Nations agreed a landmark deal to end plastic waste, Panama gave nature legal rights, and Germany accelerated its shift towards renewables, plus more stories of progress
These are tumultuous times, but despite the political fallout from the war in Ukraine, 175 nations came together this week to strike what has been described as “the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord”.
Meeting in Nairobi, heads of state, ministers of environment and other representatives endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) to end plastic pollution. Nations agreed to negotiate an international treaty by 2024 to help realise that goal.
“Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best,” said Espen Barth Eide, UNEA-5 president. “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, welcomed the agreement, but said the hard work had just begun. “World leaders must now show even more resolve in developing and implementing a treaty, which addresses our current plastic pollution crisis, and enables an effective transition to a circular economy for plastic.”
Image: Jasmin Sessler
The German government has brought forward its target date for decarbonising the country’s energy supply by 15 years, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Some energy observers had speculated that attempts to isolate fossil fuel-rich Russia might hasten the shift to renewables. Germany’s announcement this week offered the first major sign that this could be happening.
The west’s efforts to starve the Russian economy have forced nations to confront their reliance on fossil fuels. Germany imports around 65 per cent of its gas from Russia.
But not for much longer. Europe’s leading economy has pledged to get 100 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2035. The previous target had been ‘before 2050’. German finance minister Christian Lindner described renewables as “the energy of freedom”.
Wildlife-rich Panama has become the latest country to enshrine the rights of nature into law.
Legislation passed this week gives nature the “right to exist, persist and regenerate,” and the “right to be restored after being affected directly or indirectly by any human activity.”
Passing the law is one thing, enforcing it is another. In Ecuador, which recognises the rights of nature, controversial extraction projects have continued in ecologically sensitive areas. However, as Positive News reported recently, the law has successfully halted some projects.
Panama joins a growing list of countries that have introduced rights of nature laws. Bolivia, Mexico and New Zealand are among them.
Image: A pygmy sloth. Credit: Sergiodelgado
Some of the UK’s leading supermarkets have agreed to install refill stations in shops by the end of the year.
Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Ocado all signed up to the Refill Coalition, which aims to make package-free shopping mainstream. UK supermarkets get through an estimated 59bn pieces of single-use plastic packaging annually.
In a joint statement, the retailers said: “The Refill Coalition presents a landmark opportunity for us to make a step change in the commercialisation of refills, which we know can play a significant role in the reduction of single-use plastic packaging.”
Image: Daria Kolpakova/iStock
The Israeli health ministry has banned conversion therapy, a discredited ‘treatment’ that claims to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Practitioners caught offering it will be prosecuted.
A growing list of countries have banned conversion therapy. France outlawed the practice in February, following in the footsteps of Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Germany and Malta.
Image: Brian Kyed
No, not the 5-0 thrashing of Iceland last week, but a legal battle over equal pay.
Members of the women’s national squad filed a discrimination lawsuit in March 2019, making the case for pay parity with the men’s team. This week a court ruled in their favour.
The landmark ruling means the women’s side will now be paid the same as the men’s team in all competitions. Striker Alex Morgan described it as a “monumental step forward”.
Image: US footballer Megan Rapinoe. Credit: Lorie Shaull
Press-ups, bicep curls and even heavy gardening can reduce your risk of dying early, according to a study out this week.
It found that half an hour of muscle-strengthening activities per week was associated with a 10-20 per cent lower risk of mortality from diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
The research was based on analysis of global studies over the last three decades. The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Image: Victor Freitas
Good news has been in short supply from Ukraine this week. The UN estimates that one million refugees have fled the country since Russia invaded a week ago.
A grassroots response has offered some solace in dark times. Queues have formed outside donation centres around the world, and many volunteers are driving trucks to the Ukrainian border to deliver necessities.
Find out how you can help the people of Ukraine here.
Image: Future Publishing/Getty
Main image: The ‘Turn Off The Plastic Tap’ art installation by Von Wong greeted delegates at UNEA-5. Credit: Von Wong Productions