10 Environmental Moments of 2017
Well, 2017 has been an ‘interesting’ year dominated by Brexit and the US president. There’s been lots going on in the environmental arena too; I reflect here on just some of them.
Climate change – hurricanes, floods & wildfires
You can’t have missed all the news about the extreme weather experienced across the globe: Hurricane season in USA & Caribbean, dreadful flooding in Bangladesh, thick smog in China & Iran, wildfires in California. Thousands have been killed & millions affected, losing their homes, farmland & livelihoods; people’s health is deteriorating & business is being impacted. Climate change is just making these natural phenomena worse & more frequent.
The rise of renewables in the UK has progressed, despite cuts to feed-in tariffs, this summer providing more than half of UK electricity for first time. National Grid reported in June that power from wind, solar, hydro & wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy (include nuclear it’s up to 72%). Indeed on Christmas Eve, 25% of UK electricity came from wind. This is great news in the work to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation.
Coffee cup recycling
With <1% of disposable coffee cups recycled in the UK, the big coffee chains were under the spotlight in Hugh’s War on Waste TV programme. A partnership between Costa & Veolia will try to solve the UK’s waste problem, working in collaboration with designers, manufacturers, vendors and consumers. To highlight the scale & opportunity, a campaign by Hubbub managed to recycle half a million coffee cups in London in just one month.
Blue Planet II
David Attenborough does it again! My Twitter feed was filled with comments about the BBC documentary, particularly on marine litter & single-use plastics. Can we use this to further engage with the wider population? Because, if the current trend continues, by 2050 plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish!
Environmental professionals understand the need to think long term but often have difficulty convincing management, financiers & politicians. A survey on megatrends report explored the business impact of five global forces of development: climate change; technology and innovation; population growth and social change; urbanisation and smart cities; and economic growth.
In an attempt to tackle local air pollution, France and the UK have both committed to banning the sale of new petrol & diesel cars by 2040, while cities such as Paris, Copenhagen and Oxford can be more ambitious. Tesla launched its Model 3, while BMW this month announced that electric cars had hit their 100,000 sales target. Many manufacturers are expanding their EV range or even committing to cease petrol/diesel cars completely.
We’re really getting to understand the potential of the Circular Economy nowadays. UK fashion designer Stella McCartney worked with the Ellen MacArthur foundation on a campaign to stop the global fashion industry consuming a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.
Government department Defra is planning a stronger 25 Year Environment Plan. However Brexit throws up so many uncertainties, we just don’t know where environmental legislation will stand from 2019 onwards. There are opportunities in amongst the challenges.
Paris Agreement – Who’s out &, more importantly, who’s in?
The US government intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But I was so pleased to see cities, states & businesses (covering > 130 million Americans & $6 trillion of the U.S. economy) sign the We Are Still In declaration to deliver strong climate action. And, by 2019, some 1,200 companies aim to have set Science Based Targets in line with these goals.
ISO 14001 increasing
The latest figures (2016) were released showing numbers for ISO 14001 certificates had risen 8% to 346,189 worldwide, although in the UK down slightly (6%), with 16,761 certificates. Only 11% of UK certificates were for the new ISO 14001:2015 standard, showing that companies are slow on the uptake. With the September 2018 deadline looming, it is important that organisations make the transition now or risk losing their certification.
So, my general Optimism Level is set to “reasonable”. Some good news & plenty of challenges, but ultimately opportunities – for business, for politicians, for individuals.
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