The climate fight isn’t just about focusing on the bad stuff – good news stories help us have hope that we can keep warming below 2°C

It’s certainly been an eventful year. The ongoing pandemic, supply chain issues, civil unrest, government scandal – you’d be forgiven for thinking 2021 has been something of a downer! But the tail end of the year has bought some hope. COP26 in Glasgow meant the whole world was – even for a brief time – paying attention to the climate conversation. And if we dig a little deeper we can actually find more than a few reasons to feel optimistic about 2022 and beyond. Remember, it’s important we keep reflecting on the successes in cutting carbon emissions to both help alleviate eco-anxiety and to remind us that what we do matters.

  1. COP26 set important new goals

As COP26 drew to a close, many in the climate science world expressed disappointment that the conference had not yielded ambitious enough targets. However, a number of important pledges were nonetheless agreed, including commitments to phase out coal, reverse deforestation, finance adaptation, cut methane emissions and speed up the adoption of clean technology.

  1. Interest in electric vehicles soared

As petrol car prices increased and the cost of EVs continued to come down, 2021 saw more interest than ever before in electric vehicles – spurred largely by the petrol crisis that took place in September. Auto Trader reports that at one point dealers were receiving direct enquiries every 1.8 minutes – almost twice the average pace in August. Meanwhile, carguide.co.uk found that online searches for electric cars in the UK rose by 1,600% on 24 September – the day the shortages became widespread. Considering buying an EV? Here’s everything you need to know.

  1. The US re-joined the Paris Climate Accord

When President Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States in January, he immediately signed executive orders to have the USA re-join the Paris Climate Accord, halt drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, terminate permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, and restore protections for national monuments. He also told federal agencies to begin reviewing and reinstating over 125 environmental regulations that were rolled back by the previous administration.

  1. UK meat consumption continued to drop

A new report revealed that daily meat consumption in the UK has fallen by 17% over the last decade, with researchers suggesting almost 40% of meat-eaters are actively trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat. Meanwhile, veganism has seen major popularity growth. In January 2021, a record-breaking 500,000 people signed up to the annual Veganuary challenge – double the number in pre-pandemic January 2019. Curious about veganism? Learn more here.

  1. The EU unveiled a sweeping new climate change plan

July saw the European Union announce a raft of climate change proposals aimed at pushing it towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, including plans to tax jet fuel and effectively ban the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars within 20 years. The measures, billed as the EU's most ambitious plan yet to tackle climate change, have been named the ‘Fit for 55’ package because they would put the bloc on track to meet its 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 55% from 1990 levels.

  1. A clean and healthy environment became a human right

For the first time ever, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognising access to a healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right. The resolution has been decades in the making, with UN Member States calling for such a declaration as far back as 1972. The resolution will help bodies such as the UN and WHO (World Health Organisation) move legislation and standards at a national level, such as those surrounding air quality.

  1. Gen Z blazed a trail for sustainable shopping

Research from Deloitte found that during 2021, UK consumers have made a concerted effort to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, with growing numbers limiting their use of single-use plastic, purchasing more seasonal produce and choosing brands and companies that demonstrate environmental practices and values. Leading the charge are Gen Z shoppers. Over the last 12 months 50% reduced how much they buy and 45% stopped purchasing certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns.

  1. France banned short-haul flights

In April, French MPs voted to suspend domestic airline flights on routes that can be travelled by direct train in less than two and a half hours – the first time any major economy has prohibited domestic air travel for environmental reasons. Ministers had initially pushed for a ban on flights less than four hours in duration, but the landmark decision will still undoubtedly have an influence on wider European aviation legislation in the future. 

  1. Food eco labels are on the horizon

Labels on food are nothing new, but thanks to an important trial by NGO Foundation Earth our food items could soon brandish clear, concise information about their environmental impact. Some businesses in France are already using the labels, which rate a product with a colour-coded grade from A (the best) to E (the worst) but thanks to the positive outcome of the trial this year, MPs in the UK have introduced private member’s bills aiming to mandate such labels on food. This means we’re one step closer to enabling consumers to make proper, sustainably-informed decisions about the food they buy. There was even better news when five of the UK's biggest supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Co-op and M&S – pledged to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by the end of the decade through reduced carbon emissions, deforestation, food waste and packaging.

The bottom line

When it comes to protecting our environment and preventing runaway climate change we still have a long way to go. But as these stories show there are many reasons to be hopeful. Change across politics, businesses and in our communities is happening fast, so in the wake of COP26 let’s all choose to be stubborn optimists.

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