Image for What went right this week: Apple’s welcome U-turn, ‘collapsing’ fossil fuels, and more

What went right this week: Apple’s welcome U-turn, ‘collapsing’ fossil fuels, and more

The right to repair movement got a boost, fossil fuels ‘collapsed’ in the EU, and an ‘extinct’ bird returned, plus more good news

The right to repair movement got a boost, fossil fuels ‘collapsed’ in the EU, and an ‘extinct’ bird returned, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

Right to repair
A tech giant U-turned on right to repair

In a watershed moment for consumer rights – and a win for the planet – electronics giant Apple has backed plans for a right to repair law in the US – after years spent doggedly lobbying against it.

The company wrote to legislators in California urging them to approve a bill – called SB 244 – which would give users and third party repair shops the right and means to fix faulty devices. Self repair was “good for consumers’ budgets and the environment,” Apple wrote.

The bill requires tools, components and how-to guides to be made available at a fair price for at least seven years after a product is discontinued, meaning repair support can continue long after any warranty has expired. Globally, e-waste tops 50m tonnes a year and is on course to hit almost 75m tonnes by 2030. 

Fiona Dear, co-director of UK-based repair activists the Restart Project, told Positive News: “Apple’s decision to support right to repair legislation in California, after years of blocking similar laws, is huge. With more and more people wanting to repair their tech, relentless campaigning across the world, and a swathe of legislation in the UK and Europe this year, Apple has finally realised that right to repair is a part of our future.”

Image: Kilian Seiler

2021 progress
Fossil fuel burning ‘collapsed’ in the EU

Burning coal and gas for generating electricity fell to record lows in the European Union this year, according to analysts at the energy thinktank Ember. 

Falling demand for electricity paired with a renewables surge drove a 17 per cent “collapse” in fossil fuel generation for the first six months of the year, Ember said. Meanwhile, solar increased by 13 per cent and wind by five per cent. 

Seventeen countries also generated record shares of power from clean sources, with Greece and Denmark (main picture) surpassing 50 per cent for the first time, and Denmark and Portugal topping 75 per cent. 

“Coal and gas are too expensive, too risky, and the EU is cutting them out,” said Ember analyst Matt Ewen. 

Image: Arvind Vallabh

good news
Speaking of emissions…

The US is backing direct air capture (DAC) technology to the tune of $1.2bn (£950m) by building two hubs with the potential to suck millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. 

The US Department of Energy will construct facilities in Texas and Louisiana, and is the first major government to back emerging DAC technology. Two more plants are planned over the next decade, with funding earmarked to explore a further 19.

Proponents say DAC can draw emissions down without the land demands of natural carbon removal methods like tree planting. Critics argue the machine-based solution is an expensive, inefficient and energy intensive way to capture and store CO2, and a distraction from reducing emissions.

Jennifer Granholm, US secretary of energy, said the “once-in-a-generation investment” will “lay the foundation for a direct air capture industry crucial to tackling climate change.”

Image: Climeworks

good news
A once ‘extinct’ bird strode back into the wild

A flightless prehistoric bird previously thought extinct is once again strutting among the tussocks of New Zealand’s South Island following a decades-long conservation effort.  

Takahē vanished from New Zealand in the late-19th century, hunted to extinction by predators, including cats and ferrets, which arrived with European settlers. 

They were rediscovered in South Island’s Murchison Mountains in 1948. Captive breeding led by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation boosted numbers to around 500, and an additional wild population has now been established with the release of 18 breeding pairs on Indigenous lands close to Lake Whakatipu Waimāori.

Members of the Indigenous Ngāi Tahu have been fighting for their return for years. Ngāi Tahu leader Tā Tipene O’Regan said: “I have been enraptured by takahē since I was a boy, so it is very satisfying to release our taonga [treasure] on our own whenua [land].”

Image: JJ Harrison

Good news
Nations joined forces to battle biodiversity loss

An international biodiversity fund which aims to ramp up investment in nature restoration launched this week. The Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) was agreed by 185 nations in Vancouver, Canada. It is seen as a key tool in delivering on COP15’s ‘30 by 30’ pledge: a landmark agreement to protect 30 per cent of Earth by 2030. 

Although the fund has been hailed by conservation bodies, it’s currently $40m (£31.7m) short of the $200m (£159m) required to become operational. Canada has committed C$200m (£117m) while the UK pledged $12.6m (£10m).

A fifth of the fund will be made available to Indigenous-led initiatives safeguarding biodiversity. Priority will also be given to small island developing states and the world’s least developed countries, set to receive a third of the pot. 

“The world needs a robust GBFF to help to close the global biodiversity finance gap,” said Lin Li, international senior director of global policy and advocacy with the Worldwide Fund for Nature. 

Image: Zdenek Machacek

good news
Small greening projects have a big impact, a study found

Greening small spaces with native plants can give a big boost to bugs, according to a study by researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia. 

They studied a 195 sq metre plot beside a major road, mapping its insect population before, and for the three years following, a greening project. Twelve indigenous plant species were introduced to the space, and although only nine made it to the final year of the study, insect species increased 7.3 times. 

The study’s authors say their work shows the importance of even small greening efforts like garden planting – and not just in Melbourne.

“Every part of the world has its own indigenous plant community and its own indigenous insects, and that’s a strong ecological association,” study lead Dr Luis Mata told Positive News. “I think every individual can follow suit and use indigenous plants to green their own gardens.”

Read more: Before and after: the rewilded gardens of Positive News readers

Image: David Levinson 

A potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University has shown positive results
England got a new cancer jab to slash treatment times

Widely billed as a ‘seven-minute treatment’ for cancer, and a world-first, Atezolizumab jabs are being made available to patients in England.

Given to around 3,600 people a year in England for lung, breast, liver and bladder cancer, the immunotherapy drug – also known as Tecentriq – is usually administered intravenously via a drip. That can take around 30 minutes, or up to an hour if medics struggle to locate a vein.

However, within weeks, the National Health Service (NHS) in England will roll out a new treatment, administering Atezolizumab with a simple under-the-skin injection, which should take as little as seven minutes.

“Maintaining the best possible quality of life for cancer patients is vital, so the introduction of faster under-the-skin injections will make an important difference,” said NHS national director for cancer, Prof Peter Johnson.

Image: Hyttalo Souza

Good news
US billboards called out big oil

Oil firms are the target of a hard-hitting billboard campaign calling them out for fuelling record heatwaves in the US. 

Fossil Free Media, a campaign group, is running the ads in Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Fresno, California – cities hit hard by this summer’s scorching heat. Alongside the slogan, ‘Brought to you by big oil’, the ads show a map of temperature records smashed in recent months, along with a weblink to Stop the Oil Profiteering, with info on a forthcoming march against fossil fuels in New York on 17 September.

Cassidy DiPaola, spokesperson for Fossil Free Media and Stop the Oil Profiteering, said: “There’s no denying that this summer’s brutal heat waves are being fueled by the same big oil companies who are spreading climate disinformation and blocking much needed climate progress.”

Image: Fossil Free Media

Namibia offered a solution to water shortages

As megadroughts grip nations around the world, politicians are flocking to a tiny, desert-locked African city to learn the secret to its circular water supply.

Despite being one of the driest places in Sub-Saharan Africa, Windhoek (pictured) manages to keep clean water flowing for 99 per cent of its 477,000 inhabitants.

How? Because it has found a way to turn sewage into drinking water in just 24 hours. Find out more here.

Image: Nate Hovee/iStock

Positive News came back from the future

We took a trip to 2030 this week and have some good news: everything turns out OK. More than OK, in fact. It’s glorious, the future. You should see it. 

No we haven’t gone mad. Rather we’ve been hanging out with imagination activist Rob Hopkins, who’s on a mission to help us dream a better future into reality. “Going to 2030 should be a daily practice for all of us,” he reckons.  

Find out what the future looks like, and discover the places where it has already arrived, here.

Image: James Bannister
Main image: Nantonov/iStock

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What went right previously