Good News Environmental Stories for 2023
Seven positive and uplifting stories for you. Sometimes we need to hear good news to cheer us up, be optimistic and to keep fighting for the better future that we deserve.
Electric Vehicles (UK)
OK, we are not doing as well as Norway, but the UK is doing OK. In December, an amazing 34% of new car sales were pure electric with a further 23% hybrid. Overall, 17% of new car sales in 2022 were pure electric. This has been driven by generous tax breaks for company car drivers which will eventually trickle down to the wider population when these new cars get sold on.
The UK Government has proposed a mandate on manufacturers to sell an increasing proportion of electric cars each year, starting with 22% in 2024 and rising to 100% by 2030. Anybody else notice that we are already ahead of the 2024 target?
Solar Car Parks (France)
France is bringing in a law making it compulsory for solar canopies to be built on all car parks with more than 80 spaces. This applies to new car parks and existing ones, with existing car parks having between 3 to 5 years to comply. Solar panels must be installed over at least half the car park surface area. This should create 11GW of green electricity, the equivalent to 10 nuclear power stations. And all using ‘surplus’ land for solar.
Now solar pv will work better in France than Scotland, but there is already an electric vehicle charging station in Stirling, near my home, with solar panels on the canopy.
Offshore Wind (Scotland)
Scotland has huge ambitions for offshore wind. Developers submitted proposals for 25GW of offshore wind under the recent Scotwind leasing round. These proposals are a mixture of turbines fixed to the shallow seafloor and floating ones in deeper water. This is in addition to the 10GW already in the pipeline and a further 4GW proposed to directly power offshore oil and gas rigs.
The electricity generated will be much larger than Scotland’s current demand for electricity. If they are all built, then it will enable renewable energy to supply the increased demand from electric vehicles and heat pumps with plenty to spare to create renewable hydrogen for use in shipping or industry or perhaps export it to power hungry Germany.
War in Ukraine
This is a dreadful situation, but it has made us acutely aware of the cost of energy and the security implications. After the oil crises of the 1970’s, Denmark made a strategic shift from oil-based heating to district heat networks. Meanwhile the UK invested in the North Sea to extract our own oil and gas. Whilst we benefitted from this decision for many years this resource is now dwindling. Meanwhile our housing stock is hopelessly badly insulated as we relied on cheap natural gas to heat our homes.
This crisis has forced us to rethink. We need to insulate our buildings. Solar panels are now cost effective on many of our roofs without any subsidy. Every European government is taking action to accelerate the move to renewable energy. For example, Portugal has already phased out all coal, and now plans a 100% renewable electricity network by 2030.
Lithium, cobalt, copper, graphite and nickel are required to build electric car batteries. It is environmentally destructive to mine these resources. Many are mined in politically unstable or unreliable locations or young children work in the mines, for example in the Congo.
But we have been here before. I remember people saying that we couldn’t have catalytic converters on all our cars as there was not enough platinum. Now the USA is using market forces to instigate change. From 2029 only electric vehicles with 80% of minerals sourced from “USA or allied nations” will be eligible for full tax credits. This will encourage recycling and new local investment in mines but, more importantly, will act as a catalyst for innovation: new batteries with less of these minerals, or totally new designs such as solid-state batteries or perhaps batteries that use silicon (from sand).
River Restoration (global)
Rivers were once seen as something to be tamed. Build dams and artificial banks to reduce flooding. Divert water for irrigation, after all water is ‘free’. Straighten and dredge rivers to ‘reclaim’ agricultural land and to enable transport by ships or barges. But these ‘improvements’ all cause adverse impacts on the environment which then impacts on humans.
There is now a global movement to physically remove many weirs and even dams. Dams can have a terrible ecological impact on fish migration and on sediment transportation downstream. The Colorado River completely dried up due to dams and diversion of water to irrigation, leaving a dusty delta in Mexico. Now there is an agreement between Mexico and the USA to allow ‘pulses’ of water to flow downstream all the way to the sea. A small step in the right direction.
Heat Pumps (home)
My own ‘experiment’ in fitting a heat pump to replace natural gas has been a success. Not only did it heat our house during a particularly cold spell in December, it also did so at around the same cost as natural gas. And that was before I moved to a new time of day electricity tariff with cheap and expensive rates. I now heat up the house as much as possible during the cheap rates.
I can also charge up my battery during the winter direct from the grid at a cheap rate. In the summer this won’t be necessary, I will charge the battery from ‘free’ solar pv. An all-electric future is now achievable.
Sources of Good News:
These ‘good news’ stories come from a variety of sources including Yale Environment and Future Crunch. Future Crunch issues a newsletter full of ‘good news’ stories covering climate and energy, nature, health and human rights. Across the world—on the news, on social media, even talking to one another—we dwell on sensational and bad news stories. We forget, or are not told, that a lot of things are improving.
Neil’s book, Carbon Choices, on the common-sense solutions to our climate and nature crises, is available direct from http://www.carbonchoices.uk/index.php/buy. Neil is donating one third of profits to rewilding projects.
Republished with permission from http://www.carbonchoices.uk/index.php/blog/blog-40