From local activism to shareholder rebellions, here’s what climate advocates accomplished over the last year.
After a year of record-breaking climate disasters and a grim prognosis from the world’s top experts who warn the planet has already sustained “irreversible” harm, a movement is gaining momentum to force change. As the UN secretary general declared in August, the urgent need to curb carbon emissions marks a “death knell” for the fossil fuel industry.
For decades, Americans were told that standing up to powerful oil and gas companies wasn’t possible. But the reality is that everyday people are making a difference in the fight to cut emissions. These grassroots victories also show that the people who have been made most vulnerable by fossil fuel extraction, including Black and brown communities, already have solutions on hand.
LVMH, Zara, Nike and others at risk of contribution to destruction of rainforest based on connections to leather industry
New research into the fashion industry’s complex global supply chains shows that a number of large fashion brands are at risk of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, based on their connections to tanneries and other companies involved in the production of leather and leather goods.
The report, released Monday, analyzed nearly 500,000 rows of customs data and found that brands such as Coach, LVMH, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Teva, UGG and Fendi have multiple connections to an industry that props up Amazon deforestation.
Yes, there have been compromises. But this is the biggest ever plan to curb emissions and, ahead of Cop26, will send a signal to the world
Move aside, Donald Trump: there’s a new American for the world’s progressives to hate. What’s more, he’s not even a Republican, but rather a member of Joe Biden’s Democratic party. He’s Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia in the US Senate – the body that’s split 50-50, and which Democrats only control if every single senator stays onside. It’s thanks to him – aided and abetted by the Arizona’ Democrat senator Kyrsten Sinema – that Biden cannot take his place at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow proudly pointing to a raft of measures, signed and sealed, by which the US government will tackle the climate crisis.
Biden had a whole plan worked out, and most Democrats backed him. But Manchin refused to say yes. He insisted that Biden drop perhaps the most powerful element of his climate programme: rewards for energy companies that shift to renewable sources, and fines for those that stick with fossil fuels. Manchin killed that off, perhaps because he represents a state that still has some coal mining, perhaps because he has big personal investments in coal, perhaps because he has received fat donations from the fossil fuel industry. Or maybe just because West Virginia voted by an almost 40-point margin for Trump last year and so, to keep winning, Manchin has to look more like a Republican than a Democrat.
While food labels are nothing new, a different type that calculates the environmental cost has had a surprising effect on consumers
It’s lunchtime at a workplace cafeteria in Birmingham, and employees returning to work after months away during the coronavirus pandemic are noticing something has changed. Next to the sandwiches and hot and cold dishes is a small globe symbol, coloured green, orange or red with a letter in the centre from A to E. “Meet our new eco-labels”, a sign reads.
Researchers at Oxford University have analysed the ingredients in every food item on the menu and given the dishes an environmental impact score, vegetable soup (an A) to the lemon, spring onion, cheese and tuna bagel (an E).
Technology could help power a clean energy transition if it can overcome hurdles of cost, design and opposition from fishing
In the stormy waters of the North Sea, 15 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in Scotland, five floating offshore wind turbines stretch 574 feet (175 metres) above the water. The world’s first floating windfarm, a 30 megawatt facility run by the Norwegian company Equinor, has only been in operation since 2017 but has already broken UK records for energy output.
While most offshore wind turbines are anchored to the ocean floor on fixed foundations, limiting them to depths of about 165ft, floating turbines are tethered to the seabed by mooring lines. These enormous structures are assembled on land and pulled out to sea by boats.
Billions to be spent over six years with significant sums for regions hit hard in recent years
The government will spend a record £5.2bn on reducing flooding in England over the next six years, as the climate crisis increases the risk to homes and businesses.
The Environment Agency will spend £860m next year to support more than 1,000 schemes, with significant funds for Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-west, regions that have been hit hard in recent years.
Bold climate targets are meaningless without policies to meet them. The PM should grab the chance to make Cop26 a success
Targets are all very well. But not if there is no way of reaching them. In which case, they are a sham. This is the problem now confronting the government. The UK’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels is very ambitious. “Remarkable” was the word used last week by Lord Deben (the former Conservative environment secretary John Gummer). He chairs the climate change committee (CCC) that advises the government. Its latest reports make an unflattering contrast between impressive aims and the absence of plans to meet them.
A strategy setting out how the UK intends to meet its net zero pledge is promised before the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. But there is little sign so far that ministers grasp the scale of the challenge. Not a single government department, the CCC finds, is moving at the necessary pace. Transport, agriculture, buildings, industry: in all the key emissions-producing sectors bar power generation, there has been an alarming lack of progress. Cuts to the aid budget now overseen by the Foreign Office mean that it too is implicated. Support for poor countries as they make the transition away from fossil fuels has long been recognised as a crucial element of the global climate process.
Nature’s financial value must be considered to avoid ‘irreversible’ degradation to biodiversity and land
The world needs to quadruple its annual investment in nature if the climate, biodiversity and land degradation crises are to be tackled by the middle of the century, according to a new UN report.
Investing just 0.1% of global GDP every year in restorative agriculture, forests, pollution management and protected areas to close a $4.1tn (£2.9tn) financial gap by 2050 could avoid the breakdown of natural ecosystem “services” such as clean water, food and flood protection, the report said.
The tougher target for carbon reduction could dramatically reshape the fortunes of several industries – for better or worse
Boris Johnson’s plan to accelerate the UK’s climate ambitions over the next 15 years, revealed last week, will hasten progress towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The new target – to cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 78%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2035 – toughens an earlier pledge for a 68% reduction by 2030. This greater ambition could boost the fortunes of several low-carbon technologies which stand ready for a rapid roll-out. Here are the winners and losers from the new targets.
Hywind Scotland is breaking world records for maximum output and now other firms are competing for sites
It took 10 years to develop the first floating windfarm and it seemed to some a dangerous gamble to put it 15 miles off Aberdeen in the stormiest waters of the North Sea. But after three years of being in operation it has broken world records for maximum output.
Its success even outstrips the speed with which Europe’s other offshore windfarms, those standing in shallow water, have gone from being an expensive renewable option to a mainstream power source. Floating windfarms’ worldwide potential is even greater.