The UK got its first low-cost rail service, New Zealand passed a landmark climate law, and a rare owl was photographed for the first time, plus more stories of progress
A low-cost, low-carbon rail service launched in the UK this week, promising a greener, cheaper, more comfortable alternative to flying on the UK’s busiest domestic route.
The inaugural Lumo service pulled out of King’s Cross station in London at 10.45 on Thursday morning, arriving in Edinburgh 4.5 hours later. Tickets on the all-electric trains cost from £14.90, with free wifi included.
Lumo said that its service is “a blueprint for low-carbon, affordable long-distance travel in the UK” at a time when the UK needs to drastically reduce transport emissions.
Rail expert, Mark Smith, who runs the Man in Seat 61 train travel blog, was on board the first service. He was racing Simon Calder, the travel editor of the Independent, who flew. And the winner? Calder, but by just 15 minutes.
Legislation passed in New Zealand this week means that financial firms will have to come clean about their exposure to the climate crisis.
Under the law, banks, insurers and investment companies will have to disclose the risks and opportunities presented to them by global heating.
“Climate-related disclosures will bring climate risks and resilience into the heart of financial and business decision-making,” said climate change minister James Shaw. “It will encourage entities to become more sustainable by factoring the short, medium, and long-term effects of climate change into their business decisions.”
New Zealand is the first country to pass such legislation.
Image: Auckland. Credit: Dan Freeman
In a win for inclusivity, the country appointed its first female Māori governor-general on Wednesday.
Dame Cindy Kiro (pictured) will be responsible for carrying out constitutional duties on behalf of the British monarch, who is the head of state. Kiro vowed to use the job to reach out to marginalised communities.
“I will connect to new migrants and former refugees, and celebrate the many diverse cultures and religions gifted to our nation by those who have chosen to make New Zealand their home,” she said.
Image: New Zealand Government
Amazon, Ikea and Unilever were among the retailers that pledged this week to switch all of their ocean freight to zero-carbon vessels by 2040.
The announcement increases pressure on the shipping industry to decarbonise. There is an urgent need to do so: if the sector was a country, it would be the sixth biggest polluter, above Germany.
Stand Earth, a Canadian environmental group, welcomed the move, but called for the deadline to be brought forward to 2030. “This earlier goal would ensure the shipping industry does its fair share to keep global warming under 1.5C,” it said.
Green hydrogen is one promising zero-emissions alternative to fossil fuels, but the technology is in its infancy. Battery-powered boats are at sea already in Scandinavia, but are not suitable for long distances.
Image: Cameron Venti
Twitchers were aflutter this week after an extremely rare owl was photographed in the wild for the first time.
A lone Shelley’s eagle owl was spotted in Ghana by biologists Rob Williams and Joseph Tobias, from Imperial College London. The sighting, announced on Twitter, raises hopes for the bird’s survival.
The Atewa forest where the owl was photographed is threatened by illegal logging and mining, but local groups are campaigning to have it declared a national park.
Image: Rob Williams
The UK’s rarest nesting seabird, the roseate tern (pictured), has broken breeding records for the sixth year in a row in England, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The charity monitors the UK’s only breeding colony of roseate terns on Coquet Island in Northumberland, where the population has risen from 104 breeding pairs to 150 in five years.
“Their growing numbers is a real testament to all our amazing volunteers and staff – they have spent lockdowns in a lighthouse, and stayed up all night to protect eggs from disturbance,”said the RSPB’s Paul Morrison.
“But no single reserve can reverse the decline of nature alone – we must all work together to give wildlife the habitat and resources it needs to thrive.”
It was an awards ceremony with a difference: the red carpet was green, and the celebrities parading down it had to follow an unusual dress code: eco-friendly attire.
The event in question was the Earthshot Prize, a new annual award that celebrates innovators with scaleable solutions to environmental problems. It was hosted by Prince William at London’s Alexandra Palace on Sunday night.
Launched by the prince and Sir David Attenborough, the prize awards £1m to five finalists every year for 10 years, making it the largest ever environmental prize. Read the full story here.
Image: Earthshot Prize
Recent years have seen great strides in improving the treatment of cancer. Celebrating that progress is a UK exhibition that launched this week.
Cancer Revolution opened at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum on Friday. It will move to the Science Museum in London in 2022.
The exhibition presents the stories of people affected by cancer, together with those who study and treat it. It will reveal how researchers, policymakers and patients are fuelling progress.
Katie Dabin, lead curator, said: “While we can’t cancer-proof our lives, more people than ever before can be treated or live with the disease for a long time, and we can take agency in the face of it — from speaking more openly about it, being aware of its causes and symptoms, dispelling misconceptions and stigma, and being open to finding out more about it.”
Image: National Cancer Institute
Main image: Singer songwriter Tom Walker at King’s Cross. Credit: Lumo