In this edition of our Climate Joy series, we take you with us once again as we journey around the world in search of positive climate news. From the United Nations to Germany with a stop-over at Iceland, as we gather joyful news in this fight to save our world.
Last week, the United Nations announced that almost all the nations in the world have signed an agreement to take measures to curb plastic waste. According to the UN, the agreement is the first concerted effort of its kind against the plastic plague clogging the oceans. The agreement is essentially an amendment of the Basel Convention but is particularly relevant because it is legally binding. Rolph Payet, of the UN Environment Programme, called this amendment to the Basel Convention “historic” and a move that will “translate to real action”.
Almost every country has agreed to a legally binding framework to tackle the problem, the notable exception is the world’s largest producer of plastic, the United States, who did not sign the agreement. This brings up a number of questions, all of which we will leave to answer some other day. It is also worthy of note that regardless of the failure of the US to sign the agreement, individual state governments are taking steps to limit plastic proliferation through legislation such as banning single-use plastic.
Irrespective of the stance taken by the world’s biggest economy, this Agreement doesn’t exclude the country from its impact; the US will be affected should it wish to export plastic waste to countries that are signatories to the Agreement.
Scientists in Iceland have discovered a way to trap carbon emissions and turn them into rocks. To achieve this feat, scientists injected carbon dioxide into porous basalt rock where it mineralises, capturing it forever and thereby accelerating a metamorphic conversion to rock which would have taken thousands of years.
These experiments, known as the CarbFix Project is supported by the European Union. Project scientists say the process was successful in their pilot program and almost all the C02 injected was mineralised within two years. Based at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant (the third largest in the world) the project managed to cut down the facility’s emissions by a third, which amounts to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide captured and stored at a cost of about $25 per tonne.
Currently, the only drawback is that the process requires a lot of desalinated water (about 25 tonnes of water to one tonne of carbon) but these brilliant minds have already started exploring ways to make the process run on saltwater. While the process still has some kinks, it is proving an effective way of storing carbon at the minimal risk to the environment. Earth warriors should be pleased.
Germany last week, launched an electric highway for trucks in a bid to continue reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. This new highway allows trucks to draw electric power through a series of overhead cables while driving. Inspired by electric-train lines and designed by Siemens, this German electronic highway is an innovation triumph. The country hopes to take the pilot program national.
The highway which is under testing until 2022 is said to have cost $14 million dollars and stretches for about six miles. In addition, Germany also spent 70 million euros developing a truck, which Siemens said will save $22,000 in fuel per 62,100 miles.
Germany’s transportation ministry disclosed that up to 80% of Germany’s truck traffic may soon become electrified in an effort to curb emissions. The highway is another leap towards Germany’s goal to cut emissions by 40% by 2020, by 55% by 2030, and up to 95% by 2050.
Well done Germany!
For the first time in what seems like forever, Britain went a whole week without using electricity generated by coal. From 1st of May this year to the 8th, the country did not generate any electricity from the coal-powered stations that have long been the backbone of the country’s power supply.
According to data collated, no coal had been used by Britain’s power stations since around 1pm on the first day of this month until the time of the news report released on the 8th. Instead, other sources of power have taken over, such as wind turbines, gas and nuclear power. Before that, the country had already gone for more than 1,000 hours in total without resorting to the use of coal in 2019 – so that this year is likely to beat all its previous records.
To better appreciate the joy of this news, you need to know that Britain is the home of coal-generated electricity, with its first coal-powered station operating since 1882. Coal now accounts for less than 10% of Britain’s power output and there are government plans in place to phase out all coal-fired plants by the year 2025.
“We believe that, by 2025, we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon,” says a spokesperson for Britain’s National Grid.
That’s it for this edition of our Climate Joy series. Check back in again next week to see the climate actions our businesses and governments are taking to tackle climate change. In the meantime, don’t forget to share this article to spread positive climate news everywhere!
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Feature image of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprioUN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.