CURATED BY NATASHA TRUELOVE
Real talk: it's been a challenging year for the planet. But amongst all the negative news stories, natural disasters and climate crisis horrors, there has also been a lot of good. So, as we enter a brand new decade and in the spirit of starting 2020 as we mean to go on (and with hope that positive thinking breeds positive outcomes), we've curated our top 10 good news stories from around the globe in 2019. Grab a cuppa, put on some beautiful music, take a deep relaxing breath and enjoy a positive look back on the last year!
Loop, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has amassed a blue-chip roster of companies, all of which are piloting a new system of high-quality packaging that can be returned and refilled again and again. Its partners include Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Mondelēz, Danone and a dozen or so smaller brands.
Simply put, Loop brings back the old "milkman model," where products are delivered to customers at the same time empties are picked up, washed, refilled and restocked for delivery to another customer. The customer gets the product but the company owns the package. In the words of Virginie Helias, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Procter & Gamble, "It's a beautifully crafted piece of packaging”.
This March, the European Parliament approved a law banning ten single-use plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery, in order to curtail ocean pollution. The law, which was supported by 560 members of the European Parliament against 35, is aimed to be fully implemented by 2021.
The European Commission’s first vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said in a statement “Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world”.
Not only is the public and government attempting to combat climate change, but the corporate world of big investment banks is lending a hand too, in the form of green and blue bonds, which are bonds specifically earmarked to be used for climate and environmental projects, and marine and ocean-based projects respectively.
Investors have a growing interest in funding solutions that offer a real impact, committing capital to solve environmental challenges and building greener portfolios. Sustainable investing assets have risen 34% in the past two years, with more and more businesses choosing to align their business practices with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Royal Dutch Shell has committed to invest 300 million dollars over three years into reforestation projects, most notably planting more than five million trees in the Netherlands and Spain. The initiative hopes to offset the carbon emissions produced when customers consume the oil and gas produced by Shell.
Although moving away from the production of fossil fuels towards renewable energy is the ultimate aim, the company is at least trying to make a difference by restoring the Earth’s precious forests.
5. A Finnish university published a global road map on how the world can reduce its carbon emissions before 2050 (April)
A Finnish University has outlined how we can reduce global carbon emissions by 2050 and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report focuses on switching to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, and bioenergy. This is predicted to both supply the world with all the power it requires and be more cost-effective than the current fossil fuel and nuclear focused system.
And to top it all off, the paper is even dedicated to Greta Thunberg!
According to the latest Renewable Power Generation Costs report, the cost of renewable energy has tumbled even further over the past year, to the point where almost every source of green energy can now compete on cost with oil, coal and gas-fired power plants.
The most attractive renewable energy sources, from a cost perspective, are onshore wind and solar PV. Yet even the most expensive renewable energy technology, concentrated solar power (CSP), is competitive against fossil fuels in some circumstances. It’s forecasted that these trends will continue over the next decade, particularly for solar and wind power technologies.
Collaboration with companies is essential to achieving global conservation goals. That’s why WWF and their corporate partners are working together to show what this can look like.
For example, The Coca-Cola Company is working with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures to assess risks of climate change to their business, with Business for Social Responsibility to establish industry strategy to address the risks, and with WWF to work on the ground and realize large-scale resilience-building.
More and more people are choosing to follow a meat-free diet, or at least reducing their intake of meat. Meat alternatives produce 10x less greenhouse gas emissions than beef, and you don’t have to bypass the same familiar taste!
While a number of prominent public figures, such as Moby, Bill Clinton and Ellen Degeneres, have drawn attention to veganism, numerous studies have also reported on the links between meat consumption, health and environmental consequences. These have been picked up by various media outlets such as The Guardian and The New York Times and detailed in a wide range of popular movies and documentaries, such as ‘Cowspiracy’.
It’s therefore no surprise that the adoption of plant-based diets is rapidly increasing, and it’s likely to continue to do so in the future. In 2017, the global plant protein market was valued at A$15.65 billion—this number is expected to increase to $24.3 billion by 2025. Vegans really are making a lot of noise!
The rise of the Times’ Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg, reflects a worldwide growth in awareness about the impact of climate change on our planet, especially among the youth. Many have grown tired of society’s failure to effectively combat increasing temperatures and the gradual destruction of the planet, and have taken to the streets to express their dismay.
This support among the next generations gives us hope that environmental protection will survive and thrive, with polling data showing that concerns cut across ideologies and nationalities. With a world increasingly divided, combating climate change provides a common aim, and recent action demonstrates that when we work together, we can achieve amazing things.
10. Carbon Emissions from 30 of the World’s Largest Cities have already dropped, since signing Climate Pact (October)
The world’s leading scientists have calculated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. New analysis published ahead of the C40 World Mayors Summit confirms that 30 of the world’s largest cities, representing more than 58 million urban citizens, have now reached this crucial milestone.
The 30 cities, including Melbourne and Sydney, have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 22%, demonstrating that a rapid, equitable low-carbon transition is possible, and is already well underway.