Good climate news from 2022
2022 has been a challenging year. This summer saw the hottest temperatures on record across huge parts of the Northern hemisphere, demonstrating the burning urgency of keeping control of climate breakdown. The ongoing energy crisis has been the most severe energy disruption in modern history, with prices never before seen for natural gas.
Fearing for the future often results in people switching off from the problem, because they feel it’s too late to do anything. The climate science is clear that every fraction of a degree of heating that we can prevent means lives and livelihoods saved. That means that anything we can do to reduce carbon emissions matters.
With that in mind, we wanted to take this opportunity to share a round up of some of the good climate news stories from 2022.
The transition to sustainable energy is speeding up
According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, long term policy changes made by countries including the US, Japan and India will help to increase global clean energy investment by more than 50% between 2022 and 2030. Global fossil fuel demand is expected to peak this decade before declining – which will be a pivotal moment in energy history.
Some of the reasons behind this transition are devastating; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent impacts on gas prices have highlighted how volatile the current energy system is. One outcome is that governments are realising that investing in home-grown renewable energy generation isn’t just important for the environment, but for energy security too.
Renewables saved 230 million tonnes of emissions in 2022
According to UK-based Energy think tank, Ember, global demand for electricity increased by 3% between 2021 and 2022 – something that was met entirely by new wind, solar and hydroelectricity generation.
This prevented a possible 4 per cent rise in fossil fuel generation and therefore prevented 230 million tonnes of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere.
A £6 billion fund was announced to insulate British homes
The UK’s leaking, inefficient housing is the cause of 21% of our carbon emissions – as well as higher energy bills.
In a very welcome part of the Autumn Statement, Jeremy Hunt announced £6 billion of funding to improve home insulation between 2025 and 2028. This money will be on top of £6.6 billion already committed to energy efficiency savings in the current parliament. With this comes an ambitious target to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and industry by 15% by 2030.
Cop27: Countries vulnerable to the worst effects of climate change finally get more support
The UN announced that it will funnel €3.1 billion into building early warning systems against climate disasters for everyone in the world. Currently, countries with limited early warnings are blindsided by climate disasters, and have a mortality rate eight times higher than countries with high coverage. The UN’s action plan sets out the way forward to right this wrong, and protect lives and livelihoods.
In another major milestone, a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund was agreed at COP27 to help the countries that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis, yet have often contributed least to causing it, to rescue and rebuild their infrastructure in the aftermath of climate disasters.
People power: UK government sued over climate action plans
Lawyers and campaigners from Good Energy partner Friends of the Earth, Client Earth and the Good Law Project came together recently to take the UK government to court over their climate action targets. The High Court has ruled their net zero targets as unlawful in what Friends of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe has called a “huge victory for climate justice”.
The rulings found that only 95% of total emission cuts were accounted for and plans for how they would reach these targets were incomplete. The High Court’s decision shows that we as a country have the power to hold the government accountable for their actions and the commitments they made.
‘Brazil is back’ in the fight against climate breakdown
In a narrow victory against Brazil’s incumbent far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been hailed as a potential saviour of the Amazon.
During the four years that Bolsonaro has been in office, an area more than twice the size of Wales (over 45,000 sq km) was cleared in the Amazon.
In his previous two terms in office, Lula da Silva implemented a multi-year plan that slashed deforestation by 80%. Now, he plans to replicate this success, by expanding policing and incentivising communities to preserve the forest.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, absorbing about 2 billion tonnes of atmosphere-warming gases per year.
How Cuba is leading the way on sustainability
The Cuban government have launched Tarea Vida (‘Life task’), a long-term way of fighting the effects of climate change in the country. It sets out plans to respond to climate threats by creating hierarchies of the most at-risk areas, and the things that need to be done to help them.
Some things the Cuban government have already done as part of Tarea Vida include: relocating the most vulnerable coastal settlements; growing coral farms and reefs; planting mangroves to act as further coastal defence; and investing 1 billion pesos in hydraulics programs around the country.
New builds in EU countries will have to have solar panels
Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, European countries have been turning away from Russian gas supplies. Part of this includes a switch to renewable energy, with plans for half of the EU’s energy to come from renewables by 2030. A new ‘solar rooftop initiative’ has made it mandatory for all new buildings to have solar panels by 2029. It is hoped this will more than double the amount of solar energy produced.
The UK is home to the world’s largest vertical farm
Most of the UK’s food is imported from other countries, so we’re turning to new innovations to grow more of our own produce. The world’s largest vertical farm in Lincolnshire is set to open later this year, with over 13,500m2 of growing space, allowing a wide range of fruits and vegetables to be grown. As well as reducing the carbon footprint of certain foods, it also means that English-grown produce can be available for longer periods of time each year, as the growing conditions can be optimised for specific products.
The Great Barrier Reef’s coral is recovering
The northern parts of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is seeing record levels of coral cover, the highest they’ve seen in the past 36 years. Even though the future of the reef is not secured due to the impact of bleaching, animal activity and weather events, it shows that the Great Barrier Reef remains resilient.
Changes to attitudes in the UK
Over the past 10 years, the UK has been making more green changes to help in the fight against climate change.
- More energy is coming from renewables – In 2021 around 39% of electricity and 18% of all energy in the UK came from renewable sources. This is a big increase compared to 2011, where only 9.5% of electricity and around 5% of energy was generated from renewables.
- Recycling rates have risen – In 2020, people in the UK recycled 4% more of their household waste than in 2010. While this doesn’t sound like a large amount, this coupled with a move away from single-use plastics is helping to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our waterways and oceans.
- Meat consumption has decreased – The average volume of meat eaten per person each week has dropped from around 998g in 2011 to 928g in 2021, with more people than ever adopting meat-free diets.
It’s never too late to make a change
Here are some ways that you can take action:
- Make changes in your own life to reduce your energy consumption and your own carbon footprint.
- Support causes and organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace or The Climate Coalition.
- Support conservation charities such as the Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trust or the Marine Conservation Society.
- Support local and national sustainability plans set out by governments; and write to your MP.
- Research campaigns such as #StopCambo, aimed at preventing new gas and oil fields (such as Jackdaw and Rosebank) being built.