The year 2016 is considered to be one of the worst years in recent history – with political upheavals the world over, terror attacks, celebrity deaths, environmental disasters and so on.
However, it has also ushered in landmark victories for the environment which hopefully sets a precedent for bigger victories this 2017. Five of the biggest environmental triumphs include:
1. A united world against climate change
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force on 04 November 2016, when 77 countries regardless of size, economy and power joined together to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.1 This breakthrough was propelled by the historic joint ratification of the agreement by China and the United States, the top two emitter of greenhouse gases. To-date, 122 parties2 have already ratified the agreement and committed to specific global climate actions.
Despite the threat of President-elect Donald Trump’s possible withdrawal or non-action on U.S. commitments, the Marrakech climate summit issued a message, “Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond.”3
Another important breakthrough is that 48 countries comprising the Climate Vulnerable Forum vowed to make their energy production 100 percent renewable between 2030 to 2050. This decision was reached during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) in Marrakech, Morocco.
2. A victory for indigenous rights and climate change at Standing Rock
After nearly a year of peaceful protests led by the Sioux tribe of North Dakota and violent police response, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the issuance of an easement or federal permit to its developer, Energy Transfer Partners, on 04 December 2016.4 This effectively puts to a halt the $3.7-billion, 1,168-mile oil Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project, designed to transport crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to Illinois across the Missouri River. This river is the main water source of the Standing Rock Sioux. Any spill, even the smallest leak can contaminate the water. Furthermore, the construction will desecrate the tribe’s artifacts and burial sites and will contribute to the U.S. oil infrastructure.5
However, the fight of the Standing Rock Sioux is expected to continue. Trump has announced his strong support for the DAPL project and its completion.6 According to reports, Trump owned $15,000 to $50,000 worth of Energy Transfer Partners’ stock which he has since sold. The company’s CEO has also made donations to the Trump campaign.7
3. Hong Kong to impose Ivory Trade ban in 2021
Hong Kong will finally phase out its ivory trade in five years. This move has been cautiously welcomed by activists who seek to speed up the ban.
According to reports, Hong Kong is an “important transit and consumption hub for illegal ivory to China and the rest of Asia, due to its role as a major importer, trader and manufacturer before the trade was banned internationally in 1990.”8 The legal ivory trading serves as a cover up to the illegal trade. Hence, the ban is expected to eliminate all kinds of ivory trading.
The ban will be done in three phases. Phase one will institute bans on imports and re-export of hunting trophies and ivory carvings; Phase two will ban the trade of ivory products acquired before 1975; and Phase three will outlaw all domestic sales, including those obtained before the global trade ban in 1990.9
4. Concrete government actions against disposable plastics
Governments are now seriously taking action against single-use plastics. Bans, charges and taxes are being implemented on disposable single-use plastic bags. In the U.S., 20 states and 132 cities have banned the use of plastic bags as of July 2014.10 The European Union has also passed a law to reduce single-use plastic consumption by 80 percent in the next 15 years.11 European countries have already implemented their own bans and fees on the use of plastic bags.
Meanwhile, France is the first in the world to ban the use of disposable plastic cups and plates. French law will “require all disposable tableware to be made from 50 percent biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January 2020.” This number will increase by 60 percent in January 2025.12
5. Supermarket giants remove unsustainable tuna from its shelves
Tesco and Waitrose, UK’s supermarket giants, have stepped up in their support of sustainable fishing practices. Tesco has already removed from its shelves certain John West products for failing to meet sustainability standards.13 Waitrose has also threatened to follow Tesco’s lead if John West fails to clean up its act.14
According to a Greenpeace study, 98 percent of John West tuna products have been caught using destructive fishing methods, such as with nets that use Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that kill other marine life, such as sharks and sea turtles. This is a violation of John West’s promise in 2011 that its tuna products will be 100 percent sustainable by 2016.15 To-date, only 2 percent of its canned tuna is caught through sustainable means.
It is expected to be another challenging year for environmentalists, conservationists and climate change activists everywhere. Hopefully these environmental victories will continue to be replicated in 2017.
Do you think there are other important environmental triumphs in 2016 that should be celebrated? Let us know by commenting below.
- Cunanan, P.M. 2016. The World Unites to Address Climate Change. EcoWarriorPrincess, 21 October 2016. Available at: http://ecowarriorprincess.net/2016/10/the-world-unites-to-address-climate-change/. ↩
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification. UNFCC. Available at: http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9444.php. ↩
- United Nations. 2016. Marrakech Action Proclamation for our Climate and Sustainable Development. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (no date). Available at: http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/marrakech_nov_2016/application/pdf/marrakech_action_proclamation.pdf ↩
- Beumont, H. 2016. Pipeline Halted. VICE News, 04 December 2016. Available at: https://news.vice.com/story/obama-administration-stops-dakota-access-pipeline-in-historic-decision. ↩
- Cunanan, P.M. 2016. Dakota Access Pipeline Protests: A New Frontier in the Fight for Indigenous Rights & Climate Change. EcoWarriorPrincess, 06 November 2016. Available at: http://ecowarriorprincess.net/2016/11/dakota-access-pipeline-protests-new-frontier-fight-indigenous-rights-climate-change/ ↩
- Schwartz, R. 2016. Donald Trump finally weighed in on the Dakota Access pipeline – and it’s not good. Fusion, 02 December 2016. Available at: http://fusion.net/story/373489/donald-trump-dakota-access-energy-transfer-partners/. ↩
- Pramuk, J. 2016. Trump sells his stake in Dakota Access Pipeline developer. CNBC, 05 December 2016. Available at: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/05/trump-sells-his-stake-in-dakota-access-pipeline-developer.html. ↩
- Master, F. et al. 2016. Hongkong timetables total ban on ivory trading for first time. Reuters, 27 June 2016. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-ivory-idUSKCN0ZD171. ↩
- Kao, E. 2016. Hongkong Plan to ban ivory trade by 2021 receives Executive Council go-ahead. South China Morning Post, 21 December 2016. Available at: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2056411/hong-kong-plan-ban-ivory-trade-2021-receives. ↩
- Grocery Box Company Ltd. No date. List by Country; ‘Bag Charges, Taxes and Bans.’ BigFatBags. Available at: http://www.bigfatbags.co.uk/bans-taxes-charges-plastic-bags/. ↩
- Cereceda, R. 2016. France bans plastic bags, what about the rest of the EU? EuroNews, 30 June 2016. Available at: http://www.euronews.com/2016/06/30/france-bans-plastic-bags-what-about-the-rest-of-the-eu. ↩
- Eastaugh, S. 2016. France becomes first country to ban plastic cups and plates. CNN, 20 September 2016. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/19/europe/france-bans-plastic-cups-plates/. ↩
- Shepherd, J. 2016. Tesco drops John West products over sustainability concerns. Just-Food, 26 July 2016. Available at: http://www.just-food.com/news/tesco-drops-john-west-products-over-sustainability-concerns_id133918.aspx. ↩
- Greenpeace. 2016. First Tesco, now Waitrose threatens John West with ban over broken tuna sustainability promise. Greenpeace, 09 May 2016. Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/press-releases/first-tesco-now-waitrose-threatens-john-west-ban-over-broken-tuna-sustainability-promise-20160509. ↩
- Poulter, S. 2015. John West 'is breaking green pledge on tuna': Brand accused of ignoring promises in 'irresponsible' hunt for cheap fish. Mail Online, 05 October 2015. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3259955/John-West-breaking-green-pledge-tuna-Brand-accused-ignoring-promises-irresponsible-hunt-cheap-fish.html. ↩