10 Positives In Environmental News From Early 2021

By Patrick Donohue

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Photo Cred. Erin Waineo)

Good news can be hard to come by in any year, much less 12+ months into a pandemic. Has it really been a year? For the record, we’re skipping the COVID birthday cake, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get back to blowing out candles. With all the doom and gloom flooding mainstream news cycles, we here at Going Green thought it a good idea to share some uplifting news from the first few months of 2021. So, without further ado, here’s a shot of sunshine!

1) We rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement

President Biden signs an Executive order that brings the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement (Photo Cred. VCG)

Perhaps the biggest development in US Climate news to begin 2021, in Mid-February the United States formally rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. This decision, a long-standing campaign promise of the Biden-Harris ticket, overturns President Trump’s controversial decision to pull the United States out of the pact in 2017. The agreement, signed by 195 countries, resolves to gradually reduce carbon emissions through 2050 and establishes a framework by which prosperous countries commit substantial funding to develop carbon-neutral infrastructure in emerging economies.

2) President Biden announced a sweeping $2 Trillion climate plan

Wasting no time in his first 100 days in office, the Biden administration announced in early February a major infrastructure plan designed to stimulate the economy and provide jobs while targeting carbon emissions. The ambitious plan outlines a series of projects designed to accelerate the use of renewable energies in transport, construction, and utilities, including a plan to bring our energy sector to carbon neutral by 2035.

3) The Keystone XL Pipeline was canceled

Projected route of the canceled Keystone XL pipeline (Photo Cred. The Economist)

Reversing an executive order made during the Trump Administration, President Biden issued a directive to cancel the project in the first week of his term. The controversial pipeline was projected to move an estimated 830,000 gallons of crude tar sands daily from Alberta to Texan refineries. In the decade since the pipeline was announced, it had been endlessly protested by environmental and civil rights groups who cited threats to drinking water, ecosystems, encroachment on native lands, emissions regulation, and the potential for major oil spills. For many,  the decision to cancel the pipeline is emblematic of a larger plan to taper off American reliance on fossil fuels.

4) Australia announced its first-ever Plastics Plan

Plastic waste washed up on an Australian Shore (Photo Cred. Tangaroa Blue IG)

In an effort to combat its growing plastics problem, the Australian Federal government announced a sweeping plan targeting various problem areas, including forbidding plastic use on beaches, polystyrene for single-use applications, and banning dubiously labeled ‘Biodegradable Plastic’. Let’s hope other developed countries take notice!

5) Canada announces $2.75 Billion plan for EV public transportation projects 

A newly installed Electric Vehicle charging station in Ontario (Photo Cred. Suncor Energy)

Hoping to promote job growth and kickstart Canada’s EV manufacturing sector, this sizable investment comes as part of a larger $14.9 billion infrastructure plan announced by Prime Minister Trudeau. Already, 300 EV buses have been purchased by Canada for use in metropolitan areas (with more to come), and a large portion of the new investment is to be spent securing and installing electric charging stations for civilian use.

6) Singapore built a cutting-edge solar farm at sea

Floating solar panels in action (Photo Cred. Smartcitiesworld.net)

For years, Singapore has sought to provide its citizens with affordable renewable energy, but with limited land resources, the nation has all but exhausted its options for terrestrial development. Turning their sights to the sea, the Singapore government has constructed a floating solar farm capable of producing 5 megawatts of electricity annually (about enough to power 1,400 homes). While Singapore still has a long way to go to bring it to net-zero, this project will provide a blueprint for many more floating farms in the years to come.

7) The Empire State Building is now completely powered by Wind

The Empire State Building goes green! (Photo Cred. 6sqft)

The symbol of New York City–along with 13 other buildings owned by the Empire State Realty Trust–is now 100% powered by renewable wind energy. All told, this adoption of renewables amounts to around 450 million pounds of carbon dioxide saved (or two central parks worth of carbon capture).  What’s more, the switch is projected to save the trust about $800,000 in utility costs annually. You can be sure other commercial real estate developers are taking notice!

8) GM announces all-electric fleet by 2035 

The 2021 Electric Hummer (Photo Cred. NPR)

Embracing a business model that they (rightfully) believe is the future of automobiles, America’s largest automobile company announced a hard target of 2035 in which to phase out traditional internal combustion engines. Seeking to put their money where their mouth is, the company announced that more than half of their budget for capital spending and R&D would be devoted to the development of electric motors and autonomous vehicle programs. People in motion indeed.

9) An Executive Order outlined a plan to protect 30% of US lands/oceans.

Map of United States’ protected lands (Photo Cred. US Department of the Interior)

In a gesture of broad conservationism, the Biden administration announced an order which aims to protect 30% of federal lands from commercial development by 2030. The ambitious plan is aimed to preserve biodiversity and prevent further ecosystem destruction in critical areas. Currently, only about 12% of federal land is protected.  

10) Beyond Meat signed a 3 Year partnership with McDonald’s and Yum! Brands

Beyond Meat partners with McDonalds. (Photo Cred. vegnews.com)

According to the Humane Society, the farm animal sector annually accounts for: 9% of human-induced emissions of C02, 37% of emissions of methane, and 65% of emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), which has nearly 300 times the GWP of CO2. Fast food is undoubtedly a major consumer of beef, and for years, many animal rights activists have raised complaints about quality control standards and lack of plant-based options at fast-food chains. This partnership represents a giant leap forward for plant-based meat alternatives, which hopefully become a fixture on fast food menus.

Wishing you a happy spring from all of us here at Going Green!! Stay hydrated, wear environmentally friendly sunscreen, recycle, and most importantly, remember to smile.

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