I think we can all agree that 2020 stank!
While the pandemic raged we saw record breaking wildfires in the US, deadly floods accross the globe and a record number of Atlantic storms.
Yet, for all of the devestation the pandemic has caused, it seems to have also taught us some lessons. For many of us it’s forced us to slow down. To reassess what really matters in our lives. It’s taught us the value of family, friends and social contact as well as access to nature.
2021 is being hailed as an opportunity to tackle climate change so I thought I’d put together a round up of 5 things we should be optimistic about over the next 12 months.
2021 Positive Environmental News
1. COP26 – Crucial Climate Conference
November 2021 brings COP26 – the 26th Convention of the Parties, hosted by the UK and Italy in Glasgow.
The COP is attended by all of the countries that signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that was agreed in 1994.
COP26 is being hailed as the most significant climate summit since the 2015 Paris Agreement.
World leaders will be gathering to discuss progress made towards the Paris Agreement targets and take part in crucial climate negotiations outlining future goals.
Under the Paris Agreement each country promised to submit increasingly ambitious climate change targets every five years with the aim to limit global temperature increased to 2oC above pre-industrial levels by the end of the centuary. Glasgow 2021 will provide a forum for those pledges to be showcased.
And it will be important that they are as previous commitments have fallen short of the targets set.
The good news is, since then more and more countries have signed up to make deeper and deeper carbon cuts.
Even China, responsible for 28% of global emissions, made an unconditional announcement that they will be aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060.
The UK was the first majoy economy to make a legally binding net zero commitment in June 2019, followed by the EU in March 2020.
Since then it is estimated that over 110 countries have set net-zero targets having been joined by Japan and South Korea. According to the UN these countries represent more than 65% of global emissions and 70% of the world economy.
And with the recent government shift in the US this is only set to continue.
2. The United States commits to rejoining the Paris Agreement
We’ve already seen a huge shift in US climate policy following Joe Biden’s election with announcements that the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement and commitments to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Climate activists are calling on the new government to restore over 125 environmental regulations that were blocked by the Trump administration. These include fuel-efficiency standards and curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fired plants.
John Kerry has been appointed Special Envoy for Climate and has sent a powerful message that the US will be adopting a more proactive role in international climate leadership.
There are hopes that such leadership will put pressure on financial systems to implement concrete steps to achieving net-zero targets. These could include implementing standards for climate reporting and disclosure of climate risks.
I can’t wait to see this play out over the next 12 months and to see what can be achieved at COP26.
3. Cheaper Renewable Energy
Renewable energy just keeps getting cheaper! In late 2020 the International Energy Agency reported that renewable energy had closed the gap and become just as cost-effective as non-renewable energy sources overall.
Not only that but solar power now offers the cheapest source of electricity in history!
I’m excited by what this means – it’s no wonder that so many countries are announcing net-zero targets as the decreasing cost of renewables will make it easier than ever to decarbonise.
Investors will be keen to be on the right side of the renewable revolution and will follow the money without having to be pressured by environmental activists. Additionally, scaling up renewable energy sources will only make production even cheaper and more competative worldwide.
Renewable energy accounted for almost 90% of the increase in total power capacity globally in 2020 and this is only set to increase further in 2021.
I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to see the proportion of the electricity entering our grid systems continue to increase and the numbers of days that we are dependent on fossil fuels decrease.
4. The opportunity for a ‘Green Recovery’
Lockdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic casued CO2 emissions to decline by approximately 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020.
The peak in the decrease in emissions came in the first half of April when lockdown measures were at their most strict.
This video produced by the University of East Anglia is a great animation showing the the changes in global CO2 emissions in 2020.
Although there has been an estimated 4-7% reduction in emissions in the last 12 months, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to grow.
Oksana Tarasova, WMO Chief of Atmospheric and Environment Research Division has used the anaolgy of running a bath to explain why this is. The bathtub (the atmosphere) has been filling up (with CO2) more and more every year, and even a single drop of water (CO2) will cause the level to rise. The COVID-related lockdowns have been the equivalent to just slightly reducing the flow from the tap
As we begin to recover from the pandemic there’s work to do for the global economies to recover.
Around the world, communities are lobying governments to take the opportunity for a green recovery. To work together with business to build a brighter and fairer and more sustainable future.
Although not so good for our bank balances, the great news is that with interest rates so low, it has never been cheaper for these changes to be made. What a fantastic opportunity!
And it’s already happening, the EU and the new US administration, under Joe Biden, have promised huge investments to kick-start their processes of decarbonisation.
Although they hope that other countries will join in, they are also warning that they plan to hit countries with high carbon emissions with added taxes on imports.
5. The launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development
The United Nations has announced that 2021 – 2030 will be a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
According to UNESCO this will “support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.”
The decade will provide an opportunity for nations to work together to generate the science needed to support the sustainable development of the oceans.
Getting to know our ocean ecosystems is essential for putting in place the conditions needed to protect them.
“Action can only be effective if it is based on sound knowledge informed by science,”UNESCO
So what can we expect from the UN Decade of Ocean Science?
- I think the top thing that we can hope for is an increase in investment in ocean sciences accross the board.
- We still know less about the ocean floor than the surface of the moon. We can hope that the coming decade will help to close that gap through initiatives to improve ocean data collection such as this one.
- Understanding the oceans is one thing but improving education is key to implementing concrete actions. There will be a drive to introduce Ocean Literacy to school curriculums around the world.
- Global ocean science capacities are currently unenvenly distributed. Let’s hope that over the decade we see this distribution in capacity level out and the investments and knowlegde shift into the hands of stakeholders around the world
So that’s my round up. What are you excited to see happen in 2021? I would love to know, comment below or send me an email!
This post is part of my new series of Positive Environmental News. Sign up to the Conscious Crew mailing list for positive news delivered to your inbox every month.