Climate Joy Week #47: Disney to Bring Plant-Based Meat to Theme Parks and Cruises, Heathrow Third Runway Ruled Illegal Over Climate Change and more

Climate Joy Week #47: Disney to Bring Plant-Based Meat to Theme Parks and Cruises, Heathrow Third Runway Ruled Illegal Over Climate Change and more

Welcome to another week of our Climate Joy series. Here is the positive news we’re celebrating this week:

1. Great Australian Bight: Equinor abandons plans to drill for oil

Norwegian oil giant Equinor has abandoned its plans to deepwater drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, declaring that the controversial $200m project did not make commercial sense.

In a statement, the company’s country manager for Australia, Jone Stangeland said, “Following a holistic review of its exploration portfolio, Equinor has concluded that the project’s potential is not commercially competitive compared with other exploration opportunities in the company,’’

It is the fourth major oil company to abandon plans to drill in the bight, following BP, Chevron and Karoon Gas.

The decision is a significant win for environment groups and other opponents of the project, including Indigenous elders and local councils. Peter Owen, the Wilderness Society’s South Australian director, welcomed Equinor’s decision to “responsibly withdraw” from the project. “It’s been a while coming, but the right decision is the right decision, and we have no doubt that the hundreds of thousands of people that have supported the campaign to fight for the Bight will be both delighted and relieved to hear this news,” he said.

Wilderness Society Takes Legal Action Against Equinor’s Approval to Drill the Bight
Credit: The Wilderness Society.

2. Disney partners with Impossible Foods to bring plant-based meat to theme parks and cruises

Disney has partnered with Impossible Foods to serve Impossible plant-based meat at several locations: Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and on the Disney Cruise Line. Disney joins other major companies such as McDonalds and Burger King in promoting plant-based meat.

Impossible Foods has built its reputation on making burgers that taste and cook like meat but are made from plants instead of animals. Its plant meat products are popular with customers who are avoiding animal meat for ethical or environmental reasons, but the company’s goal is bigger: to win over carnivores too.

This agreement with Disney is a big step toward that goal. While lots of Americans have tried Impossible Burgers, most haven’t, and the plant-based meat sector is still much, much smaller than the slaughtered-meat industry it aims to compete with.

Since cattle farming remains one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and one of the key reasons for worldwide land clearing, this news is nothing to scoff at. Go Disney!

3. Heathrow third runway ruled illegal over climate change

Plans for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis. This ruling comes at a time when public concern about climate change is rising fast; with the UK government setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050. The government is considering its next steps but will not appeal against the verdict.

This is the first major ruling in the world to be based on the Paris climate agreement and may have an impact both in the UK and around the globe by inspiring challenges against other high-carbon projects. Queen’s Counsel and current Lord Justice of Appeal Keith John Lindblom said: “The Paris agreement ought to have been taken into account by the secretary of state. The national planning statement was not produced as the law requires.”

Tim Crosland at legal charity Plan B, which brought the challenge said, “It’s now clear that our governments can’t keep claiming commitment to the Paris agreement, while simultaneously taking actions that blatantly contradict it.”

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Plan B’s intervention was one of a number of legal challenges against the government’s national policy statement, which gave the go-ahead for the new runway in 2018 after MPs backed it by a large majority. Others were brought by local residents, councils, and environmental groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

The challenges were dismissed in the high court in May 2019 but the complainants took their cases to the court of appeal, which delivered this verdict.

4. Rio Tinto announces US$1bn spend to reach net zero emissions by 2050

The world’s second biggest mining company Rio Tinto says it wants its operations to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this, the company will spend US$1bn over the next five years to reduce its carbon footprint. The company has also committed to reducing its emissions by 15% by 2030.

Rio Tinto’s Chief Executive, Jean-Sebastien Jacques made the commitments while announcing the company’s full-year results. He said Rio Tinto’s new commitments on climate added to a 46% cut in the company’s emissions since 2008, although much of that reduction was due to it selling high polluting operations.

To reduce its total emissions by 15% by 2030, every new business opened by Rio Tinto in the next decade will need to be carbon neutral. Jacques said the company was open to buying carbon offsets if necessary but this was a “last port of call”. He said the emissions cut to 2030 would be achieved using existing technology but Rio Tinto would also be investing part of the $1bn on developing new ways of eliminating carbon production.

5. Senegal launches wind power plant as part of its commitment to renewable energy

As part of its plan to push for cleaner energy, Senegal has inaugurated what it describes as West Africa’s largest wind power plant. The wind farm will supply nearly a sixth of the country’s power when it reaches full capacity later this year, helping Senegal meet 30% energy needs from renewable sources.

Located in Taiba Ndiaye, about 86 kilometers from Dakar, the country’s capital city, the zero-emissions power plant has a capacity of 158 megawatts and will supply up to 15% of Senelec’s energy production. Senelec is Senegal’s national electricity company.

According to a video posted on President Macky Sall’s official Twitter page, the power plant was built in 24 months. The government of Senegal has made the development of the power sector a key component of its plan to make the West African country an emerging economy by 2025.

On that happy note, we wrap up this week’s edition of our Climate Joy series. And as always, make sure to share this post and help spread positive climate news!

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Feature image of Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom, Florida, USA. Photo by Christian Lambert.

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