Image for What went right this week: relief for the Great Barrier Reef, plus more

What went right this week: relief for the Great Barrier Reef, plus more

An Australian coal project bit the dust, Wales put the brakes on new roads, and there was good news for Europe’s birds, plus more

An Australian coal project bit the dust, Wales put the brakes on new roads, and there was good news for Europe’s birds, plus more

This week’s good news roundup

Australian canned a coal project to protect the reef

In a win for marine life and the climate, Australia has sunk proposals for a new coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. 

Plans for the open pit mine were nixed by Australia’s environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, who announced her decision on Twitter. 

“The adverse environmental impacts are simply too great,” said Plibersek. “The risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef is very real.”

It’s the first time that Australia has blocked a coal mine. Last year, the country was found to have the highest coal emissions per person of any developed nation. The new government has vowed to kick the habit.

Controversial coal billionaire Clive Palmer and his firm Central Queensland Coal were behind plans to develop the mine 700km (435 miles) north-west of Brisbane. A public consultation on the project received over 9,000 submissions, largely calling for it to be stopped. 

Image: Yanguang Lan

Natwest bank stepped off the gas (and oil)

In further evidence of fossil fuels’ waning appeal, Natwest has joined the exodus of major financial institutions scrambling to wash their hands of oil and gas projects.

The UK bank pledged to stop offering loans to new customers for oil and gas exploration, extraction and production, as part of a climate transition package to be announced in full on Friday. Funding for existing customers will also be phased out.

As ever, the devil is in the detail. Beau O’Sullivan, a senior strategist at the Bank on our Future campaign, cautioned that the measures applies to the bulk of Natwest’s fossil fuel lending, but not all of it, and that existing customers will still be serviced for the next three years.

Nonetheless, he hailed the news as “positive”. “We need every bank to do this, and quadruple funding of clean energy,” he said. 

Image: Zbynek Burival

Good news
Wales put up a road block

The Welsh government put the brakes on road building this week, setting out instead its plans to prioritise climate and net zero goals.

It means that dozens of road building projects have been scrapped or scaled back after failing tough new climate standards set by the Senedd. 

Going forward, Wales will only back road building projects that cut emissions and encourage a shift to public transport or active travel. 

“We will still invest in roads,” said deputy climate change minister Lee Waters. “We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.”

Image: Humphrey Muleba

Speaking of roads…

A low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in London has reduced crime, according to the Metropolitan Police. It found that anti-social behaviour in the area fell by more than a third, with officers also recording fewer incidents of street drug dealing. 

The force’s assessment was buried in responses to a public consultation on Tower Hamlet council’s plans to scrap the Arnold Circus LTN. Mayor Lutfur Rahman is accused of waging a ‘culture war’ on LTNs in the borough. 

Rahman claims that LTNs push congestion and pollution to other roads. However, research by Imperial College London refutes that, suggesting they reduce traffic and air pollution without displacing the problem elsewhere. LTNs are controversial as many have been introduced without proper consultation.  

Robert Andari of Save our Safer Streets Bethnal Green told Positive News: “We would love to see our mayor listen to the police – and to so many others pointing out the benefits of LTNs – and rethink his approach.”

Image: Matt Seymour

Good news
A study revealed a hidden benefit of citizen science

A first-of-its-kind study has revealed how citizen science projects boost the wellbeing of participants. 

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology polled 500 volunteers tasked with insect surveys, butterfly counts and nature-based writing exercises carried out over eight days during the 2020 pandemic restrictions.

The research recorded a clean sweep of improved wellbeing scores across all the volunteers, who also reported feeling more connected with nature. Participants writing about their experiences were also found to be more likely to lend a hand to conservation efforts.

“It’s great to see nature-based citizen science providing another form of engagement that can strengthen the human-nature relationship,” said study co-author Prof Miles Richardson from the University of Derby. “Citizen science can help unite both human and nature’s wellbeing.”

Image: Ryan Magsino

Scientists unravelled how avalanches boost biodiversity

They’re the bane of skiers and winter mountaineers – often with deadly consequences. However a study of avalanches in the European Alps has uncovered an unexpected upside: they attract a more diverse range of bird species.

A huge flow of snow down a mountain slope acts like a giant broom, sweeping away dense pockets of forest to make way for smaller shrubs to create a ‘habitat mosaic’.

The research, led by the University of Turin, examined 120 avalanche sites in the Italian Alps over the spring 2021 breeding season and found higher proportions of bird species than at non-avalanche control sites nearby.

However, the study suggested that the frequency of avalanches may be influenced by climate change in the future, with a potential knock-on effect for mountain biodiversity, highlighting the need for more research.

Image: Nicolas Cool

Good news
Markets warmed to heat pumps

The Netherlands saw a huge uptick in heat pump installations last year, as the country prepares for a forthcoming gas boiler ban.

With 110,000 new heat pumps fitted, the Dutch market grew by 57 per cent compared to the previous year, according to data from the Dutch Heat Pump Association (DHPA). 

However, the DHPA cautioned that most of the uptake has been among wealthier households. “Making the less wealthy households gas-free is now the challenge,” said chairman Frank Agterberg. New installations of traditional gas boilers will be outlawed from 2026.

Meanwhile, a heat pump price war is hotting up in the UK. Octopus Energy announced this week that it is launching a heat pump that will be as cheap as a gas boiler (£2,500 after factoring in the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant of £5,000).

The move was a reposes to British Gas’ recent pledge to offer the UK’s cheapest installation, starting from £2,999.

Image: Gaelle Marcel

Lead shot was banned in EU wetlands

A ban on hunting with lead shot in EU wetlands came into force on Wednesday, with campaigners hailing the move a huge milestone. 

The ban applies to all 27 EU nations, as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, and follows a two year transition period allowing countries to phase out lead. 

A million waterbirds die of lead poisoning each year in the EU, mistaking shot for grit which they eat to help grind up their food. Shooters will have to use non-toxic alternatives.

“There is no safe level of lead – it has polluted wetlands for more than a century, creating a toxic environment for those that depend on them,” said Dr Julia Newth of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. “This EU law is a huge leap towards ending lead ammunition poisoning of wildlife in Europe.” 

Image: Benoit Gauzere
Main image: Manny Moreno

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What went right previously