Japan pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, the lynx clawed back territory in Europe and the UK was promised its first renewables-powered railway, plus more positive news
The race to net-zero accelerated this week with Japan, the world’s third largest economy, and South Korea, its 12th, committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The announcements came a month after China vowed to decarbonise by 2060.
In a speech that made the economic case for tackling the climate crisis, Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said: “We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about growth.”
Two days later, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, pledged to end his country’s reliance on fossil fuels with a Green New Deal. Like Japan, South Korea is one of the most fossil-fuel reliant economies in the world.
Image: Ryoji Iwata
Truces between nations have more chance of succeeding if women are involved in peace talks. That’s according to research by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations, which found that armistices were 64 per cent less likely to fail when women had a seat at the table.
Women, however, are often excluded from formal peace processes: between 1992 and 2019, they accounted for, on average, just 13 per cent of negotiations, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes.
“Continued failure to include women in peace processes ignores their demonstrated contributions and overlooks a potential strategy to respond more effectively to security threats around the world,” the Council on Foreign Relations concluded.
Image: Humphrey Muleba
It started out as a conversation between a husband and wife at a kitchen table in Yorkshire. Six years later, Veganuary, the movement to get people to go vegan for 31 days in January, has gone global and inspired one million people to take part.
Joaquin Phoenix and Sir Paul McCartney are among the celebrities to have endorsed the campaign, which inspired Greggs, KFC and Burger King to launch Veganuary specials. Eating more plant-based meals is one of the most impactful ways of reducing carbon emissions, says the UN.
“When my wife Jane and I decided to launch a new year’s vegan pledge in 2014 we expected only 1,000 people,” said Veganuary co-founder Matthew Glover. “Now Veganuary is a bigger feature in the retail calendar than Christmas. One million official Veganuary participants in just seven years is a huge achievement.”
Image: Edgar Castrejon
There was positive news for eco-conscious travellers this week with the announcement that HS1 is to become the first trainline in the UK to run exclusively on renewables. The rail operator also pledged to be carbon neutral within a decade.
HS1 links London and the Channel Tunnel, which takes passengers travelling on Eurostar to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. The line is also used by train operator Southeastern High Speed.
“As we recover from the Covid crisis, environmental challenges will move further up the political and public agenda, and HS1 can provide a lasting solution to sustainable travel,” said Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 Ltd.
Image: 0x010C/Creative Commons
A plan to store some of the world’s most endangered corals at a facility near the Great Barrier Reef would enable conservationists to revive damaged reefs in the future, supporters of the scheme said.
The proposed Biobank facility in Port Douglas, Australia, would allow marine biologists to store, study and breed from endangered corals. The ‘Noah’s ark’ scheme was inspired by Norway’s global seed vault and could double as a tourist attraction.
Biobank director Dr Dean Miller told Guardian Australia that the facility would be “a life support system for corals.” He added: “Every year we wait, we’re losing corals. We don’t have any time to lose.”
People have rediscovered the pleasure of reading during the pandemic, according to publisher Bloomsbury, which announced this week that lockdown readers have boosted its profits by 60 per cent.
It has been a difficult decade for the publishing industry, which competes with a growing number of content providers for people’s attention – but reports of booming sales are not just positive news for publishers.
With titles such as Why I’m Not Talking to White People About Race and White Rage being among Bloomsbury’s bestsellers, the reading renaissance has also helped underrepresented BAME authors reach a wider audience.
Image: Erik Mclean
People in the UK are becoming more liberal about welfare and immigration, according the latest British Social Attitudes survey, published this week.
The National Centre for Social Research (NCSR), which carries out the annual survey, found the proportion of people who think benefits are too high fell from 59 per cent in 2015 to 35 per cent today. The proportion of people who think immigration undermines Britain’s cultural life, meanwhile, fell from 40 per cent to 19 per cent.
“Our research reveals a major shift towards viewing immigration as both culturally enriching and good for the economy,” said Gillian Prior of the NCSR. “With UK about to gain control of immigration between it and the EU, it would seem voters may approve of quite liberal application of that control.”
Image: Katie Moum
The lynx population in Spain and Portugal has increased ninefold in 18 years, according to the latest census of the animals. It is a remarkable turnaround for a species threatened with extinction two decades ago.
The latest headcount put the population at 855, compared to 94 in 2002. That the lynx is clawing back territory is not just positive news for the species, but also vindication for local conservationists who boosted numbers by engaging with and educating politicians, the public and landowners.
“We thought that they were going to disappear,” Miguel Ángel Simón, a biologist involved in the project, told the Guardian. “Today, the situation is pretty good and I think we can be optimistic [about the animal’s future].”
Image: Lynxexsitu/Creative Commons
Main image: Su San Lee