2020 has been a tough year. Whilst we’re pretty happy to see it end, we thought we’d first take a look at some of the good environmental news that’s come out of it. There are a few things to be cheerful about...
1. Wales is Building a National Forest
In spring, the Welsh Government announced that they will be investing £5 million to create a “connected ecological network of woodland” that runs through the whole of Wales.
This will involve restoring existing forests and planting new trees in collaboration with communities, farmers and public bodies. It is hoped that the project will provide new spaces for leisure, improve air quality, boost biodiversity and sequester carbon to help fight climate change.
Photo credit: The Guardian
2. Companies Are Upping Their Climate Game
Photo credit: cnet.com
Corporate support for climate action has grown rapidly this year. Leading household names are realising how important it is to limit global warming and are taking things into their own hands.
Facebook, Nestlé and Amazon are among the companies that have recently set their own goals to reduce emissions, shift to renewable energy or undertake other environmentally-friendly plans.
In fact, the ‘Science Based Targets Initiative’, an organisation set up to help companies reduce their carbon footprint, just welcomed its 1000th member. It’s becoming clear that setting climate targets can be a real boost to a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility, enhancing their reputation, sales and customer satisfaction.
3. The UK Went Coal-Free for 67 Days
The UK is the home of modern coal power. But times are changing. This year, we went 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes without burning coal for electricity – for the first time in 138 years! The UK has been reducing its reliance on coal-fired power plants for a while but this year the Prime Minister announced that the official deadline for phasing coal out of Britain’s energy system is 2024.
During our two coal-free months, renewable sources were the leading form of energy generation. This breakthrough is fantastic news for the environment.
4. Ordinary People Had Their Say on Eco Issues
For the first time ever, British citizens came together to tell the Government what they think should be done about climate change. The Citizens’ Climate Assembly consisted of 108 people from a range of ages, genders, races and backgrounds, chosen at random to give feedback on climate policy.
They met (on some occasions virtually) over several weekends earlier this year to study climate change and discuss how the UK could achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050.
Their recommendations included transitioning to electric vehicles and increasing the uptake of renewable heat and solar power. They also said it was important that the Government ensures its environmental policies are fair to all members of society. The Government has already actioned the suggestion to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Let’s hope they continue to take the attitudes of the British public on board!
5. Lab-Grown Chicken Nuggets Went on Sale
A few weeks ago, the Singapore Food Agency (responsible for regulating food safety and security in the country) approved the sale of cultured “chicken bites” produced by Just Eat. The bites are made from chicken meat which was grown in bioreactors and then combined with plant-based ingredients.
The discovery is considered a huge leap forward for the food industry, offering the potential to produce real meat without animal slaughter or the usually associated land, energy and water footprint.
Photo credit: The Guardian
6. New Funding is Helping Homeowners Go Green
Photo credit: greenhomesgrant.campaign.gov.uk
In July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s ‘Green New Deal’ – a package of £3 billion to be invested in green sectors. It is predicted that this will create around 140,000 new green jobs and help re-build the economy out of the Covid Crisis.
The package includes the ‘Green Homes Grant’, through which homeowners can receive vouchers worth up to £10,000 to cover the cost of energy saving home improvements and low-carbon heating installations. The scheme is already underway and helping people make their homes warmer and more eco-friendly.
7. Love for The Environment Has Grown
The nation’s natural environments have played a huge role in helping people get through the Covid Crisis this year. Aside from boosting physical and mental wellbeing, vising green spaces was often the only opportunity to spend time with loved ones. Combine that with the ‘Attenborough Effect’ and you’ve got a serious shift in attitudes.
Via the People and Nature Survey, almost 90% of adults in England said the environment is personally important to them and 40% reported spending more time in nature during April to June 2020 than before the pandemic.
And it’s not just England. A study by consultancy firm BCG questioned over 3000 people in 8 countries. Around 70% of participants said that since the pandemic they have become more aware of climate change and more concerned about addressing environmental issues. This awareness is already affecting people’s decisions on holidays and travel in 2021!
8. The UK Held the First Ever Virtual Climate Lobby
Photo credit: theclimatecoalition.org
In June, the climate action organisation ‘The Climate Coalition’ helped thousands of people across the UK ‘take themselves off mute’. Over 200 Zoom meetings were held between constituents and their local MPs to discuss the importance of a green recovery. Alongside that, the ‘main stage’ hosted lively presentations and Q&A sessions with key players in the sustainability world, with guest appearances from singer Ellie Goulding and Dr Who star Pearl Mackie, amongst others.
9. China Made a World-Leading Pledge
In an unexpected announcement in September, China’s President, Mr Xi, declared that China will be carbon neutral by 2060. Given that the nation is the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and a leading financer of global fossil fuel development, this is a huge step in the fight against climate change. There are still lots of questions to be answered around how exactly the reduction in emissions will be achieved, but the news is very encouraging. It is hoped that other countries will be inspired to follow suit.
Photo credit: bbc.co.uk
10. Solar Power Is Now Cheaper than All Other Forms of Electricity
Solar is already the world’s fastest growing energy technology. In the past decade the world’s installed solar capacity has increased from just 20 GW (gigawatts) to over 600 GW. Manufacturing methods are improving, enabling solar panels to be produced faster and with a much smaller environmental footprint. The panels themselves are becoming more efficient too – i.e. they can convert more of the sunlight they absorb into electricity.
Crucially, solar power is also getting cheaper. According to scientific publication ‘Our World in Data’, the price of solar has dropped by 89% in the past 10 years. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) declared in October that solar is now the cheapest form of electricity generation – ever. The cost of building a solar farm (per MW of power) is below that of building a fossil fuel plant for the first time in history!