Image for What went right this week: land rights victories, plus more

What went right this week: land rights victories, plus more

Land was restored to Indigenous peoples, China smashed its green energy goals, and a new US law to protect pregnant workers came into force, plus more good news

Land was restored to Indigenous peoples, China smashed its green energy goals, and a new US law to protect pregnant workers came into force, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

The Indigenous land rights movement made progress

Decades of campaigning are bearing fruit as a new report reveals that the last five years have seen more than 100m hectares (254m acres) of territory across 39 countries restored to Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and local communities.

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a coalition of Indigenous rights organisations, found that as of 2020, these groups own 11.4 per cent of land worldwide. Designation rights, which grant access and use of resources, are recognised over an additional 7.2 per cent. 

The findings were unveiled in the second edition of the RRI’s Who owns the world’s land? report, with progress credited to the UN’s sustainable development goals strategy, the Paris agreement, and campaigning by Land Rights Now.

Besides righting historical wrongs, the ‘land back’ movement is seen as a crucial measure in the climate battle, with research showing how Indigenous territories ward off deforestation. 

“Mounting evidence concludes what Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant peoples, and local communities have long maintained – that they are the best managers of their lands and resources,” wrote the report’s authors. 

Image: JarnoVerdonk/iStock

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The Church of England broke ties with oil giants

Climate campaigners’ prayers have been answered as the Church of England (C of E) announced it would cease investing in fossil fuels. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – himself a former oil industry finance executive – said the move was a direct response to the perils posed to the planet by the climate crisis.

“It is our duty to protect God’s creation, and energy companies have a special responsibility to help us achieve the just transition to the low-carbon economy we need,” he said. 

The C of E also said that oil and gas companies had failed to make sufficient headway in transitioning to renewables. 

The body will divest from oil and gas firms including Shell, BP, Equinor and TotalEnergies in its £10.3bn ($13bn) endowment portfolio. It will also divest a £1.35m ($1.7m) holding in Shell in its pensions fund. 

“After years of trying to change these companies from within, the Church of England has clearly lost faith in Shell and other oil giants’ ability to redeem themselves,” commented Charlie Kronick, an oil finance adviser to Greenpeace UK.

Image: House of Lords

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The UK got tough on image-based sexual abuse

Sharing so-called ‘deepfakes’ will be criminalised for the first time in England and Wales under tough new changes to the online safety bill.

Amendments to the legislation, which is designed to clamp down on illegal and harmful social media content, were tabled this week. They will make it illegal to share explicit images or videos which have been digitally altered to look like someone else without their consent, punishable by up to six months in jail. 

The changes will also make image-based sexual abuse (sometimes referred to as ‘revenge porn’) prosecutions easier by removing the need to prove that perpetrators intended to cause distress. 

The move follows months of campaigning by reality TV star Georgia Harrison, a victim of image-based sexual abuse by her ex-boyfriend Stephen Bear, who was jailed this year. 

The reforms to the law that has been passed today are going to go down in history as a turning point for generations to come…” she said.

Image: Glen Anthony

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China smashed its renewables targets, analysis found

China is on course to smash its green energy goals five years ahead of schedule after an unprecedented boom in renewables, according to analysis by NGO Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

The nation is set to double capacity and generate 1,200GW from wind and solar by 2025 – well ahead of the 2030 pledge made by President Xi Jinping three years ago. 

GEM also reports that China’s installed solar capacity has already hit 228GW – equivalent to over 100 coal-fired power plants and more than the rest of the planet combined –  while wind capacity has doubled to 310GW since 2017.

“This new data provides unrivalled granularity about China’s jaw-dropping surge in solar and wind capacity,” said GEM project manager Dorothy Mei.

The news follows number crunching by Carbon Brief earlier this month, which suggests China’s explosive growth in renewables could see it hit peak emissions next year.

Image: ma li/iStock

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Wales became the first UK nation to ban snares

Wales outlawed glue traps and snares on Tuesday, following a landmark vote in the Senedd. 

The measures were greenlit as part of wider rural affairs reforms under the Welsh government’s agriculture bill, which aims to support sustainable agriculture while preserving landscapes and culture. 

Snares are usually set to catch foxes and rabbits, but can also trap household pets and protected species such as badgers. 

Laws passed by the UK government last year banning glue traps in England are due to take effect next April, but exemptions will still allow their use by pest controllers. Wales has gone a step further with a total ban.

James Hitchcock, CEO of the Wales-based Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, told Positive News he welcomed the “positive and determined forward step”.

“Snares are indiscriminate and cause a cruel and painful death for anything caught,” he said. “There’s no place for them in the modern countryside. We hope this ban is monitored and enforced and that further improvements to legislation around shooting and game follow.”

Image: Jeremy Hynes

Shipping emissions cuts could be plain sailing – report

Harnessing wind power, using alternative fuels and simply slowing down could halve emissions from global shipping by the turn of the decade, a new study revealed.

Shipping currently accounts for around 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and freighters powered by diesel engines are the norm. 

Sustainability consultancy CE Delft found that deploying wind-assisted propulsion – basically modern versions of sails – better engine maintenance, and managing speeds to suit conditions could deliver significant emissions savings. 

Combining the measures with a shift of up to 10 per cent of shipping to low carbon fuel alternatives such as hydrogen and electrification could cut emissions by up to 47 per cent compared to 2008 levels, with no impact on trade. 

“Now we know not only that it is possible and shipping has a clear pathway to halving its climate impact by 2030, but that it can do so at minimal cost,” said John Maggs, shipping director at Seas at Risk, an association of European environmental groups, which co-commissioned the study.

Image: Maasmondmaritime

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London provided a model for a global breath of fresh air

A $30m (£23.8m) global initiative to cut air pollution and carbon emissions was announced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan this week. 

Khan has partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Clean Air Fund and C40 Cities, a network of mayors committed to the climate battle, to deliver Breathe Cities

The project builds on Khan’s efforts to tackle air pollution in London. His ultra low emission zone has reportedly avoided 800,000 tonnes of CO2 since its introduction four years ago, while nitrogen dioxide is an estimated 46 per cent lower than it would be without the measure. 

More than a third of cities worldwide have air pollution levels seven times higher than World Health Organization recommendations, leading to debilitating health issues. 

Breathe Cities will arm policymakers with resources and support to help with campaigns, community engagement, and lesson sharing. 

Image: Paolo Paradiso/iStock

A new drug heralded a Covid treatment breakthrough

Scientists in Queensland, Australia, have developed a double-whammy anti-Covid drug that both prevents infection and treats the debilitating long-term form of the disease. 

The “breakthrough” medication is the work of researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. 

They say a peer-reviewed study of the drug, called NACE2i, shows it makes vaccines more effective while also preventing the bodily inflammation linked to organ damage and long Covid, thought to affect up to a fifth of people infected with the virus. 

The drug works by reprogramming receptors on the surface of cells to lock out the virus and prevent its replication. The process also reverses lung inflammation caused by Covid. 

“This study shows our drug prevents inflammation and even repairs damaged lung tissue in pre-clinical models,” said Prof Suha Rao, head of QIMR’s gene regulation and translational medicine group. “It is both a prevention and a treatment.”

Image: CDC

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A US law that protects pregnant workers came into force

A labour law breakthrough in the US means employers are now legally required to go easy on pregnant workers by accommodating lighter duties, time off for medical appointments and extra breaks.

Pregnant employees, especially in low-wage industries, have been vulnerable to the rigours of the workplace, often quitting due to physical demands and with little chance of legal recourse.

That all changes under new federal legislation: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act came into effect on Tuesday and applies to all companies with more than 15 employees. 

The measures will also apply to childbirth recovery, abortion care, morning sickness and postnatal depression. Accommodations include changes to uniform, permission to work from home and transferring to a different position during pregnancy. Around 2.8 million people a year are expected to benefit.

Dina Bakst, co-president of A Better Balance, a US advocacy group, said it would “change the health and economic trajectory for millions of women and families.”

Image: Camylla Battani
Main image: FG Trade/iStock

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