April 16, 2024

Bionpa

You are Your Only Limit

Here are all the positive environmental stories from 2023 so far

52 min read

Table of Contents

We’re going to be regularly updating this page with good news about our planet in an effort to combat climate anxiety.

Eco-anxiety, climate doom, environmental existential dread – as green journalists, we see these terms used a lot – and often feel them ourselves.

While there’s a lot to be worried about when it comes to the climate and nature crises, we must not lose hope – because hopelessness breeds apathy.

The media has an important role to play in combatting climate doom. It’s our job to be truthful and accurate in our reporting, not trying to downplay or greenwash the situation. But it’s also our job to show that there is hope.

In 2022, as part of our ongoing effort to tackle eco-anxiety (both that of our readers and our own), we kept track of all the positive environmental news throughout the year – racking up over 100 stories of eco-innovation, green breakthroughs and climate wins.

In 2023, we’re confident the good news will keep on coming, as renewable power soars, vulnerable ecosystems gain rights, and climate protocols start to pay dividends.

This article will be regularly updated with the latest good news. It may be something small and local, something silly that made us smile, or something enormous and potentially world-changing.

If you come across a great, positive story that we haven’t covered here – please reach out to us on Instagram or Twitter to share your ideas.

Positive environmental stories from July 2023

Huge mineral discovery in Norway could supply battery and solar panels for the next 50 years

Huge phosphate deposits discovered in southwestern Norway could be large enough to supply electric vehicles, solar panels and fertiliser for at least 50 years.

The valuable ore was discovered in 2018 by Norge Mining, who revealed in May that they’d found 70 billion tonnes of the material.

Phosphate is rich in phosphorus which is a key component of many green technologies, as well as fertiliser. The find comes at a crucial time when Europe has been facing supply issues.

Brazil Amazon deforestation drops 34 per cent under Lula

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon dropped by a third during the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term, according to government satellite data.

From January to June the rainforest had alerts for possible deforestation covering 2,650 square kilometres, down from 4,000 sq km during the same period last year under former leader Jair Bolsonaro.

This year’s data includes a 41 per cent plunge in alerts for June, which marks the start of the dry season when deforestation tends to jump.

Inside the factory making ‘tri-brid’ electric trains that could revolutionise transport in Europe

Only around 60 per cent of Europe’s lines have been electrified so far. To upgrade all of the railways in Europe could take decades and the cost would be enormous. 

To help reduce emissions using Europe’s limited infrastructure, Hitachi Rail has developed its Masaccio tri-brid train. Euronews Green went to their factory in Pistoia, Italy to learn more.

What is water cremation? UK to offer eco-friendly burial alternative for the first time

The UK will offer water cremation for the first time this year, following rising demand for more environmentally friendly end of life options.

When you die there’s currently only two options in most of Europe – burial or a traditional fire cremation.

But new options are being explored.

Positive environmental stories from June 2023

Austria is our Green European country of the month – here’s why

Countries across Europe are racing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and avert the worst effects of the climate crisis. This has thrown them into a new kind of healthy rivalry with each other.

This June, we highlighted a European country that is making good progress on a number of key climate fronts: Austria, a small but mighty nation right at the heart of the continent.

Here’s why it’s our Green Country of the Month.

Fountain of youth: Living near a green space can reduce your biological age by 2.5 years

A new study has shown that having access to parks and community gardens in your neighbourhood can slow biological ageing.

A joint Spanish and American research team found that people living near green spaces are on average 2.5 years biologically younger than those who do not.

“Living near more greenness can help you be younger than your actual age,” said Kyeezu Kim, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral scholar at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

This ‘extinct’ earless dragon has been spotted in a secret location after going missing for 50 years

A tiny earless dragon which experts thought was extinct has been spotted for the first time in over 50 years.

The Victorian grassland earless dragon – native to east Australian grasslands – was last spotted in the wild in 1969.

Conservationists feared for the animal’s survival and previously made “considerable but unsuccessful efforts” to locate the species. Now, they’ve discovered a small population.

Only the super wealthy stand to lose money from shutting down fossil fuels, study finds

Scaling down fossil fuels would have hardly any financial impact on the vast majority of people, new research reveals.

Oil and gas companies are the single biggest driver of global heating. But opponents of the renewable transition often claim that cutting down fossil fuel production will be hugely expensive – and hit ordinary people in the pocket.

New research sends this argument up in smoke. 

Church of England divests from fossil fuels after oil and gas companies fail on climate

The Church of England is divesting from oil and gas after accusing fossil fuel companies of stalling on net zero plans.

The church’s Pensions Board will divest its holding in Shell over what it said were insufficient plans to align its strategy to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Board has around 1.35 million pounds (€1.58 million) invested in Shell of its total 3.2 billion pounds in investments.

New EU law to force smartphone makers to build easily replaceable batteries

 The European Union will soon require smartphone manufacturers to let users replace their batteries.

The tough new rules – endorsed by the European Parliament in June – could save millions of phones from landfill.

Every year, more than 150 million smartphones are thrown away. Making batteries more easy to replace could stem this deluge of e-waste.

Paris Olympics to give waste a second life with recycled plastic chairs

Spectators at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will sit on chairs made of plastic recycled from local bins.

As well as combating a shortage of raw materials for plastic, the initiative is part of wider efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of the Olympic Games.

Around 11,000 seats will be made from recycled materials.

Animal rights groups ‘thrilled’ to see Iceland’s summer whaling season suspended

Iceland has suspended whaling until the end of August in the name of animal welfare.

A full ban could eventually be enforced, according to Iceland’s Food Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir.

“If the government and [hunting] licensees cannot guarantee the welfare requirements [according to Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act], this activity has no future,” said Svavarsdottir.

UN adopts world-first treaty to protect marine life in seas outside national boundaries

Only 1 per cent of the world’s vast ocean areas were protected – until now.

The first-ever treaty to protect biodiversity in waters outside national boundaries, known as the high seas, has been adopted by UN members.

The UN’s chief hailed the historic agreement as giving the ocean “a fighting chance”.

Climate ‘victory’: Swiss citizens vote in favour of new law to reach net zero emissions by 2050

The Swiss people have voted yes to a new climate law that will see the country cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

A majority of 59 per cent of voters approved the government’s Climate Protection Targets, Innovation and Strengthening Energy Security Act on 18 June.

Almost three-quarters of people (74 per cent) backed it in the canton of Geneva, following a record-breakingly warm spring for the wealthy European nation.

Meet the cattle breeders-turned-conservationists protecting Colombia’s Amazon wildlife

In the rural area of San José de Guaviare, Colombia, is 40 hectares of reborn jungle.

Up until a decade ago, the forest looked completely different – it was a pasture full of cattle.

The co-founder of the La Nupana nature reserve, Dora Sánchez, moved from the centre of the country to the jungle region in 1997. Like most of the settlers, her family – the Zapatas – started livestock farming.

In 2012, she started planting native trees on her 56 hectares of pasture as an “experiment to set up agroforestry systems”.

London’s solar street: How two artists crowdfunded renewable energy for their neighbours

Sick of eye-watering energy bills and keen to combat climate change, two London artists have made it their mission to bring solar power to their street.

The couple have raised money for the project in eye-catching ways, including spending three cold winter weeks sleeping on the roof of their house.

The stunt helped them crowdfund £113,000 (€132,000), which they are now using to install solar panels on dozens of houses in north London.

A green oasis: How Nairobi’s world-only national park benefits lions, giraffes and people

Did you know Nairobi is the only capital city in the world that has a national park in it?

The park is a vast reserve that covers 117 square kilometres and is a haven for wildlife, including lions, rhinos, giraffes, buffalos and various species of antelope.

But experts say Nairobi National Park is faced by a myriad of threats, including pollution, human-wildlife conflict, infrastructure development and poaching.

A foliage-filled tram and free plants: How Antwerp is encouraging residents to be urban gardeners

If you hopped on the tram in the Belgian city of Antwerp last week and you might have found yourself in a surprising verdant paradise.

The car running on line 1 had been transformed into a lush mobile garden for a day, with plants squeezed into every available space.

Between the seats, in the panels separating the windows and even on the roof, leafy decorations sprouted.

It was a joy to ride, but it was also part of a scheme to make citizens more green and encourage residents to take up urban gardening.

Glastonbury’s ‘biggest fan’: UK festival gets an eye-catching 28 metre wind turbine

It’s not as if Glastonbury Festival goers need another reason to feel delighted by this year’s line-up.

But the likes of Lizzo, Lana Del Rey and Sir Elton John are being joined by one very prominent guest at Worthy Farm: a pink and purple 28-metre wind turbine.

Octopus Energy erected the tall turbine on 13 June, in a move they say will help make Glastonbury 2023 the greenest yet.

Toyota announces new electric car battery which could cut charging time to under 10 minutes

Toyota has announced its plans to make an all solid-state battery as part of its ambitious plans for battery electric vehicles.

The announcement comes amid mounting criticism that Japan’s top automaker needs to do more to fight climate change.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it’s aiming for a commercial solid-state battery as soon as 2027. 

Magicians, engineers or agents of chaos? On the rewilding estate giving refuge to beavers

A fifth generation son of the Argaty estate near Stirling, Bowser (39) fought hard for the farm to become the first privately owned place to relocate beavers in Scotland.

In total, 14 beavers have been released on the estate since the Scottish government allowed the animals to be translocated from conflict areas on the River Tay.

“I thought it might have been one big explosion of biodiversity,” says Bowser of the ecological benefits of beavers. “But it’s more like a series of small interventions; hundreds of little explosions going off with this accumulative effect.”

Meet the ex-poachers restoring the Indonesian coral reefs they destroyed

Twenty years ago, the coral reefs in the waters of Spermonde Islands in Indonesia were nothing more than debris.

Poachers bombed and poisoned corals to catch fish – methods ruled illegal by the government and punishable by up to six years in prison.

Now, the same poachers have become conservationists, working together to rehabilitate the corals they destroyed. 

Why a ‘virgin’ crocodile pregnancy has ‘tantalising’ implications for dinosaur researchers

In the first known case of a ‘virgin birth’ among the species, a crocodile has been found to have made herself pregnant.

The 18-year-old American crocodile was kept away from other crocodiles in a zoo in Costa Rica. But that didn’t stop her producing a fully formed foetus inside one of her eggs in 2018.

Five years later, researchers have determined that the foetus was 99.9 per cent genetically identical to the mother, confirming it had no father.

Wind and solar overtake fossil fuels in the EU as energy transition hits ‘hyperdrive’

Wind and solar produced more energy in the EU during May than all fossil fuels combined, according to energy think tank Ember.

This is the first full month on record where these renewables produced more power – with almost a third of the bloc’s electricity coming from wind and solar. Fossil fuels generated a record low of 27 per cent.

“Europe’s electricity transition has hit hyperdrive,” says Ember’s Europe lead Sarah Brown. “Clean power keeps smashing record after record.”

A real material for the future’: Could homes made of fungi slash emissions from construction?

Almost 40 per cent of annual global CO2 emissions are attributed to the built environment, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Of these, 11 per cent are a result of manufacturing building materials such as steel, cement and glass.

Architects and scientists are working on ways to reduce the climate impact of these important materials. But low-carbon alternatives are needed to build a greener future.

One material that’s showing real promise in the world of construction is fungus.

The eagles have landed: widowed white-tailed eagle finds new partner in Ireland

A male white-tailed eagle who had been living alone for four years after his partner died from avian flu has met a new partner – and the pair now have two new chicks.

The male eagle was released in 2008 by Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of a programme to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to the Emerald Isle.

He had previously partnered with another eagle and they produced chicks – the first hatching and fledgling in the country for 110 years.

The world’s most sustainable beer – and how to make it at home

Bottles, cans and kegs filled with liquid all carry significant weight. According to the Impact CO2 carbon footprint calculator, packaging and transport account for 70 per cent of the environmental impact of a litre (around two pints) of beer.

So if we can reduce the packaging size and therefore transport demands, we can massively reduce the impact of the beer industry.

And this is exactly what the Neuzelle brewery in Germany is trying to do.

Positive environmental stories from May 2023

Iceland is our Green European country of the month – here’s why

Iceland generates more than 86 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources according to Eurostat and around 66 per cent of this comes from its geothermal resources.

Not only does this hot water power homes, but it also supplies some of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions including the famous Blue Lagoon. 

‘Clean energy is moving fast’: Solar set to overtake oil in investments for the first time ever

Solar energy investments are expected to overtake oil for the first time ever this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

A new report from the agency says spending on clean energy technology is now significantly outpacing spending on fossil fuels. This is due to affordability and security concerns triggered by the global energy crisis.

Turtle power: Panama gives legal rights to sea turtles, protecting against pollution and poaching

A new law guarantees sea turtles in Panama the right to live and have free passage in a healthy environment.

It “will allow any Panamanian citizen to be the voice of sea turtles and defend them legally,” says Callie Veelenturf, who founded a group that works to protect leatherback turtles and pushed for the legislation.

“We will be able to hold governments, corporations and public citizens legally accountable for violations of the rights of sea turtles.”

Utrecht’s new vertical forest will be home to 10,000 plants and trees. How will residents benefit?

It starts with a currant bush and a pear tree: the first of 300 trees and 10,000 plants that will turn this Dutch tower block into a living forest.

Utrecht is the latest city to get the green treatment from celebrated architect Stefano Boeri. The 66-year old Italian architect stretched the world’s imagination with his first vertical forest in Milan a decade ago.

Giving people €5 a day could bring the ‘good life’ to communities and ecosystems in need, study says

Paying people living in fragile forests €5 a day could be the best way to halt biodiversity loss, a new study suggests.

Similar to the concept of a universal basic income, a conservation basic income (CBI) is an unconditional cash payment given to people living in protected areas or alongside endangered species.

Just like eating frogs’ legs? Inside the European companies that want to convince us to eat insects

Will insects be a staple food in the future? Several companies in Europe are betting on it.

From lower emissions to reduced land use and a way to contribute to the circular economy, they claim a range of benefits. 

Although convincing Europeans to eat insects isn’t easy, almost 60 per cent of people believe that they could become an alternative and sustainable source of protein in the future, according to a study from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya published earlier this year.

Refill stores and bottle deposit schemes: Inside the UN goal to cut plastic pollution by 80% by 2040

Plastic pollution could be slashed by 80 per cent by 2040, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

This ambitious target relies on major policy changes and the deployment of existing technologies in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastics.

Here’s what would need to change in our daily lives to reach it.

Spain, Sweden and Belgium: The European countries setting new wind and solar records

Solar and wind produced more than half of Portugal’s electricity for the first time last month, according to new data from clean energy think tank Ember.

April saw the renewables reach 51 per cent of electricity production – beating the previous monthly record of 49 per cent in December 2021.

Strong solar deployment, electricity imports from Spain and lower demand kept energy generated by fossil fuels to just 24 per cent – despite a drought-driven dip in hydropower.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 68% in April

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 68 per cent last month compared to April 2022.

This is the first significant drop since President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office at the start of this year.

Lula, as the left-leaning President is known, campaigned on transforming Brazil into a ‘green superpower’. One of his promises was to combat illegal deforestation, which rose to a 15-year high under former right wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

‘Look at that beast’: This well-fed snapping turtle is a conservation success story

Footage of a plump snapping turtle relaxing along a Chicago waterway has gone viral after the man who filmed the well-fed reptile marveled at its size and nicknamed it “Chonkosaurus.”

Conservationists have been carrying out native plant restoration along the waterway to combat invasive European species that have cropped up.

“The plants and the animals are interrelated – if one is doing well, the other’s doing well, it’s ecology,” says Al Scorch, one of the botanists who spotted the giant turtle.

EU emissions fell by 4% at the end of last year – and economies grew, data reveals

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU fell by 4 per cent in the last three months of 2022, according to Eurostat data released on 15 May.

Out of the 27 member states, emissions fell in 23 EU countries.

It also found that while emissions had fallen, GDP hadn’t and had actually increased by 1.5 per cent during those three months.

It shows that countries are reducing their greenhouse gas contribution while growing their economies.

Seals are making a comeback in Belgium: This team of volunteers helping them coexist with humans

Seals are becoming an increasingly common sight on Belgium’s beaches.

At the end of last century, there were almost none of these marine mammals left on the country’s coast.

But their numbers have been on the rise over the last 20 years, according to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Seals aren’t easy to count, but they estimate there are now between 100 and 200 individuals from two species: grey seals and harbour seals.

‘New hope’: Tiny Galápagos island birds make promising comeback

Darwin’s flycatchers are on the edge of extinction. But conservation experts now think the tiny bird could be making a comeback.

Known for their striking vermillion plumage, the charismatic birds can be found only in the Galápagos Islands.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has labelled them ‘vulnerable.’

But on the island of Santa Cruz, 12 new chicks have been born this year, officials have revealed.

From water saving to clean energy: Here’s why floating solar farms are booming in the US

Producing electricity uses up huge amounts of land and often generates vast quantities of climate-heating emissions.

But what if it didn’t need to?

Floating solar panels are a simple concept but they could provide the answer to these problems – and prevent water loss from evaporation at the same time.

Ecuador strikes world’s biggest ‘debt for nature’ deal to protect the Galápagos Islands

Ecuador has converted $1.6 billion (€1.5 billion) of debt into a loan which will free up millions for conservation in the Galápagos Islands.

The deal, announced on Tuesday 9 May, is the largest of its kind ever made. It is known as a ‘debt for nature’ swap.

“The world’s biggest ocean-friendly debt swap is coming together in Ecuador to protect its unique natural resources,” says Pablo Arosemena Marriott, Minister of Economy and Finance.

This millionaire is selling his private jet after learning how polluting it is

It’s never too late to change – just ask Stephen Prince. The American multimillionaire is selling his private jet after learning how polluting it is.

The Georgia businessman started flying in small jets six years ago, and compared the experience to a cocaine habit.

The gift-card magnate once owned three jets. Now, he’s selling his last one.

‘A daring heart’: Meet the bamboo scaffolders bringing down Hong Kong’s carbon footprint

Mo Jia Yu wraps his legs around a pole to balance high above the ground and secure a joint, a skill he must master to become a bamboo scaffolder in Hong Kong.

The metropolis is one of the world’s last remaining cities to use bamboo scaffolding in modern construction and building repair.

Scaffolders perched on bamboo frames several storeys high are a common sight, and are nicknamed “spiders” by Hong Kongers for their agility over the web-like latticework.

Austria has helped pay for more than half a million repairs in bid to tackle e-waste

Austrians have been taking advantage of a scheme to repair broken electrical devices.

Designed to tackle electronic waste, the government programme covers half the cost of repairs. It applies to defective devices such as smartphones, laptops, coffee makers and dishwashers.

Since being introduced one year ago, it has seen 560,000 vouchers worth up to €200 redeemed, according to the Environment Ministry.

Europe’s first wild river park is a nature lover’s paradise: Here’s how to experience it on a budget

Vjosa River National Park is something of a miracle. After years of campaigning by clothing brand Patagonia, the IUCN and none other than actor Leonardo Dicaprio, this 6,500 square-kilometre basin of tributaries and wild waterways was given the protection it deserves, making it Europe’s first wild river park.

It may be the first park, but it is Europe’s last wild river, home to 1,110 species of animals and plants, of which two plant species and 13 animals are in danger of disappearing globally. Hence why official protection is so important.

This Nigerian environmentalist is channelling Spider-Man to wage war on litter

In Nigeria, environmental waste poses a major challenge, especially in urban regions.

But on the streets of Osogbo in Osun State, Jonathan Olanlokun’s superpower is his determination to make a difference in his community.

Dressed as Spider-Man, he picks up rubbish to improve his local environment. He says the costume gets him noticed and draws attention to the problem of litter on the streets.

Positive environmental stories from April 2023

Denmark is our Green European country of the month – here’s why

It should come as no surprise that Denmark is on our radar as one of Europe’s greenest countries.

The Scandinavian nation is a consistent frontrunner in rankings like the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) and Yale’s Environmental Performance Index.

Last year Denmark had the highest share of renewables in its electricity mix out of 78 different countries. Its emissions targets are also highly ambitious. And it’s not resting on its laurels.

How the Netherlands plans to spend €28bn on slashing emissions by 2030

The Dutch government says it will spend €28 billion in the coming years to guarantee it meets its 2030 climate goals.

The government announced a range of measures which it said would make sure CO2 emissions in the Netherlands will be 55 per cent lower than in 1990 by 2030. They range from building large offshore solar power fields to lifting taxes for polluting industries.

Last year, emissions were around 30 per cent lower in the euro zone’s fifth largest economy than in 1990.

Meet the trollhunters who got 600 climate change deniers banned from Twitter

Peter and Tom are part of a group of online activists dubbed the Team Ninja Trollhunters (TNT). Created in 2019, their mission is to fight climate change trolls on Twitter.

These ‘trollhunters’ look for viral tweets or prominent accounts on Twitter which were spreading climate disinformation and respond to them by debunking their claims using factual information and scientific articles.

Climate change denial is not forbidden on Twitter, however other types of content – threats, harassment and hate speech – are. 

US Supreme Court won’t rule on local climate cases in a ‘critical victory’ for activists

Cities and states in the US will be able to sue massive fossil fuel polluters thanks to a Supreme Court decision.

As the climate crisis worsens, local governments are taking energy giants to court.

Big Oil appealed five of these local cases to America’s Supreme Court. But the court declined to hear them- setting an important precedent for future lawsuits.

From vibrant floats to cleanups: Creativity and colour were everywhere on Earth Day

More than a billion people celebrated Earth Day on Saturday 22 April.

From parades to mass die-ins and four-metre-tall floats, people from 190 different countries got creative to urge politicians to “Invest in Our Planet.”

“This is the moment to change it all!” the Earth Day Network declared.

‘Extinct’ lion spotted in Chad’s Sena Oura National Park for first time in 20 years

A lion has been spotted in a Chad’s Sena Oura National Park – the first sighting in almost 20 years.

Researchers previously believed the animals to be extinct in the area, which is close to Chad’s border with Cameroon.

The sighting – the first since 2004 – is an early sign that big cat populations in the area could be increasing.

World’s biggest cross-border power line will deliver clean energy to 1.8 million homes in Europe

The Netherlands and the UK plan to build Europe’s biggest cross-border power line to deliver clean energy and boost energy security.

Connected to an offshore wind farm, the ‘LionLink’ interconnector will be able to transfer 1.8 gigawatts (GW) of electricity – enough to power 1.8 million homes.

Solar baking: How the sun is helping to reduce the cost of bread in Lebanon

Food prices have skyrocketed in Lebanon during a three-year economic crisis.

In an effort to reduce production costs and emissions, inventor Toufic Hamdan has created a commercial bakery oven powered by the sun’s heat.

“This oven will save bakery owners about 80 per cent of their monthly usage of diesel, and therefore it would reduce the price of the bread bundle that reaches the consumer,” says Hitaf Ghazal, co-founder and operations manager of Partners With Sun.

‘A Herculean task’: How is Luxembourg using people power to shift its energy targets?

More than a third of Luxembourg’s energy will come from renewables by the end of the decade, under a new climate plan unveiled yesterday.

All EU countries have to submit an updated national energy and climate plan (NECP) by June, showing how they will achieve the bloc’s goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.

Europe’s richest country has stepped up its green energy and efficiency targets, partly thanks to public motivation.

‘Now we can breathe a little’: How Gaza is bringing its wetlands back to life

Decades of reduced freshwater inflows, creeping urban development and pollution have crippled Wadi Gaza’s fragile environment. Yet despite being buried under layers of sewage and waste, the valley is still alive.

A recent project by the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) aims to rehabilitate the area as a nature reserve and coastal wetland.

Since launching in 2021, an internationally-funded wastewater treatment plant in central Gaza has allowed cleaner water to flow into the valley.

‘End of the fossil age’: Wind and solar broke energy records last year, report reveals

Experts are calling time on the fossil age as new analysis shows wind and solar power produced a record amount of the world’s electricity last year.

The renewables generated 12 per cent of global electricity in 2022, up from 10 per cent the previous year, according to the report from clean energy think tank Ember.

And while a small increase in coal burning pushed electricity emissions up to an all-time high, analysts predict this will be the peak of pollution.

‘Natural buffer’: Could this tiny red crab help protect the Great Barrier Reef?

Scientists fighting to save the Great Barrier Reef have discovered a new secret weapon – a tiny red crab.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. But many of its reef-building corals have been devoured by plagues of toxic crown-of-thorns (COTS) starfish.

A little crab could help to stop that. The red decorator crab – or ‘Schizophrys aspera’ – has a voracious appetite for the juvenile starfish, research from the University of Queensland has shown.

‘Really encouraging’: Plastic bag bans work, say campaigners

Plastic bags are everywhere – littering our streets, clogging up our rivers, and choking wildlife in the ocean.

But after years of campaigning from environmental groups, many places have banned them entirely.

Over 100 countries now have a full or partial ban on single-use plastic bags. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of public policies intended to phase out plastic carryout bags tripled.

The results of such tough rules are starting to show.

Wildlife crossings: US rolls out $350 million in funding to prevent collisions and improve habitats

The US Department of Transportation is rolling out funding for wildlife crossings along busy roads.

Studies show than more than 350 million vertebrate animals are killed by traffic in the US each year.

Meanwhile, about 200 people are killed each year in collisions involving wildlife and vehicles in the US, according to federal officials.

Now, Indigenous groups as well as state and local governments will have access to $350 million (€320) to combat the issue.

UK proposes ban on plastic wet wipes to tackle water pollution

The UK is looking to ban plastic wet wipes that clog up the country’s sewers.

Under a plan to tackle water pollution, the government is launching a public consultation on whether to get rid of plastic wipes. Some retailers like supermarket Tesco and health and beauty company Boots have already stopped selling them in favour of biodegradable alternatives.

Although these alternatives are available, most products still contain plastic which doesn’t break down, sticks together and can create something known as a fatberg.

Positive environmental stories from March 2023

Albania is our Green European country of the month

The climate and nature crises have thrown European countries into a new kind of healthy rivalry with each other.

In the race to reach net zero emissions and restore depleted ecosystems, any nation’s win is a victory for all of us. But looking to the most positive examples on the continent can help inspire and pressure our own politicians to follow suit.

In March, we’re celebrating a European country that has done the right thing for one of its most precious natural features: Albania.

‘Safeguard our future’: Australia passes law capping oil and gas emissions for the first time

Australia has passed tough new laws capping oil and gas emissions.

The breakthrough legislation requires coal mines and oil refineries to curb their emissions by about five per cent each year.

The centre-left Labor government behind the new laws estimate it will prevent 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions over the next decade.

‘A win for climate justice of epic proportions’: UN vote could push countries to take climate action

United Nations member states have adopted a historic resolution on climate justice. 

It aims to hold highly polluting countries legally responsible for failing to address the climate crisis.

More than 130 UN member states voted for the resolution at the General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

It calls on the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, to clarify states’ obligations to tackle the climate emergency.

Gravity batteries: Abandoned mines could store enough energy to power ‘the entire earth’

Repurposed underground mines could store enough energy to power “the entire earth” for a day, new research suggests.

During good weather conditions, wind and solar often generate more power than a grid can use. So where can we store this excess energy?

According to scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), abandoned mines could provide a solution.

This Danish artist has hidden giant, recycled wooden trolls across the world

Danish artist Thomas Dambo is known for using recycled wood to create large, ambitious sculptures.

After constructing 99 wooden trolls across Denmark, Belgium, Germany, the USA, Puerto Rico and South Korea, he’s just added a 100th to the series. But it’s in a mystery location.

To find the 100th troll you have to find all 99 others first. Could this be the world’s biggest treasure hunt?

Could this colourful plant-based film replace the need for air conditioning?

Energy-intensive, chemical-leaking air conditioning units take a devastating toll on our planet.

Now, scientists at Cambridge University in the UK are working on an eco-friendly alternative. Their invention consists of a plant-based film that stays cool when exposed to sunlight.

The material could someday be used to keep buildings and cars cool without the need for external power. Coming in a range of textures and bright iridescent colours, it’s aesthetically pleasing too.

How the EU’s new energy system could save you money

After almost two years of big energy bills dropping onto European doorsteps, the EU has proposed changes to its electricity market to ease pressure on consumers and boost renewable power production.

The proposed reform introduces new protections for households and small businesses as well as giving them more choices around their electricity contracts.

It also supports more stable, long-term contracts between EU industries or EU governments and renewable power producers to boost cheap, green power production and limit volatile prices caused by fossil fuels.

This company has come up with a cutting-edge way to recycle EV batteries

As the whole of Europe moves towards the energy transition, French mining group Eramet is developing techniques to recycle critical metals used in electric cars.

The aim is to reuse metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium to make new batteries.

It is all part of the effort to stick to The European Parliament’s new law banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035.

The rise of electric vehicles has led to a ban on new petrol stations in this US city

A US city is banning new petrol stations as lawmakers say they feel an “obligation” to tackle climate change.

Lousiville, near Denver in the state of Colorado, is home to around 21,000 people and currently has five stations. A sixth was recently approved but it could be the city’s last.

The new local legislation notes that “gasoline station bans may also be seen as promoting the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs), thus, reducing vehicle emissions and encouraging low-carbon and cleaner energy options for transportation.”

The richest country in Europe is celebrating three years of free public transport

If you’ve been living in the tiny EU state of Luxembourg you will already have had access to free public transport for the last three years.

Unsurprisingly on the anniversary of this novel and seemingly very expensive public initiative, almost everyone who uses trams, buses and trains in the tiny EU state says they’re happy with it.

“Since it’s free, it’s easier to make a decision quickly, to choose between public transport or a private car. This means that it is very positive for the environment and practical,” one man said whilst using the tram in Luxembourg City.

Good boy turned bad: Anxious dog found his forever home in an unlikely place

Inmates in a Tasmanian prison have adopted a dog that was so anxious no one else wanted him.

“Caesar would fret so much when he went out that he was actually only happy when he was here,” says prison officer Wayne Schulze.

Ten-year-old Caesar suffers from such extreme separation anxiety, he can’t be left alone for more than 30 minutes.

He is now enjoying a happy, secure life behind bars, showered with attention.

Shark in the water: This robot can collect 21,000 plastic bottles in a day

Richard Hardiman first came up with the idea for a water-cleaning robot after seeing two men struggle to catch rubbish from their boat in his home city of Cape Town, South Africa.

Inspired by a whale shark’s wide mouth – which scoops up whatever is in front of it – his company Ran Marine created the WasteShark.

“I liken it to a Roomba for water. It’s an autonomous machine that scoops up pollution out of water on the surface level,” says Richard.

Solar panels could be installed in the spaces between railway tracks in world first

Solar panels are being rolled out “like carpet” on railway tracks in Switzerland.

Swiss start-up Sun-Ways is installing panels near Buttes train station in the west of the country in May, pending sign-off from the Federal Office of Transport.

As the climate crisis demands that we speed up Europe’s energy transition, developers have been seeing new potential in unusual surfaces.

Roadsides, reservoirs and farms are all finding space for solar systems. And Germany’s Deutsche Bahn is also experimenting with adding solar cells to railway sleepers.

York Minster, Pompeii, the Vatican: How heritage sites are discreetly making solar power

Solar panels will soon be fitted on the roof of York Minster in northern England.

Faced with rising bills and climate concerns, the historic cathedral is turning to renewable energy – and following in the footsteps of other historic sites across Europe including the Vatican and Pompeii.

The 199 photovoltaic (PV) tiles, recently approved by the City of York Council, will generate 75,000 KwH of power annually – or enough electricity for around 25 average UK households. 

US to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

The USA has proposed placing the first ever federal limits on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water.

The chemicals have been found to be dangerous in amounts so small as to be undetectable.

Restricting them will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.

Family of big cats are now living a ‘tiger-worthy life’ after 15 years inside a train carriage

A year ago four Bengal tigers were rescued from a train carriage on a farm in Argentina.

The cats have adapted well to their new life and are enjoying roaming (and lazing) in their new home.

“Big cats are so resilient. It’s really wonderful to see how they are rehabilitated and they have started blooming and getting into their own personality,” says head caretaker at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, Hildegard Pilker.

French islanders celebrate sixth egg-laying of ‘Emma’, a 150kg green turtle

Three centuries of human settlement on Reunion Island near Mauritius were enough to eradicate baby turtles from the beaches until 2004.

But years of conservation work have once again made the French overseas department a hospitable place for the globally endangered species.

Weighing 150kg, 30-year-old Emma is one of two reproductive turtles in Reunion. She has recently given birth to her sixth round of eggs. 

‘Float-ovoltaics’: How floating solar panels in reservoirs could revolutionise global power

Floating solar panels on reservoirs could produce three times as much electricity as the entire EU, a new study has shown.

According to the study published in the journal Nature, covering 30 per cent of the surface of the world’s 115,000 reservoirs with solar could generate 9,434 terawatt hours of power annually.

That’s more than triple the energy production of the EU, which reached 2,785.44 terawatt hours in 2021.

EU agrees to push for worldwide phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28

European Union countries have agreed to push for the global phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28.

It is part of the bloc’s promise to support and accelerate the energy transition ahead of the climate summit in Dubai this November.

Faced with climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and the fallout of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the EU says that our dependence on fossil fuels leaves us vulnerable.

Family of big cats are now living a ‘tiger-worthy life’ after 15 years inside a train carriage

A year ago four Bengal tigers were found trapped a train carriage on a farm in Argentina, where they had been living for 15 years.

The two eldest animals had been left behind by a circus who no longer deemed them worthy of performing. 

The family of four were rescued and transported to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa last year and are now on the road to recovery.

Electric ferries and trucks could be charged like toothbrushes with this tech breakthrough

Electric ferries and vehicles could soon be charged wirelessly after an exciting technological breakthrough.

Until now, inductive charging – where there’s no contact between the device and conductor – has been unable to deliver the high power that electric vehicle batteries need. The method has only worked for small devices, like electric toothbrushes and some mobile phones.

But new components have enabled scientists at a Swedish university to show that the recharging of urban ferries and city buses is possible without human or robotic hands.

German mayors on why they’re giving climate activists (some of) what they want

Across Germany, cities are striking deals with climate activists to stop roads from being blocked by protests.

In Hannover, Mayor Belit Onay announced last week that he supports some of environmental protest group Last Generation’s demands. Not long after, the cities of Tübingen and Marburg followed suit.

“You can’t do that – glue yourself to the road. But if I get upset about it, I won’t get an inch further. If I speak to people and find a solution, one that meets the interests of the city in every way, that seems to me a sensible way to go,” says Marburg’s Dr Thomas Spies.

Floating solar and trash mountains: How the Netherlands became Europe’s solar power leader

The land-stretched Netherlands is finding innovative places to put new renewable energy capacity. 

A 25-metre-tall hill of household and business waste covered in solar panels generates enough electricity for about 2,500 households. Car parks, commercial lakes, sheep grazing fields, strawberry farms, disused churches, train stations and airfields are also lined with panels.

The country now has more than 48 million solar panels installed – an average of two per inhabitant.

Recycling dead solar panels isn’t easy. These Australian scientists might have found a solution

Solar panels are key to the clean energy transition. But 90 per cent currently end up in landfill once they have stopped working.

A team of researchers from Australia’s Deakin University are working to change that.

They’ve developed a new thermal and chemical technique to extract silicon from the obsolete panels.

Car-free future: Europe’s longest cycle tunnel aims to cut traffic in this Norwegian city

Norway’s Bergen is gearing up to open the world’s longest purpose-built pedestrian and bicycle tunnel.

On 15 April 2023, the 2.9km tunnel will open to the public with running and cycling events. It takes around 10 minutes to cycle through and 30 to 45 minutes to walk through.

Known as the Fyllingsdalstunnelen, the tunnel cuts through the Løvstakken mountain in the southwest Norwegian city, linking the residential areas of Fyllingsdalen and Mindemyren. Cyclists can continue on to the centre of Bergen using existing routes.

US got a record-breaking 40% of its energy from carbon-free sources in 2022, report reveals

Carbon-free sources supplied over 40 per cent of the US’s total energy output in 2022, a new report reveals. This is an all-time high.

The figure combines renewable generation – such as solar, wind and hydro – and nuclear power. Nuclear and hydropower remained at similar levels to previous years, so the majority of this increase comes from wind and solar.

Scotland becomes the first country to ban the high-emissions anaesthetic desflurane

Scotland has banned the inhaled anaesthetic desflurane due to its devastating impact on the climate. It is the first country in the world to do so.

The gas, which is used to put patients to sleep safely during surgery, has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Various hospitals in other parts of the UK have already begun phasing out the anaesthetic. NHS England plans to stop using desflurane completely by early 2024, except in exceptional

Catching poachers was almost impossible until this Dutch company invented a new type of camera

Poachers are the long-standing enemy of wildlife conservation.

In national parks across Africa it can be almost impossible to catch them red-handed. That’s where Dutch tech company Hack the Planet comes in.

“We developed a smart camera system that can, in real time, track down people or animals in huge remote areas,” explains Hack the Planet’s engineer, Thijs Suijten.

Positive environmental stories from February 2023

First pangolin born in Europe ‘doing well’ after zookeepers fed her cat milk

A Chinese pangolin has been born at a European zoo for the first time.

Welcomed into the world at Prague Zoo, the pangolin baby is the first of her critically endangered species to be born in captivity in Europe.

The tiny scaly-skinned mammal – nicknamed ‘Little Cone’ because she resembles a spruce cone – is doing well after some initial troubles, the park in February.

How breeding low-emissions sheep could bring down farming’s methane footprint

In a bid to tackle climate change, British farmers are trying to breed low-methane emitting sheep.

When sheep fart and belch, they release methane gas. Over a 20 year period, this powerful substance is about 80 times worse powerful than carbon dioxide for trapping heat in the atmosphere, thereby causing global warming.

But farmers are turning to genetic engineering to bring these emissions down.

Funga: How does the world’s first fungi-powered carbon removal project work?

How do we support our trees, while at the same time tightening up the offset schemes that rely on them?

The answer lies in a “galaxy below our feet”, according to the enterprising ecologists behind Funga, the world’s first company using the fungal microbiome to create commercial carbon offsetting credits.

Research has shown that the reintroduction of wild soil microbial biodiversity can accelerate plant growth by an average of 64 per cent.

World’s oldest European hedgehog could provide hope for the future of the species

The world’s oldest European hedgehog has been found at a Danish volunteer project.

The posthumous discovery was the result of the Danish Hedgehog Project, a citizen science initiative that asked volunteers to collect dead hedgehogs in the name of conservation research.

They were shocked to discover that one of the hogs was 16 years old, making it the oldest scientifically documented European hedgehog ever found.

“If a hedgehog can reach an age of 16 years, there is still hope for the population,” says Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen, who led the University of Oxford research project.

Heat pumps avoided 8m tonnes of CO2 emissions in Europe last year

A record number of heat pumps were sold last year in Europe.

Data from Europe shows that 3 million units replaced around 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2022 – the equivalent of avoiding 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

It means that heat pumps are now helping Europe to avoid 54 megatonnes of CO2 or roughly the equivalent annual emissions of Greece.

Live in an apartment? This new solar technology cut could your bills in half

A housing block in Wales has been fitted with a ‘world-first’ solar system that connects all the flats to the same rooftop panels.

The residents of Odet Court in Cardiff are set to save 50 per cent off their energy bills thanks to the new technology, which can meet up to 75 per cent of each flat’s electricity demand.

Australian manufacturer Allume Energy claims that its ‘SolShare’ model is the only technology that enables solar energy from a single rooftop system to be shared by multiple homes in the same building.

Baby kangaroo poo could be the secret to stopping cows’ methane farts, researchers say

Kangaroo poo could be a surprising ally in the fight against methane-spewing cow farts.

It may sound like science fiction from the brain of a 10 year old, but scientists at Washington State University are putting the roo poo to the test.

The researchers added a microbial culture made from baby kangaroo faeces plus a known methane inhibitor to a cow stomach simulator. The result? It produced acetic acid instead of methane.

Unlike the greenhouse gas, acetic acid isn’t emitted as flatulence and actually benefits cows by aiding muscle growth. So it’s something of a win-win situation.

Light pollution: City of London to ask high-rise buildings to switch off their lights at night

London’s night-time skyline might soon look very different, as city authorities draft rules requiring skyscrapers to dim their lights overnight.

The initiative will “cut light pollution and save energy”, promised the City of London Corporation, the financial district governing body.

If the new plans are adopted, buildings in the Square Mile – the London area where most of its high rise buildings are clustered – will be asked to switch off unnecessary building lights after dark.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: ‘Dream’ shot of elusive snow leopard wins people’s choice award

An elusive snow leopard is the winning subject of the latest Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award.

It’s not easy to capture a ‘ghost of the mountain’ as they’re known in the Indian Himalayas.

German photographer Sascha Fonseca embarked on a three-year bait-free camera trap project in order to pose the big cat so perfectly against the pink and purple sunset.

‘Tipping point’: Renewable energy to become the world’s top source of electricity by 2025

According to the International Energy Agency’s Electricity Market Report 2023, 90 per cent of new electricity demand between now and 2025 will be covered by clean energy sources like wind and solar, along with nuclear energy.

This growth in output means that renewables will become the world’s largest electricity source within three years – providing 35 per cent of the world’s electricity and overtaking coal.

Climate win: Australia blocks new coal mine 10km from Great Barrier Reef

Australia has blocked a proposal for a new coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef.

In February, the Australian government declined to grant permission for a new thermal coal project just off the coast of central Queensland.

The news comes after public outcry over potential risks to the UNCECO World Heritage-listed reef.

Beavers are returning to London – and they might protect a local train station from flooding

Beavers will return to London for the first time in 400 years – and they could stop flooding at a local train station.

Widely hunted for their fur and meat, beavers went extinct in England during the 16th century. But after a decade of successful breeding programs, the semi-aquatic mammal is back. Now, they are being reintroduced to London.

Switzerland’s solar dam: Why are mountains and snow the perfect mix for solar energy?

A snaking wall of solar panels has been attached to Switzerland’s Lake Muttsee dam, helping the landlocked nation maximise its green energy production in the winter months.

Over 7,800 feet (2,400 metres) above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the dam’s almost 5,000 solar panels produce 3.3 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, enough to supply around 700 houses. 

Installing solar panels on these family homes led to spare cash and more free time

Back in 2014, seven households of UK social housing tenants were surprised to be offered PV panels by their local authority.

Despite their initial scepticism, the families took ownership of the opportunity to become prosumers – both producing and consuming rooftop solar energy – gaining cheaper access to electricity and sharing it with their communities.

Watch the hunt for an elusive grey wolf once thought to be extinct in France

The European grey wolf was once widespread across the French countryside. By the 19th century, it only occupied half of its historical territory. Humans reduced their habitat and hunted the species almost to extinction. Then it disappeared entirely in 1937.

But now the number of wolves is growing again in France with its population on the verge of exceeding 1,000 individuals.

World’s oldest dog narrowly escaped death as a puppy, owner reveals

A Portuguese pup has smashed the record for the oldest dog ever.

30-year-old Bobi has lived his entire life in the rural village of Conqueiros, in Leiria, western Portugal, according to Guinness World Records.

Owner Leonel Costa has revealed Bobi’s rocky start to life and his secret to longevity.

From a beef farm gone vegan to Scottish seaweed: All the winners of PETA’s new Farming Awards

Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. To help UK consumers in their search for climate and animal-friendly foods, rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched its first ever Farming Awards.

Focusing on ethical, animal-free farming, the awards spotlight producers for their eco-friendly practices and products, from a seaweed farm in Scotland to a beef farmer who recently moved all his cows to a sanctuary.

This French village enjoys ‘no bills’ after building wind turbines and solar panels

Electricity bills rose across France on 1 February and steadily over the past year. But in tiny Muttersholtz – a French village with just 2,200 inhabitants – the price-hike was greeted with some nonchalance.

Their municipal bills were already near zero thanks to pioneering use of solar power and hydropower.

Positive environmental stories from January 2023

Major milestone for EU energy: Wind and solar produced more electricity than gas in 2022

Wind and solar power produced more of the EU’s electricity than fossil gas for the first time last year.

The renewable energies were responsible for a record fifth (22 per cent) of the bloc’s electricity, a new report from clean energy think tank Ember shows.

Portugal is trading Cape Verde’s national debt for climate investments

Portugal has signed an agreement to swap Cape Verde’s debt for environmental investments.

Such ‘debt-for-nature’ deals are emerging in other countries as a way to reduce the impact of climate change. They also touch on the dilemma of who should foot the bill for climate change mitigation.

Cape Verde owes around €140 million to the Portuguese state and over €400 million to its banks and other entities. Ultimately, this will now end up in an environmental and climate fund established by Cape Verde.

Bees could be ensured safe flight around Europe via ‘buzz lines’

Creating a network of ecological corridors is one of a number of measures in the European Commission’s ‘New Deal for Pollinators’.

One in three bee, butterfly and hoverfly species are currently disappearing in the EU, so we urgently need to reverse their decline by 2030.

The deal aims to do that by targeting their key adversaries: pesticides, pollution, invasive alien species, changing land use and climate change.

Bill Gates is taking on cow burps by backing an Australian climate tech start-up

Bill Gates is funding an Australian start-up that hopes to combat methane-emitting cow burps.

Agriculture is the main culprit for human-caused methane emissions, one of the biggest drivers of global warming.

Australian climate technology start-up Rumin8 wants to tackle this issue by feeding cows seaweed.

Designer pets that suffer ‘miserable’ health problems could soon be banned in the Netherlands

The breeding of designer pets was banned in the Netherlands in 2014. Now the government is looking to close a loophole to stop the import and trade of these breeds.

“Today we are taking the big step towards a Netherlands where no pet has to suffer from his or her appearance,” the country’s Minister of Culture, Nature and Food Quality, Piet Adema, said in a statement.

The Minister said he is looking to ban the ownership of designer breeds as well as photos of them in advertising and on social media.

More than a fifth of energy used in the European Union in 2021 came from renewables

New Eurostat data shows that solar, wind and other ‘green’ sources contributed 21.8 per cent to the EU’s total energy consumption.

Although this was a 0.3 per cent drop on 2020, the report shows that Europe’s energy infrastructure is still heading in the right direction, spurred on by recent global events.

Last month, the International Energy Agency revealed that the world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the last 20.

Scientists name three easy and cheap solutions that could drastically cut emissions

New research has named three small interventions that could trigger a cascade of decarbonisation and may be the fastest way to drive global action.

These positive tipping points could have a snowball effect in a good way, drastically cutting carbon emissions in some of the world’s most polluting sectors and giving us “plausible grounds” for hope.

Paris makes headway on net zero as commuters cycle to work

Paris commuters took advantage of the capital’s newly expanded network of bicycle lanes to bypass public transport disruptions resulting from a nationwide strike.

Bike lane traffic has often surged during recent strikes. The last Paris metro strike on 10 November boosted bike lane usage by 80 per cent from average daily use that month. 

In a bid to make Paris a ‘cycling city’ and move towards carbon neutrality, Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo has invested more than €150 million into new bike infrastructure in recent years.

France votes to ban deep-sea mining in its waters

The French Parliament has voted in favour of banning deep-sea mining in its waters, in an emphatic move against the controversial practice.

Deep-sea mining would see heavy machinery being used on the ocean floor to suck up small rocks containing rare metals. Though it’s still at an exploratory stage, companies are very interested in the cobalt, nickel and manganese which could be extracted for car batteries.

But scientists are concerned about the potentially devastating impact on marine ecosystems. As well as the climate, given the vast amounts of CO2 stored at these depths.

Nicholas Thierry, the Green MP who tabled the motion, welcomed the vote as a “victory for the seabed and environmentalists.”

Edinburgh has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty to combat climate change

Edinburgh has become the first European capital to endorse a plant-based diet to tackle the climate emergency.

The city council has signed on to the Plant Based Treaty, an initiative which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture.

The treaty could eventually see the council introduce some carbon labelling on menus and transition to more plant based meals in schools and council buildings.

Regular trips to the park could reduce people’s reliance on antidepressants

Visiting green spaces can dramatically lower mental health drug use, research has found.

Dropping into a park, community garden or other urban green space between three and four times a week can cut people’s chances of taking medication for anxiety or depression by a third.

The positive impact – documented by researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare – also extends to physical health. Visiting green spaces reduces the chances of a city resident having to take asthma or high blood pressure medication by a third and a quarter, respectively.

Companies will soon have to prove that they really are taking climate action, under draft EU law

A draft European Union law will require companies to back up green claims with evidence.

The proposal will clamp down on companies promoting their products as ‘climate neutral’ or ‘containing recycled materials’ if such labels are not substantiated. It aims to fight misleading environmental advertisements.

“By fighting greenwashing, the proposal will ensure a level playing field for businesses when marketing their greenness,” the draft document states.

German solar power firm sees soaring demand as homeowners seek to cut energy bills

Soaring demand for home solar power systems in Germany could boost revenues at Solarwatt by more than 50 per cent this year to €500 million. 

By installing solar panels, batteries and heat pumps, homeowners are seeking to cut their energy bills after huge price hikes last year when Russia cut fossil fuel exports to the West.

“We are a life-long supplier to people who want to become self-reliant on renewable energy,” says solarwatt chief executive Detlef Neuhaus. The company should reach profitability this year.

Finland: Wind power increased by 75% last year, boosting energy security and climate goals

Finland’s wind power capacity increased by 75 per cent last year, according to the Finnish Wind Energy Association (FWPA).

With almost half of Finland’s wind power domestically owned, the renewable energy source is providing a significant lifeline during the current energy crisis.

The growth in renewables is also helping Finland achieve its ambitious climate goals. The country hopes to be one of the first in Europe to reach net zero, setting a 2035 target – well ahead of the EU’s 2050 goal.

‘Love Island’: Hit UK TV show to promote sustainable fashion in latest series

Hit UK reality TV show ‘Love Island’ is back on 16 January – and pre-loved fashion is set to steal the show once again.

In 2022, the series ditched its fast fashion image by partnering with eBay – the first ever pre-loved fashion partnership on a TV show. Clothing from eBay’s online second hand marketplace was worn by contestants as they descended on an exotic location to find love.

Searches for ‘pre-loved clothing’ soared by 1,600 per cent on eBay after the show aired.

New solar-powered technology can transform plastic waste into sustainable fuels and cosmetics

Scientists have developed a way of transforming plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels using solar power.

The system, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could address plastic pollution and become a “game-changer” in the development of a circular economy.

Ozone layer on track to recover within decades, UN reports

Human emissions of certain chemicals cause a hole to open up in the ozone layer each year over the Antarctic. This affects the ability of the ozone to protect life on Earth from the sun’s harmful radiation.

Now, the 1987 Montreal Protocol, under which 197 countries pledged to phase out ozone depleting chemicals, is paying off.

A UN-backed panel of experts, presenting at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting yesterday, said the ozone would heal by around 2066 over the Antarctic, by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2040 for the rest of the world. 

Antalya goes solar: How this Turkish city is transforming its energy supply

A large solar power plant has been built in Dağbeli, on the outskirts of Antalya, Turkey, to provide free energy to local farmers.

Local growers in the fruit and vegetable farming hub say they once refrained from irrigating their crops properly because of the high energy prices. Some 60,000 people now benefit from the support scheme, which gives farmers the means to run irrigation systems and increase crop production.

Tobacco companies must pay for clean up of discarded cigarettes in Spain

Spain has ruled that tobacco companies will have to pay to clean up cigarette butts.

Millions of cigarette ends are tossed onto Spain’s streets and beaches by smokers each year.

The new environmental regulations also include bans on single-use plastic cutlery and plastic straws. The rulings are part of an EU-wide drive to reduce waste and promote recycling.

England bans some single-use plastics

Single-use plastic items including cutlery and plates will soon be banned in England, the government has announced.

Each year, the country uses around 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of cutlery, according to government estimates. Only 10 per cent of these are recycled.

Now, environment secretary Thérèse Coffey has confirmed that such items will be outlawed in England.

Circular economy: Human hair recycled to clean waterways in Belgium

A Belgian NGO is using human hair clippings to absorb environmental pollutants.

Clippings are collected from hairdressers across the country then turned into matted squares. These can be used to absorb oil and other hydrocarbons polluting the environment. 

The mats can be placed in drains to soak up pollution in water before it reaches a river. They can also be used to deal with pollution problems due to flooding and to clean up oil spills.

Lula plans to end deforestation and make Brazil a green superpower

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president in January marking a new era for the country’s environmental policies.

Lula’s plans for government provide a stark contrast to far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro, whose four years in office were characterised by backsliding on environmental protections.

The new president says he wants to turn Brazil, one of the world’s top food producers, into a green superpower.

Our favourite positive environmental story from 2022

World’s oldest two-headed tortoise celebrates his 25th birthday

In the wild, a two-headed tortoise would not ordinarily survive long since it can’t retract its heads into its shell to shelter from predators. But this month, Janus – named after the two-faced Roman God – became the world’s oldest two-headed tortoise at 25.

Lovingly cared for at Geneva Natural History Museum, he is treated to a personalised care regime – including daily massages and green tea baths – that keeps him in good health.

For more good news on the environment from last year, check out all of Euronews Green’s positive environmental stories from 2022.

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