This year the climate crisis has been catapulted into the headlines. People all around the world refused business-as-usual to urge their governments to speed up action on climate change. The joint forces of scarier-than-ever evidence and bigger-than-ever protests have made 2019 the year the news woke up to the urgency of climate change.
This is good news in and of itself - the climate crisis is finally being talked about as the emergency it is.
But what’s actually happened? Here’s some things to feel good about that happened this year…
In terms of energy, the UK is moving in the right direction. For the first time ever the UK produced more electricity from renewable sources than fossil fuels. And in an incredible world first, the government contracted for massive subsidy-free offshore wind farms. The onward march of renewables is now unstoppable - the trick is to speed it up..
Politically, 2019 has been a game changer. For the first time ever, climate change was a key factor in the UK general election - all the major political parties included climate change in their election manifestos and political leaders took part in a televised pre-election debate on climate and nature.
From solar-powered forecourts lining the motorways, to bin lorries running on the waste they collect, the UK is starting way to make way for more sustainable transport. In fact, as of August this year, there are more electric vehicle charging points in Britain than there are petrol stations. But we’re at the start of this journey and there’s a long way to go. Transport emissions were actually lower in 1990 and SUV’s are still outselling electric vehicles by 37:1 😒
And our buildings are getting more environmentally friendly too. The iconic Bath Abbey is being heated by heat pump and buildings in Stirling will soon be heated by wastewater from the city’s sewage works - saving 381 tonnes of carbon every year. We’ve still got a long way to go (and a lot more buildings to work on), but it’s a start. Looking further afield, we’ve also seen New York and California introduce legislation that requires all new builds to come fitted with solar panels - and it’s looking good. Could Britain follow suit?
2019 was the year of the parklet - a genius tactic that rids cities of cars without banning them, and makes more space for more things we love! Oslo, Amsterdam, and East London are now filling city-centre parking spaces with people, bikes and trees.
And talking about spaces - we’re getting lots more green ones. In Scotland 12,000 hectares of derelict industrial land has been promised for forests, Wales is getting seagrass meadows, and in their election manifesto, the Conservative party pledged to plant 11 million trees across the country (let’s keep them to their word). These plants will suck carbon out of the atmosphere!
And we can still drink and dance - without costing the Earth. The British brewing industry has slashed its CO2 emissions by 42% across the last decade, and Coldplay and Massive Attack are decarbonising their concerts.
Finally, 2019 has also seen some really exciting technological innovations for tackling emissions that haven’t yet been rolled out to maximum effect. The batteries used to store renewable energy are getting cheaper (they now cost 87% less than they did in 2010) - which is a game-changer for electric vehicles. Industrial kitchens, like Ikea’s, can seriously cut food waste by using ‘smart’ bins to calculate what’s being thrown out. And researchers in Canada have developed paint-on solar.
What a year it’s been! Sometimes it seems like nothing much is happening - and it’s true, we need to seriously up the speed of climate action. But things are moving, and there are definitely things to feel good about.
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