty fines on the trading and consumption of 500 species, including many birds and wolves. It comes after 30 years of Chinese environmental groups fighting for animals to be added to the protected list. It’s hoped the ban will also help combat global trafficking of wild animals. Eco Business
An undercover investigation by a non-profit media organization has forced South Korea's largest dog meat auction house to close. The closure follows a wider crackdown on dog meat farming across the country, with advocates now calling for an amendment to the country’s Animal Protection Act that would permanently ban all slaughtering and processing of dogs for food. World Animal News
A federal judge has banned future oil and gas development in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest. It’s a big win for conservation groups who fought a three year legal battle to protect the 40,000 acres of Ohio’s only national park. It’s a trend that looks set to continue after President Biden’s recent moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands. Biological Diversity
Nothing restores a river or a local economy like removing a dam. River restoration practitioners in America worked around challenging COVID restrictions to remove 69 dams across 23 states in 2020, reconnecting over a 1,000 km of river for fish and wildlife and revitalizing local economies. American Rivers
An Alaskan archipelago dubbed the "Rat Islands" have become a shining example of how quickly nature can bounce back. 18th century shipwrecks introduced rats to the islands, almost destroying their fauna and flora, but in 2008 conservationists started a removal program on one of them, Hawadax Island, and within 11 years the ecosystem had fully recovered. "We were surprised that the level of recovery unfolded so quickly -- we thought it would be longer." Science Daily
27th February 2021 - 5th March 2021
El Salvador has become the first country in Central America to be certified malaria-free. It's a fantastic achievement, given the country's dense population and a geography that's especially hospitable to the disease. Globally, 38 countries have now reached this milestone, with El Salvador the third country in the Americas, following Argentina in 2019 and Paraguay in 2018. Global Fund
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts warned that malaria deaths in Africa could double. They were wrong. Instead, around 160 million nets were distributed door-to-door in 2020, over 90% of planned distribution, and more children received antimalarial medicines than in any other year in history. Naturally, this incredible story has received blanket coverage from the world's media. Devex
China has banned schoolteachers from giving out any punishment that can result in physical or mental trauma, after a wave of complaints about student deaths linked to harsh discipline in schools. A new law prohibiting corporal punishment at home is also due to be taken up by China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress, as it meets this week. Channel News Asia
The Biden administration has racked up more wins for the LGBT community during its first month in office than any other has accomplished in an entire term. In addition to a series of historic executive orders and amendments to combat discrimination, 11% of the administration identify as LGBT, some in very senior positions. This is genuine progress - consider that 50 years ago, LGBT people were barred from serving in the federal government. Philadelphia Gay News
Morocco is on the cusp of legalizing medical marijuana, after the PJD party, the largest in parliament, dropped opposition in the wake of the UN's decision last year to remove cannabis from its most tightly controlled category of drugs. The move aims to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers, and gain access to the booming legal international market for the drug. Reuters
Climate activists have forced Drax, one of the UKs biggest coal plant operators, to ditch its plan to build Europe’s largest gas power plant. It comes after three years of fierce opposition from environmental groups who claimed the project was incompatible with the UK’s climate change laws. The company has also promised to end the commercial sales of coal-fired electricity from next month. Guardian
Beyond Meats has signed an agreement with McDonald’s, the largest fast food company in the world, to develop a plant-based burger, as well as options for chicken, pork and egg. This is by far the biggest market signal yet for plant-based meats. “When these restaurant chains move, the entire food industry takes notice." New Food Magazine
Speaking of market signals... this week it's Volvo joining the growing list of manufacturers racing to switch to zero-emission models, with an announcement that its entire car line-up will be fully electric by 2030. After previously committing to half of sales becoming electric by 2025, Volvo has now accelerated its strategy to line up with the UK’s 2030 ban on internal combustion engine sales. Reuters
One more signal, just for luck. Petaluma, California has become the first city in the United States to ban all new petrol stations in an effort to curb carbon emissions. The city council voted unanimously this week to prohibit the creation, expansion, reconstruction and relocation of gas stations, encouraging owners to transition to electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles instead. San Francisco Chronicle
The Maldives has kicked off the first phase of an ambitious plan to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2023, with an import ban on plastic bags, straws, foam lunch boxes, cotton swabs, and small toiletry bottles coming into effect this June. It’s hoped the measure will negate plastic's harmful and unnecessary impact on the Maldives’ vulnerable marine environment. Raajje
Off the coast of Puglia, Italy, a marine reserve called Torre Guaceto has achieved such spectacular success in restoring degraded fish populations that fishermen in nearby towns have started pleading with authorities to enlarge its borders. This amazing story, of how one small stretch of coastline went from a hotbed of drug smuggling to a model of ecological restoration, shows what's possible when nature is given just a tiny bit of space to breathe. Do yourself a favour and read it. Yes
20th February 2021 - 26th February 2021
In China, coal-fired power plants fell to less than half the country's total power capacity last year, and look set to fall by a further 3% in 2021. This is big news. China is the world's largest emitter of carbon and by far the largest producer and consumer of coal. Meanwhile, 61.7% of new energy investments were spent on wind, solar and biomass, 20.5% on hydro and 7.2% on nuclear. SCMP
In the United States, the world's second largest emitter of carbon, renewable energy generated one-fifth of all electricity in 2020. After a record year for installations of both wind and solar, zero-carbon energy sources, which also include hydro and nuclear, now make up 40% of the country's total electricity mix. Greentech
Bangladesh, which until recently had one of the largest coal pipelines in the world, has scrapped nine more coal plants, with a combined capacity of almost 8GW. The decision was driven by a combination of rising costs, worries about the country's future reliance on imported coal and growing public opposition to the health impacts of pollution. Daily Sun
Australia's 3rd biggest bank, ANZ, has pulled out of funding the Port of Newcastle, the world's largest thermal coal terminal. The bank said the investment was too risky and is worried it could become a stranded asset as global decarbonization gathers speed. In news that must really delight their shareholders, Australia's 4th biggest bank, NAB, has agreed to step in to make up the financing gap. Guardian
Uttarakhand has become the first state in India to grant women co-ownership of land, which has traditionally transferred down patriarchal lines. The landmark amendment gives wives and daughters equal access, and overnight, will affect over 350,000 women across the state. It’s hoped other states will now take action too, after what activists are calling a “historic decision". Times of India
A group of workers in Ecuador have also made legal history, after winning the country’s first case against modern-day slavery. After 50 years of labour exploitation, Afro-Ecuadorian workers decided to take action against their powerful agro-industrial employer. The judge ruled in their favour, ordering compensation and a full apology on the company’s website and in local media, detailing every worker by name. Reuters
This story is a little close to the and now finally segment you usually get at the end of the evening news, but we're including it anyway because it's awesome. Two years after girls in the United States were allowed into the Boy Scouts, almost 1,000 have achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout, a grade that only 6% of Scouts ever make. Dyb dyb dob. CBS
The infant mortality rate declined again in Ghana in 2020, to 32.80 per 1,000 live births. A decade ago, it was 49.42 per 1,000 live births, a decline of around 40% in just ten years. Maternal mortality and under 5 mortality rates declined last year too, thanks in part to the country's universal health coverage, which exempts pregnant women from paying health insurance premiums. Keoma
In Malaysia, lawmakers have passed new legislation mandating that drug addicts should be sent to rehabilitation rather than jail. The change of approach is part of the government’s long-term plan to "put science and public health before punishment and incarceration” by giving addicts a second chance and helping them to reintegrate back into the community. Free Malaysia
In New Jersey, a new law legalizing marijuana will change the way police interact with underage offenders, especially in minority communities where drug laws have been disproportionately enforced. Instead of facing criminal charges, people under the age of 21 will now be issued a series of warnings, with a third offense resulting in counselling or community service. Law & Crime
Virginia's lawmakers have approved legislation to abolish the death penalty, moving it a step closer to becoming the 23rd state to ban capital punishment and the first southern state to outlaw the practice. That's a massive turnaround for the state with the highest execution rate in America. Governor Ralph Northam is waiting to sign it into law. "It's time we stop this machinery of death." CNN
Rhino poaching in South Africa dropped by 33% last year, the sixth straight year of declines, and the lowest overall number since 2010. The dramatic decline was partially due to COVID-19 restrictions, but also to ten years of targeted government strategy and the cooperation of different states and countries in sharing information about wildlife trafficking. The South African
Thanks to decades of conservation work, the population of European bison has tripled in the last 17 years, from only 1,800 in 2003 to 6,200 today. That means it is no longer on the vulnerable species list. Conservationists praised local communities for their support in rewilding these animals back to land. “Only by working together can we ensure the progress made in the last 70 years will not decline, but that we will witness a change for the better.” CGTN
13th February 2021 - 19th February 2021
Another week, another flurry of announcements on electric vehicles. Jaguar says it will stop selling internal combustion engines within the next five years, Land Rover will offer electric version of its vehicles from 2024, and the really big one - Ford will sell only EVs in the United Kingdom and Europe from 2030. That's the largest carmaker yet to pledge all-electric sales in Europe. Reuters
Massive announcement from Maersk, the world's largest shipping line. From 2023, all vessels will be required to use carbon-neutral fuels, such as clean methanol and ammonia “If we don’t do this, ten years from now we risk becoming irrelevant.” This is seven years ahead of their original goal, and places serious pressure on other companies to follow suit. Lloyds List
Colombia has granted legal status to almost two million Venezuelan refugees. The bold humanitarian gesture, made by President Iván Duque last week, gives them temporary protected status for ten years, allowing émigrés to work and access public services such as health and education. In a world where nationalist sentiments have all too often been stoked against refugees and migrants, it's a remarkable example of leadership. Smart economic move too. UNHCR
Russia and the United States have agreed to patrol together to enforce a new maritime pollution agreement in the waters of the Bering Sea. Officially, relations between the two countries are at their worst in more than thirty years; the Arctic though, has a long history of fostering international cooperation, and officials aren't letting geopolitical tensions get in the way. Arctic Today
The American Cancer Society says death rates have fallen again. Its latest figures show a 2.4% decline from 2017 to 2018 – the largest one-year drop ever. Longer term, there's been a 31% fall in mortality rates between 1991 and 2018, translating to almost 3.2 million fewer deaths had rates remained at their peak. Its mostly thanks to declines in the four most common cancers: lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate.
A new study in Denmark has found that less people over the age of 70 are having fewer strokes and fewer people of all ages are dying from the disease. It’s good news for global health; strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Researchers say the decrease is due to improvements in stroke awareness and a drop in smoking rates. Science Daily
A new law decriminalizing same-sex relations has gone into effect in Angola. It overturns a criminal code that had been in place for 134 years, from when the country was still a colony. Activists have heralded it as “a great step forward” in the fight against state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community in southern Africa. Sahara Reporters
Centuries after they were stolen, the ancestral lands of the American Indian Community in Minneapolis, which includes the site of the U.S. Dakota War in 1862, has been returned to them. Tribal Council members hope it marks the beginning of more efforts to reclaim traditional homelands of Indigenous people. “We are trying to heal ourselves and also we are trying to come back and try to nurture the land and heal the land as well.” CBS Local
People power in Canada has forced the Alberta government to reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy that it revoked last year. The plan had opened up the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, but after sustained opposition from conservationists, country music stars and both rural and urban communities, the government has been forced to do an about-face. The Narwhal
China, the most populated country in the world, registered almost two million less births last year, compared to 2019. This is excellent news for the environment; fewer people means less consumption and less pressure on ecosystems. It's part of a longer term trend too - China's population is now on track to peak by as soon as 2027. CNN
Air pollution is falling across a vast swathe of 15 countries in Africa, from Senegal in the west to South Sudan in the east. It's the result of rapid urbanization and economic development, leading to a significant decrease in fires traditionally used for land management. “As middle and low-income countries grow you often see more emissions. It’s nice to see a decline occurring when you’d expect to see pollution increasing.” NYT
The Mississippi River is the cleanest it's been in more than a century. Recent testing reported a sharp drop in bacteria, most of which stemmed from human and animal waste, with levels at 1% of what they were before the 1980s. Most of the credit goes to the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act, which forced industries to be accountable for waste discharge and banned the disposal of sewage into rivers and creeks. Regulation huh? Who would have thought. Nola
If the state of the world keeps you up at night, you can rest a little easier knowing the ozone layer is recovering faster than previously thought. Between 2012-2017 it looked certain to be delayed when a mysterious increase of an ozone-depleting gas called CFC-11 was traced back to China. But thanks to the country's quick response in reducing those emissions, scientists say the ozone layer is now back on track to heal to pre-1980s levels within the next 50 years. ABC
America has created its 63rd national park: New River Gorge, in southern West Virginia. The new park, covering 72,000 acres of land, and flanking 53 miles of the gorge, now has the same status as iconic places such as Yosemite and Yellowstone. It's the result of a multigenerational effort, started in the mid-twentieth century, to transform a tired industrial area into a national landmark. NYT
6th February 2021 - 12th February 2021
Shell has joined BP in saying the world has reached peak oil. Europe's biggest oil producer quietly admitted in a recent statement that its total oil production peaked in 2019 and will now drop by 1 or 2 percent annually. It's the clearest signal yet from a major oil company that we've reached the beginning of the end of the fossil fuels era. NYT
A long-standing tradition of slavery has been officially banned in Southern India. The custom, known as bitti chakri, has forced lower-caste groups into unpaid labour in upper-caste homes for centuries. It’s a big win for anti-slavery advocates, who have been campaigning on this issue for years. They’re not finished either, vowing to lobby government until they see real change inside communities and not just on paper. Reuters
More help, less handcuffs. The US city of Denver is reporting early success with a program that replaces armed police officers with healthcare workers for non-violent incidents. Since June 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have responded to 748 calls without the need for police intervention or any arrests. Organisers are now working with other cities to export the model. Denverite
Some great news from our own backyard. A bill banning LGBTQI+ conversion therapy has passed Victoria's Upper House. That means it is now illegal to try to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity in our state. Following similar reforms around conversion therapy in Queensland and the ACT, it's another important step in the fight for tolerance and equality in Australia. ABC
It’s been two years since Canada legalized recreational cannabis, and one of the many positive benefits has been a drastic decrease in opioid prescriptions. A recent study compared prescriptions before and after legalization and found that average doses per person have fallen to less than 20% of their former levels. Imagine how powerful this is going to be when the US finally gets its act into gear? High Times
Amidst the flurry of executive orders signed by the Biden administration in the past few weeks, you might have missed this one. He's committed to an ambitious conservation goal, backed by science, to protect 30% of US land and coastal seas by 2030. With only 12% of land currently conserved, that will require protecting an area twice the state of Texas to reach the 30/30 target. Nat Geo
Europe is tackling its waste problem by legislating people’s right to repair the things they’ve bought. France is leading the charge, with a ‘repair index’, that will now appear on the labels of white goods and gadgets, graded on the ease of disassembly and spare parts. According to advocates, the movement has as much to do with altering mindsets as fixing gadgets. “Our philosophy is that something doesn’t belong to you if you can’t open it.” Next City
Mozambique has passed a powerful new fisheries law that extends protected status to dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays, and makes it easier for communities living along the 2,700 km coastline to lead management initiatives. It comes off the back of news that the country’s largest marine conservation area cut illegal fishing by nearly half in 2020 compared with 2019. Mongabay
400 years after being wiped out by hunters, the UK's crane population has passed a crucial milestone on its road to recovery. 23 chicks were born last year, pushing the national population past 200. The birds returned to Norfolk in the 1970s under their own steam and are now in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset thanks to the restoration of wetland habitats. “The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance.” Guardian
30th January 2021 - 5th February 2021
South Australia has become the largest grid in the world to have 100% of electricity demand met by solar power, even as its electricity prices have become the cheapest in the country. For years, fossil fuels advocates here in Australia have been warning that too much wind and solar will increase energy prices. Unsurprisingly, those voices are now conspicuously absent. Renew Economy
Amidst the excitement surrounding GM's pledge to eliminate petrol and diesel passenger cars and SUVs by 2035, you might have missed the even bigger news that ZF Frederickshavn, one of the world's top five automotive component manufacturers, has officially ceased R&D on internal combustion engines. "We are preparing for the fact that hardly any combustion engines will be sold in Europe in 2035, perhaps none at all in the passenger car sector."
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, has sold its entire portfolio of companies focused on oil exploration and production. The portfolio, worth about $6 billion in 2019, was fully exited by the end of 2020. The fund’s new CEO has made sustainable investing an explicit strategic focus and says all portfolio managers "need to operate with that in mind." World Oil
Pakistan experienced a record drop in terrorism last year, with a 45% decrease compared to 2019. Law-enforcement agencies also averted more than half of terror threats in 2020 and recovered 72,227 weapons and five million rounds of ammunition. It's part of a longer trend - there's been an 86% reduction in terror attacks since 2013, and a 97% decline in suicide bombings since 2009. Gulf News
Crime and murder rates declined in a majority of South American and Caribbean nations last year, including significant reductions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela, historically some of the most homicidal nations in the region. While it's not clear how much was attributable to the pandemic, law enforcement authorities hope it represents a turning point. Insight Crime
In the past two decades Australia has experienced one of the most astonishing crime rate declines ever recorded by any country. Since 2001, the rate of break-ins has fallen by 68%, motor vehicle theft by 70%, robbery by 71% and other theft by 43% per cent. Across the same period the Australian murder rate fell by 50%, the attempted murder rate by 70% and overall homicide by 59%. The Australian
Oregon's Measure 110 went into effect this week, the first-of-its-kind legislation in the United States to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth and oxycodone. The state's health-care-based approach will now offer addicts treatment instead of prison. “Criminalization creates barriers to treatment. If we want people to make different choices, we have to give them more options." USA Today
A new study in The Lancet looking at the impact of ten different diseases in low-and middle-income countries estimates that vaccines saved the lives of 37 million kids between 2000 and 2019. For those born in 2019, increases in vaccine coverage and introductions of new vaccines will result in an estimated 72% reduction in lifetime mortality compared to those born in 2000.
India's new budget will double the country's spending on healthcare, from 1% to 2% of GDP. It's the largest investment in healthcare in the country's history, and will help improve public health systems as well as fund the huge vaccination drive to immunize 1.3 billion people. Imagine the kind of headlines this would receive if it happened in the US or Europe? Al Jazeera
The US government has trebled the size of the Gulf of Mexico's largest coal sanctuary, from 145 km² to 414 km². The expansion protects 14 additional reefs from the bottom-tending fishing gear, ship anchors and oil and gas exploration. Initially proposed under the Bush administration and formalized by Obama, the process concluded during the final week of the Trump administration. Nola
Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, removed 1 billion pieces of plastic from across its stores in 2020, including the bags used to pack loose vegetables, fruit and baked goods, plastic shrink wraps around tinned food, plastic in Christmas products and plastic wrapping around greetings cards. Shows you how powerful consumer pressure can be when directed in the right way. Greenbiz
For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system, thanks to a successful re-introduction program by biologists from the Colville Tribe. “I was shocked at first, then I was just overcome with complete joy. I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.” Spokesman
Fishermen in Namibia have reduced the accidental deaths of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, from 30,000 per year in 2009, to just 215 at last count. It's down to a simple regulation created in 2015 that made bird-scaring lines (a sort of nautical scarecrow) mandatory on all fishing boats. The 98.4% reduction in seabird mortality is an “absolutely amazing” achievement. Eco Magazine
23rd January 2021 - 29th January 2021
The United Nations has ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first ever global treaty to ban nuclear weapons and all activities related to them. It's not the end of nuclear weapons - none of the nuclear-capable countries have signed on - but it is a historic milestone in the decades long campaign by civil society groups for disarmament. Conversation
Egypt's cabinet has toughened its laws on female genital mutilation, imposing jail terms of up to 20 years as part of efforts to stamp out the horrifying tradition (90% of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM). The new law hikes the maximum sentence from the current seven years, and will ban any medical practitioners involved from practicing for five years. Reuters
The UN just released its latest data on family planning. The total number of women and girls around the world using modern contraception now stands at 320 million, with 60 million new users in the last seven years, and nine million in the past year alone. Progress has been particularly strong in Africa, where the number of modern contraceptive users has grown by 66% since 2012. FP2020
Ahead of World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day, there's been some pretty amazing news. More than one billion people have received treatment for at least one NTD every year for the last five years, there are 500 million people who no longer require interventions for any NTDs, and 42 countries, territories and areas have eliminated at least one NTD. Forbes
Even in the face of the pandemic, eleven African countries delivered more than 35 million preventative treatments for NTDs in 2020, with a further 133 million treatments due to be delivered by March this year. That included the administration of more than 7.5 million doses of trachoma-fighting antibiotics in Ethiopia in just one month during December 2020. ReliefWeb
The WHO has now certified 199 countries and territories as being free of Guinea Worm, including 16 formerly endemic countries. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the number of cases was reduced to just 24 between January and October last year, down from 52 in 2019 and a staggering 3.5 million in 1986.
The world’s biggest diesel engine factory in France is facing up the inevitable, and switching to electric motors. By 2025, more than half the plant's production will be dedicated entirely to electric vehicles, a shift that's testament to a car industry in flux. Demand for diesel cars has slumped since 2015, following pollution scandals and tough new EU regulations. Reuters
China more than doubled its construction of clean energy in 2020, reflecting Beijing’s pledge to cut fossil fuel dependence and bring carbon emissions to a peak within a decade. Check out these numbers: 72GW of wind, 48.2GW of solar and 13.2GW of hydro, bringing new capacity to more than 190GW in a single year. This utterly dwarfs anything comparable by any other country. Bloomberg
Climate activists targeting financial institutions have delivered another victory, after three major European banks - Credit Suisse, ING and BNP Paribas - said they will stop providing financing for oil exports from the Ecuadorian Amazon. It's a significant blow: along with UBS, Natixis and Rabobank, they account for 85% of all bank trade-financing for Amazon oil. Bloomberg
A growing wave of grassroots opposition is challenging the Alberta government's plans to pursue open-pit coal mining in the Canadian Rockies. The pressure, which is coming from both sides of the political divide, is working. On the 18th January, Alberta’s energy minister acknowledged opposition to its plans and announced the province was cancelling 11 coal leases and 'pausing' future sales. The Tyee
Remember that awful scene from Samsara of male chicks being killed after they hatch? Germany just became the first country in the world to ban the practice, effective from the 1st January next year. In a second step, the killing of chick embryos in the egg will be prohibited after the sixth day of incubation starting on the 1st January 2024. Watch for other countries to follow suit. AP
In 1994, outraged by the deaths of sea otters and diving seabirds, voters in California banned gill nets. New research has now revealed that not only did the ban prevent the unnecessary suffering of thousands of birds and otters, but also allowed the population of California's harbor porpoises — one of the smallest toothed whales — a chance to rebound. LA Times
Groundfish populations are rebounding off the west coast of the United States. Of the eight stocks that were declared overfished in the early 2000s, all but one, yelloweye rockfish, have been rebuilt today. It's the result of more than two decades of good science and effective regulation, and show's what's possible when nature is given a chance. Recordnet.com
Bison have returned at last to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana. More than 100 years after the federal government illegally fenced off an 18,000-acre parcel of land, the land and the bison have been restored. “We are thrilled this historic wrong has been righted, and that we can re-establish our relationship with the herd we saved from extinction in the 1800s.” High Country News
16th January 2021 - 22nd January 2021
Total has become the first major global energy company to quit the American Petroleum Institute due to its climate policies and support for drilling. This high-profile departure from the most powerful energy lobby on the planet is a sign of things to come; expect the trickle to become a flood as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to tackle climate change. Reuters
Vietnam just had an insane year for rooftop solar, with 7.4GW installed in less than 12 months. That's 25 times more than it installed in 2019: equivalent to more than half of Australia's entire capacity in a single year. By contrast, only 1.2GW of new coal capacity was added to Vietnam's grid in 2020, from projects that took years to plan and complete. IEEFA
The Naso people of Panama are celebrating a major victory after the country’s Supreme Court upheld their claim to 400,000 acres of ancestral lands encompassing some of the most pristine forests in Central America. “We will be able to continue what our culture and way of life represents: taking care of our Mother Earth, conserving a majestic forest, and protecting the planet from the effects of climate change.” Yale 360
Last year the Global Fund doled out over $8 billion to combat infectious diseases and strengthen health systems in developing countries. This is the highest amount of grants ever given out in a single year - and they all kick off this month. “This is an exceptional achievement that will help more than 100 countries continue the critical fight against HIV, TB and malaria." Relief Web
Development banks and states have just pledged over $14 billion towards planting the Great Green Wall to contain desertification in North Africa. It's welcome news; although numerous pilots have proven the project's viability over the last few years, it's been stuck in funding purgatory. This is a major step forward. The Tribune
China has passed a landmark environmental law protecting the Yangtze, one of the country's two 'mother rivers.' From the 1st of March, chemical projects near the river will be banned and relocated, sand mining will be restricted, and all fishing, including in tributaries, lakes and the estuary, will be forbidden (more than 400 million people live in the Yangtze basin). Reuters
The European Environment Agency says the continent's renewable power generation has doubled since 2005, and is now on par with coal and gas. Not only has this significantly decreased emissions, it's also yielded key improvements for soil acidification, air pollution and eutrophication - where freshwater is overloaded with nutrients, causing algal blooms and low oxygen levels. Reuters
The interior least tern, the smallest member of the tern family, has been taken off the US endangered list after 30 years of tireless work by states, federal agencies, tribes and conservationists. In the early 20th century, its feathers became a popular feature of women's hats, and by 1985 numbers had dropped to less than 2,000. Today, the population is over 18,000, with 480 nesting sites in 18 states. AP
1st January 2021 - 15th January 2021
Renewable energy production in Germany, the world's fourth largest economy, exceeded that of coal, natural gas and oil combined for the first time last year. Wind alone produced more electricity than all of the country’s lignite and hard coal plants, heralding "the end of coal,” and emissions fell by 80 million tonnes meaning the country has reduced emissions by 42% since 1990. It is possible.
Norway has become the first country to record more sales of cars powered by electric engines than cars powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines over the course of a year. Battery-electric vehicles made up 54.3% of new passenger-car sales in 2020, up from 42% in 2019, putting the country on track to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2025. Market Watch
Southeast Asia, the last great hope of the coal barons, radically reconsidered its commitment to coal last year. Four of the region’s largest emerging economies – Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam – cancelled nearly 45GW of coal power in 2020, equivalent to the total installed capacity of Germany. Energy Tracker Asia
Argentina has legalized abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, becoming the largest Latin American nation to give women autonomy over their bodies. "When I was born, women did not vote, we did not inherit, we could not manage our assets, we could not have bank accounts, we didn’t have credit cards, we couldn’t go to university. When I was born, women were nobody. Now, for all the women for fought for those rights and more, let it be law." NYT
The Dominican Republic has definitively banned child marriage. Previously, girls from the age of 15 were allowed to marry, and 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents married before the age of 18, the highest rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. Men or family members who now attempt to force a child to marry will be imprisoned for five years and the marriage annulled. Euro Weekly News
The Philippines has lifted the age of consent for sex from 12 to 16 after decades of lobbying from children’s rights activists. Campaigners say the legislation is a major milestone in efforts to protect the country's young people from sexual abuse, and where 500 teenagers get pregnant and give birth every day. “This is a victory for Filipino children." SCMP
Women’s rights activists in Iran have campaigned for a bill against gender-based violence for 16 years, and now the government is taking a stand on the issue. Hassan Rouhani’s administration passed a bill on the 4th January this year that protects women against domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. Al Jazeera
Denmark has passed a law recognizing that sex without consent is rape. It is the 12th country in Europe to do so, as momentum for change builds in other countries. “This historic day did not come about by chance. It is the result of years of campaigning by survivors who, by telling their painful stories, have helped to ensure that other women do not have to go through what they endured.” Amnesty
Kazakhstan has abolished the death penalty, making permanent a nearly two-decade freeze on capital punishment in the authoritarian Central Asian country. More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice, according to Amnesty International. EJI
After a two-year legal battle, Bolivia has recognized its first same-sex civil union, after the country's constitutional court agreed that by refusing to recognize the relationship, Bolivia’s civil registry was practicing discrimination. Gay marriage has become increasingly accepted in Latin America, and activists hope the ruling will pave the way for full legalization in Bolivia. Reuters
As of the 1st January this year, single use plastics have been banned in Mexico City, home to 9 million people. The ban, which includes single-use containers, forks, straws, cotton swabs, plastic cups, plastic stirrers, single-use coffee capsules and balloons, comes as Mexico's capital strives to revamp its image as an eco-friendly, sustainable city. DW
Remember this story the next time someone tells you a circular economy isn't possible at scale. In 2020 Adidas, the second largest shoe manufacturer in the world, produced 15 million pairs of shoes made from ocean plastic waste collected from beaches and coastal regions, and this year, will use recycled polyester in 60% of its products. BI
Japan used to be the world's biggest consumer of tropical logs. Now, thanks to efforts by both Malaysia and Papua New Guinea to protect their forests, imports have dropped to almost zero, and the country's biggest importer will go out of business this spring. "The impact of United Nations-set sustainable development goals on procurement has hurt us like a jab." Nikkei
One of the Trump administration’s biggest energy initiatives has suffered a stunning setback after a 40 year push to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge attracted just three bidders. The Alaskan state was the only bidder on nine of the tracts, and two small companies each picked up a single parcel. Half the offered leases drew no bids at all. Alaska Public
A coalition of more than 50 countries has committed to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife. The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which includes countries from six continents, made the pledge in Paris on Monday. C'mon Straya. Guardian