It’s not all been doom and gloom.

You’d be forgiven for thinking 2019 has been something of a global disaster – unrelenting political turmoil has dominated the headlines, as have stories of climate meltdown and environmental calamity. But it’s not all grim news, and in these uncertain times it’s important to reflect on the good things that have happened last year, as well as turn our attention to taking action on the bad. In case you missed them the first time around, here are the biggest climate wins of 2019.

  1. Massive strides were taken to ban single-use plastic

In January, the European Union voted to ban a wide range of single-use plastics, including straws and cutlery, prompting other countries to do the same. In the US, for example, California has passed a bill for a 75% reduction in single-use plastics, while Maine has banned single-use plastic bags across the state.

  1. Young people have driven meaningful change

Championed by activist Greta Thunberg, young people across the world are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to tackling climate change, staging protests and strikes in a bid to protect the future of the planet. As a result of their bold action, cities across the UK and Ireland have declared climate emergencies, while academics, analysts and businesses have called again on government to make the climate crisis a policy priority.

  1. Clean energy outpaced fossil fuels for the first time

Renewable energy sources provided more electricity to UK homes and businesses than fossil fuels for the first time ever this year. Just 10 years ago fossil fuels were responsible for 80% of the country’s electricity, but that figure has since dropped to less than 40% thanks to British windfarms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants. The US, meanwhile, achieved the same result in April.

  1. Banks are moving away from oil and coal

In a world where capitalism rules, banks hold a lot of power, and 2019 saw some of it finally being put to good use. In November, the European Investment Bank (EIB) – the biggest multilateral financial institution in the world – announced it will stop funding most oil and coal projects by 2021. This means that any energy projects applying for funding from EIB will need to adhere to much stricter, environmentally-friendly guidelines. Banks in the UK, Canada and South Africa subsequently followed suit including Goldman Sachs.

  1. Thirty cities have reduced their carbon emissions

The C40 – a group of 96 cities that have pledged to reduce their environmental impact – announced in October that 30 of their members have now passed peak emissions. This means that some of the world’s largest cities have reduced their emissions by at least 10%, although the average figure was a heartening 22%. One stand-out city, Copenhagen, has managed to reduce its emissions by 61% since 1991!

  1. Scientists revealed the hole in the Ozone will close completely in our lifetime

Proving that collective action can work to prevent climate damage, the United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) Agency announced in October that the hole in the Ozone layer will be completely healed by the 2030s. This will be a major step towards combatting climate change and is largely down to the efforts of the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987. Now we need to apply the same action to greenhouse gas emissions!

  1. Trees took on a new climatic importance

It’s been a tough year for the planet’s trees and rainforests – wildfires across America, the Amazon and elsewhere have decimated global forests, which are vital in the fight against climate change. But important measures have been introduced this year to help rectify things. Indonesia, for example, has permanently banned new forest clearance, while Ethiopia planted 350 million trees in a single day back in July. Meanwhile, England is planning 130,000 new urban trees, a telethon in Denmark raised more than $2.8 million to plant trees in the Scandinavian country, and a crowdfunding campaign in September saved more than 2,000 acres of forest from development in Canada. According to ground-breaking research published in July, some 2.2 billion acres of land across the world is suitable for reforestation, so more tree-planting initiatives can’t come soon enough.

The bottom line

It’s really important to celebrate success as a key part of staying motivated in the fight against climate change and to keep ecoanxiety at bay. These seven environmental wins are just a snap shot of the steady progress being made to protect our One Home.

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