Climate Joy Week #37: Greta Thunberg Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Europe Presents Green Deal and more

Climate Joy Week #37: Greta Thunberg Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Europe Presents Green Deal and more

Welcome to this week’s edition of Climate Joy. It’s nearly Christmas and I can only imagine how busy you’ve been with planning for the upcoming festivities. So in the interest of not wasting any more of your time, here’s the positive news we’re celebrating this week:

1. Greta Thunberg named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year

TIME Magazine has named Greta Thunberg as its Person of the Year. Each year, the magazine features who they feel is the most influential person, group, movement or idea of the previous 12 months. With this announcement, Thunberg is the youngest person ever to be appointed.

In explaining their decision, TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote: “Thunberg has become the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet—and the avatar of a broader generational shift in our culture that is playing out everywhere from the campuses of Hong Kong to the halls of Congress in Washington.”

TIME Magazine’s Person of the year 2019 Greta Thunberg holds a climate change rally at the Greek Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado on October 11, 2019. Photo: Anthony Quintano.

2. European Union presents Green Deal

The European Union has presented its comprehensive plan to transform the European economy and make the 28 European Union member countries carbon neutral by 2050. Dubbed the European Green Deal, the policy touches practically every aspect of European life from travel to food and housing. 

Presenting the deal, German politician and the newly elected President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen said the package was aimed at economic growth and increasing prosperity. “This is our new growth strategy, for a growth that gives back more than it takes away,” she said.

“It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovate. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast.”

Newly elected President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen. Photo: European Parliament.

Some of the key points of the European Green Deal are:

  • In addition to the goal of enshrining in law a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the plan will propose cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels). The current target is 40%.
  • Making trade deals only with countries that stick to their climate targets under the Paris Agreement.
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy laws will be tightened up to reflect the more demanding climate targets.
  • To avoid penalising European steelmakers and other industry who are cleaning up their act, non-EU competitors importing energy-intensive goods could face a tax, known as “a carbon border adjustment mechanism”.
  • Using EU funds to develop a zero carbon steel industry by 2030.
  • Car and truck makers will have to do more to curb emissions, while the EU will seek to boost funding for electric vehicle charge points. Container and cruise ships, currently a gaping hole in efforts to tackle the climate emergency, will be brought into Europe’s emissions trading system, meaning maritime companies will probably have to buy pollution permits.
  • A new strategy to protect European nature, as well as plans to plant and restore forests. Also proposed are plans to improve air and water quality, as well as a review that could lead to tightening of industrial pollution laws.
  • Targets to cut pesticides, chemical fertilisers and increase the area of land devoted to organic farming will be part of an overhaul of the EU’s €59bn a year common agricultural policy
  • A plan to raise a €100bn “just transition fund” from public and private sources to help EU member states move beyond fossil fuels.

3. Previously extinct birds make come-back in rare conservation success

The Guam rail, a species of flightless bird, has been brought back from extinction by captive breeding programs. This is a rare win for conservation as the Guam rail is the second bird in history to recover from being extinct in the wild, after the California condor.

Spell ad 2019

To provide you with a little background information here, the Guam was one of 10 others whose numbers have recently improved and had their status updated on the IUCN red list of threatened species to critically endangered. Others include the Australian trout cod and pedder galaxias, both freshwater fish and the echo parakeet, of which there are now more than 750 in the wild, leading to a reclassification as a “vulnerable” species, having been critically endangered more than a decade ago. 

The 10 species showing recovered numbers were “a spark of hope in the midst of the biodiversity crisis,” said Grethel Aguilar, the acting director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose red list is the global gold standard data covering species on the brink. “They prove that nature will recover if given half a chance.”

4. Zero-emissions electric buses join the bus fleet in Wichita

Wichita in Kansas will soon have electric buses on its streets. The city rolled out its first four zero-emissions buses last week, making Wichita the first city in Kansas to incorporate the more environmentally friendly model as part of its regular fleet. The buses will start serving routes early next year.

Photo: Proterra.

The electric buses, manufactured by the California company Proterra, will replace diesel models at the end of their 12-year life cycle. The city has committed to replacing all of its fleet in the coming years as the older buses age out. Each electric bus costs $639,500. However,  according to the makers, the buses save $300,000 on fuel and $150,000 on maintenance over the course of their lifetimes compared to the current diesel models. Wichita’s first four electric buses were purchased using a $2 million federal grant.

5. World’s first fully electric commercial flight is completed

A fully electric commercial plane has completed a test flight in Canada in what operators have called a “world first” for the aviation industry. The plane, a 62-year-old six-seater seaplane re-fitted with a fully electric 750 horsepower motor, took off from Vancouver on Tuesday and was airborne for less than 15 minutes, according to the news agency AFP.

Greg McDougall, CEO and founder of Harbour Air, piloted the inaugural flight on one of his company’s aircraft.

And that happy note, we wrap up this week’s edition of our climate joy series. Remember to come around next week for another green edition. Until then, do share this piece with the ones you love. 

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Feature image of Greta Thunberg addressing climate strikers at Civic Center Park in Denver. Photo: Andy Bosselman, Streetsblog Denver.

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