January’s Positive Climate News

Well, what a month!

I said in my post 5 Reasons to be positive about the climate in 2021 that we could look forward to the US commiting to rejoining the Paris Agreement and, although we all expected it to come, I still think it’s worth celebrating.

As we move swiftly into February, I have detailed some of the highlights of the Biden administration’s ‘Climate Day’ alongside some positive news from the largest public response survey on climate change in histroy and how a nine-year old has shown us all how one person can make a difference.

Sunrise representing the new start for the climate in 2021
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Positive Climate News worth celebrating this month

‘Climate Day’ for the Biden Administration

Not only did Joe Biden commit to rejoin the Paris agreement just hours after becoming the US President but he signed a whole heap of executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis.

The new administration has put climate change front and centre of immediate priorities second only to the COVID-19 response and has stated that the climate will become an essential element of US foreign policy & national security.

As a scientist I LOVE that Biden has vowed to support federal government scientists who, for years, have battled climate change denial in the heart of the US government.

Biden has paused all sales of new oil and gas rights on federal lands and in coastal waters, buying time for a vigorous review of leasing programmes.

Government agencies are also being directed to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and “seek new opportunities to spur innovation, comercialisation and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure”.

US Green Recovery

Acknowledging the need to fight both the COVID-19 and climate crises, Biden has framed the actions of tackling climate change as a remedy to pandemic-driven unemployment as well as an environmental benefit.

John Kerry has been named the US Climate Envoy. In a press conference at the White House he said that workers had been fed a “false narrative” on the climate crisis. “They’ve been fed the notion that somehow dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No it’s not,” he said, emphasising the need to grow jobs in renewables.

Biden has said that millions of well-paid jobs will flow from investments in clean energy such as solar and wind, as well as energy efficiency measures for homes and the clean-up of former oil wells.

Climate Justice

The impacts of climate change will not be felt equally or fairly between the rich and the poor, men and women and older and younger generations.

President Joe Biden has pledged to put “environmental justice” at the center “of all we do” to help mitigate the disproportionate effects of climate change on black and brown communities in the US, with policy and funding changes.

The majority of the World’s population see climate change as a global emergency

The United Nations has released the results of the Peoples’ Climate Vote. This is the larged public opinion survey on climate change ever conducted, having collected responses from 1.2 million people globally.

Majority of the population recognises climate change as a global emergency
Photo by Paddy O Sullivan on Unsplash

Using mobile phone apps the survey results represent people from 50 contries, covering 56% of the world’s population. The survey was distributed in 17 languages, which resulted in a huge, random sample of all genders, ages and educational backgrounds.

“The survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the
climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

The aim of the Peoples’ Climate Vote was to connect the public to policymakers – and to provide the latter with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond.

Popular support for policied that address climate change is key to raising ambitions in the fight against climate change so the views of the global population are needed now more than ever.

Despite the survey being conducted during the COVID-19 crisis, there was still widespread recognition of climate change as a global emergency in every country surveyed.

Overall, 64% of people said that climate change was an emergency – presenting a clear and convincing call for decision-makers to step up on ambition.

The highest level of support was in Small Island Developing States (74%), followed by high-income countries (72%), middle-income countries (62%), then LDCs (58%).

Of the people that said climate change is a global emergency, 59% said that the world should do everything necessary and urgently in response.

Meanwhile 20% said we should act slowly, while 10% percent of people thought the world is already doing enough.

Some other interesting insights:

  • In countries with high emissions from deforestation and land-use change, there was strong backing for conserving forests and land. Four out of five countries in the survey with the highest emissions from land-use change saw majority support for conserving forests and land, including Brazil (60%), Indonesia (57%) and Argentina (57%). Clear calls for renewable energy in higher emitting countries.
  • People backed renewable energy in eight of the ten survey countries with the highest emissions from the electricity/ heating sectors, including the United States (65%), the biggest emitter surveyed, as well as Australia (76%), Canada (73%), Germany (71%), South Africa (69%), Japan (68%), Poland (57%), and Russia (51%).
  • The survey found that participants from G20 countries supported an increase in investment in green businesses and jobs, led by the United Kingdom (73%), followed by Germany, Australia and Canada (all 68%), South Africa (65%), Italy (64%), Japan (59%), United States (57%), France, (56%), and Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia (all 51%).
  • And making companies pay for pollution had high support in seven of twelve high-income countries, led by the United Kingdom (72%) and Canada (69%).

Nine-year old shows one person can make a difference

After studying how microplastics damage the oceans a British schoolgirl Lizzie wants the government to stop sending waste to developing countries

petition by a nine-year-old schoolgirl calling on Boris Johnson to stop shipments of plastic waste to developing countries has received more than 70,000 signatures in less than a week.

Lizzie said she began the petition because sending Britain’s unsorted plastic waste to poorer nations is “unfair” and wrong.

Lizzie wants to be a marine biologist or ecologist and said that: “At school, we’ve learned about how plastic damages the environment and what happens to it over many years. It breaks down into microplastics and they harm marine life. I’m passionate about the ocean and I was upset at how plastic ends up in the ocean because of the exports.”

The plastic that is exported often ends up in the ocean damaging and polluting the ecosystems of our planet. It is also burnt or ends up as landfill waste. We should be looking into sustainable alternatives to single plastic use in the U.K. and working on our own recycling capabilities. It is not okay that this is the way we behave, asking poorer countries to take our waste. We have a planet to look after together.”

Petition to stop export of plastic waste to developing countries
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Despite a Conservative party manifesto promising to stop the shipment of unsorted plastic waste to non-OECD countries Lizzie was particularly upset to learn that the practice will continue under new regulations.

Realising that one person can make a difference by rallying the public to lobby the government, Lizzie said “If parliament realises people are thinking passionately about plastic not being exported then Boris Johnson might ban it quicker,”

“I have looked up some more facts: Britain exports about two-thirds of its plastic waste. In 2020 the UK shipped 7,133 metric tonnes of waste to countries including Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. This isn’t fair or right – and we must stop this practice now.

Way to go Lizzie! I hope we hear the MPs debating this in parliament soon!

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