Chile pressed on with a global ocean treaty, the EU approved a greenwashing law, and a new cancer drug brought hope, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
A global agreement to protect a third of the world’s oceans was hailed as “historic” last September, when 84 nations signed up.
Now Chile – a major advocate of the agreement – is set to become the first country to ratify it, after politicians agreed to do so this week. It piles pressure on other nations to make good on their promises.
Dr Laura Meller, who leads Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said: “We hope more countries will be inspired by Chile’s rapid ratification and follow their lead to bring the treaty to life, so the real work to protect the oceans can start.”
Image: David Courbit
Eco buzzwords are routinely used to sell products whose green credentials don’t stack up – but not for much longer in the EU.
This week, the bloc approved a law to tackle greenwashing, due to come into force within two years. The directive will prohibit manufacturers from using eco buzzwords unless the product is truly greener than conventional ones.
Research suggests that 76% of the products in the EU carry a green claim, but more than half of these are vague, misleading or unfounded.
“This law cuts through the smoke of misleading green marketing, putting a leash on shady claims and boosting the credibility of sustainability labels,” said Miriam Thiemann, campaigner at the European Environmental Bureau.
The law will also ensure people have better access to information about the durability and reparability of products before buying them. “We still need stronger rules to make durable, repairable products the norm,” added Thiemann.
Image: European Parliament
Satellite data released this week showed deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon declined by half in 2023.
Brazil’s space agency Inpe said that 5,153 sq km (1,990 sq miles) of the Amazon were cleared in 2023, down from 10,278 sq km in 2022. Brazil’s environment ministry said deforestation was at a five-year low.
The data chimes with analysis by Amazon Conservation, a nonprofit monitoring the rainforest across nine countries. It reported that deforestation rates were down 55.8% in 2023 compared to previous year.
However, the encouraging data was tempered by the news that the Brazilian government is planning to pave a highway through the Amazon.
A Leukaemia treatment for children that’s “kinder” than chemotherapy has shown promise in trials.
London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital led a study of the drug Blinatumomab for children diagnosed with B-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (B-ALL). Blinatumomab teaches the immune system to target cancerous cells.
Among those benefiting was 11-year-old Arthur (pictured). His father René said blinatumomab was “a little bit of sunshine”. “It was the first part of the treatment that really seemed to work,” he explained.
Sujith Samarasinghe is one of the leads on the study, which saw 105 patients given Blinatumomab instead of two blocks of chemo.
“This is a gamechanger in the search for kinder cancer treatments,” he said. “We found Blinatumomab can replace the most intense, nasty blocks of chemotherapy, and get rid of the leukaemia without causing awful side effects.”
UK guidelines mean only patients who meet certain criteria are eligible for the treatment. Clinicians hope to start clinical trials soon to see if it can be used for all patients with B-ALL.
Image: Great Ormond Street Hospital
The amount of electricity generated from fossil fuels in the UK fell 22% year-on-year in 2023, to the lowest level since 1957.
That’s according to analysis by Carbon Brief, which said the “decline has been caused by the rapid expansion of renewable energy, up six-fold since 2008”.
Low-carbon sources made up 56% of the total, of which renewables were 43% and nuclear 13%.
It’s good news but there’s more to be done. “This remains a long way from the government’s ambition for 95% low-carbon electricity by 2030 and a fully decarbonised grid by 2035,” said Carbon Brief.
Image: Shaun Dakin
The four-day week has spread to the Caribbean, with the Dominican Republic becoming the latest country to trial the concept.
Public and private firms are being invited to take part in the trial from February. Employees will earn the same but will only work 36 hours a week, instead of 44.
The four-day week has often been dismissed as utopian thinking, but trials have gone some way to silence critics. The results of the world’s largest four-day week pilot, which took place in the UK, suggested it was a win-win for employees and bosses. Critics also question whether the benefits can be maintained long-term.
Image: José Casado
A pioneering green travel initiative in Oxford, England, could be a blueprint for other cities to follow.
Under the scheme, the council promised bus operators quicker journey times in exchange for investment. It subsequently introduced traffic filters and ‘bus gates’, which prohibit other vehicles, to improve bus flow. Investment followed and this week the first of 159 battery buses entered service. When the rollout is complete, Oxford will have more electric buses per capita than any other UK urban centre.
It’s part of a city-wide effort to get people out of their cars and on to public transport, but will likely prove contentious in a city gripped by a row over low-traffic neighbourhoods.
The Oxford Bus Company is one of the firms involved. Its managing director, Luke Marion, said the buses were “already starting to improve air quality and make bus travel even more attractive”.
Now here’s a novel solution for cash-strapped councils: use data centres to heat public pools.
It’s an idea that’s gaining momentum in the UK thanks to the tech firm Deep Green, which captures the heat generated by its data centres and repurposes it for social good.
Now it’s scaling up with the help of Octopus Energy, a green energy provider, which this week invested £200m into the project – enough to see around 150 pools heated this way.
Read the full story here.
Image: Deep Green
We’re so used to being assailed by negative news these days that many of us barely even notice it happening. But a new Positive News project is providing a much-needed counterweight to the doom and gloom news cycle.
From this week, urban spaces across the UK are being transformed by digital displays sharing our headlines with millions of people. The project is in partnership with one of the country’s leading outdoor advertising companies, Clear Channel UK. Read about it here.
Did you know that we’re breathing the cleanest air in centuries? That life expectancy has doubled in 200 years? That per capita emissions have been falling for a decade?
These are just some of the narratives that often fail to cut through to the mainstream news.
We explored some of them this week in an article about data-driven reasons to be hopeful. Read it here.
Image: Simon Hird
Main image: SHansche/iStock
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