Image for What went right this week: signs of climate progress, plus more positive news

What went right this week: signs of climate progress, plus more positive news

Landmark climate legislation moved a step closer in the EU, Africa’s post-plastic innovators got a boost, and Australia’s census was a win for diversity, plus more

Landmark climate legislation moved a step closer in the EU, Africa’s post-plastic innovators got a boost, and Australia’s census was a win for diversity, plus more

The positive news roundup
EU ministers approved landmark climate measures

Fraught negotiations in Luxembourg on Wednesday brought the EU a step closer to implementing landmark climate legislation intended to reduce the bloc’s emissions by 55 per cent this decade. 

Member states agreed to end the sale of combustion-engine cars in 2035, impose costs on polluting transport and buildings, boost natural carbon sinks, and create a €59bn (£50.6bn) fund to help ease the cost burden on low-income households. 

“In the middle of Europe’s biggest energy crisis, we have launched one of the most comprehensive climate packages in EU history,” said German climate minister Robert Habeck. Some member states had pushed for more ambitious targets.

Ministers will negotiate the measures with the European parliament after the summer break. Parliament is expected to push for stronger targets.

It was a welcome sign of progress in a week that also saw the US supreme court limit the government’s power to regulate emissions from power plants.

Image: Veeterzy

Positive news
Sticking with the climate…

Climate lawsuits are surging globally, with governments, oil firms and other polluters increasingly finding themselves in court for failing to act on the climate crisis.

Data published by the London School of Economics on Thursday revealed that climate-related lawsuits have doubled since 2016. 

Litigation has become an important tool for campaigners, with some high-profile successes. In a landmark case last year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to slash its emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. 

“Climate litigation cases have played an important role in the movement towards the phaseout of fossil fuels,” the report noted. 

Image: Markus Spiske

More Australians identified as Aboriginal

The results of the latest Australian census are in. One headline finding is that the number of people identifying as Aboriginal has jumped by a quarter since 2016.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said births contributed to the growth, but that people were also becoming more comfortable with identifying as Aboriginal. It follows moves to repair relations between the state and Australia’s indigenous communities. 

According to the latest census, indigenous Australians now number 812,728 – about 3 per cent of the population. 

Image: Steve Evans

Positive news
TikTok users offered ‘safe spaces’ for US women

People living in US states where abortion rights are protected are offering their homes to women in states where bans are imminent. 

It follows last week’s decision by the supreme court to overturn Roe v Wade. The 1973 ruling set a precedent for protecting women’s constitutional right to a termination. More than half of US states are now expected to outlaw abortion. 

In response, people have taken to TikTok to offer their homes as safe spaces for women looking to travel across state lines for the procedure.

The United Nations Human Rights Council denounced the overturning of Roe v Wade as “a monumental setback for the rule of law and for gender equality”. 

Image: Christin Hume

An award showcased African solutions to plastic waste

A Kenyan startup that turns invasive weeds into food packaging is among the finalists of an award that showcases African solutions to plastic pollution. 

The Afri-Plastics Challenge announced its 10 finalists this week. Each one will receive £75,000 to scale up. The overall winner – to be announced in January 2023 – will get £750,000.

Enterprises in the running include Rwanda’s TotoSafi, a diapers-on-demand service that supplies hygienic, reusable and affordable cloth nappies to parents, then collects and cleans them for future use. Another is Chemolex, from Kenya, which transforms invasive water hyacinth into a bioplastic.

See all the finalists here. 

Image: Afri-Plastics Challenge

England has more ancient trees than it thought – study

There could be as many as 2m ancient trees in England, which is ten times more than previously thought. That’s according to research published this week by the University of Nottingham. 

Hitherto, only 180,000 ancient trees had been mapped in England. However, the university’s modelling suggests there are hundreds of thousands more yet to be discovered.  

The Woodland Trust described the research as “like a map for buried treasure”. The charity’s head of campaigning, Adam Cormack, said: “It’s remarkable that this research suggests we are yet to find most of the UK’s ancient trees. They’re out there somewhere – hidden in field corners, woods, hedges, even gardens and parks.” 

The Woodland Trust has launched a petition to save ancient trees. Read the full story here. 

Image: Iwona Wawro/iStock

Speaking of maps…

Nearly a quarter of Earth’s seafloor has now been mapped, it was announced this week. 

The mission to map the depths of the ocean launched five years ago through the Seabed 2030 project. 

“A complete map of the ocean floor is the missing tool that will enable us to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, including climate change and marine pollution,” said Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese non-profit that is helping lead the project.

“It will enable us to safeguard the planet’s future.”

Image: Seabed 2030

Positive news
A prize invited pitches from progressive firms

Solutions-focused entrepreneurs are being invited to pitch for investment as part of the forthcoming Blue Earth Summit in Bristol, England, this October.

Organisers aim to make £10m available for businesses and projects that have a positive impact on people and planet. Investors are specifically looking for female and under-represented founders. 

Last year’s finalists were: Nuud, purveyors of plastic-free chewing gum; CanCan, which makes circular coffee cups; Pixii, a zero-emissions boat maker; and Vivo Life, which produces vegan food supplements. 

Find out how to pitch here. 

Image: Blue Earth Summit

Positive news
An exhibition ‘renegotiated the geography of fashion’

Fashion has traditionally been shaped by western trendsetters, but an exhibition at London’s V&A Museum aims to address that by shining a light on trailblazing African designers. 

Opening on 2 July, Africa Fashion celebrates the creatives who are shaping styles across the continent and beyond. It is the UK’s most extensive exhibition of African fashion. 

“We hope this exhibition will spark a renegotiation of the geography of fashion and become a gamechanger for the field,” said the museum’s Dr Christine Checinska. 

Image: V&A Museum
Main image: Berlin. Credit: Florian Wehde

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What went right previously