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Your Weekly Sustainability News Roundup

Each week we share the top sustainability news stories from around the world. Here’s this week’s round-up:

This week we explore the benefits of incorporating nature and green spaces into cities, calls for a global ban on fracking and a report that 20 of the largest economies around the world are not close to meet interim targets.

Research Shows Human Benefits of Building Nature Into Cities

Research in cities around the world indicated that by building more green spaces, they can positively impact mental and physical health of residents. For the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research will ultimately serve as the basis for a new health model in Natural Capital Project software - free, open-source tools that map the many benefits nature provides people.

In the United States, lack of physical activity results in about €95 billion a year in related health care costs and leads to 3.2 million deaths globally every year. It may seem like an intuitive connection, but the new research closes an important gap in understanding how building nature into cities can support overall human well-being. The research shows that nature exposure boosts memory, attention and creativity and that it can also increase levels of happiness.

Lead author Roy Remme, a postdoctoral researcher at the Stanford University’s Natural Capital Project said, “We want to help city planners understand where green spaces might best support people’s health, so everyone can receive nature’s benefits. Over the past year with shelter-in-place restrictions, we’ve learned how valuable and fulfilling it can be to spend time in nature, especially for city-dwellers.” 
In Amsterdam, city planners are currently implementing a new green infrastructure plan. Using the city as a hypothetical case study, the researchers applied their framework to understand how Amsterdam’s plans to build or improve new parks might affect physical activity for everyone in the city.

Calls Grow for An Irish-led Global Ban on Fracking

Demand is continuing to build for an Irish-led global ban on fracking in the wake of a report from the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR). They indicated that the hydraulic fracking process poses a threat to the environment and local populations. The report stated that unconventional oil and gas exploration impacts the right to life, health, water, food, housing and access to the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment. Generally, the communities that are impacted come from marginalised or poverty-stricken backgrounds.

Fracking is a process of drilling down into the Earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The process is controversial because it uses huge amounts of water, can cause tremors and sometimes allow carcinogenic chemicals to escape during drilling and contaminate groundwater around the site. The practice has been banned in Ireland since 2017.

The report indicates that Ireland is “uniquely positioned to lead the effort as the global-north sponsor of the UN resolution calling for a global ban on fracking.” The country’s role on the United Nations Security Council shows that it is a prime position to put a ban forward. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveny recently stated that “protecting the most vulnerable and safeguarding their human rights” must be at the heart of the global response to the climate crisis.

Report Indicates no G20 Country is on Track to Meet Climate Goals

Major businesses and investors in the world’s largest economies should brace themselves for a turbulent transition to a low-carbon future because none of the G20 countries are on track to meet  their climate ambitions, according to a report from risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft. They believe that there is “no longer any realistic chance” for an ordinary transition for global financial markets because political leaders will be forced to “handbrake” policy interventions to cut emissions.

Versik Maplecroft used the report to warn its multinational clients to prepare for a future which at best might be “disorderly” or at worst to brace themselves for a whiplash of sudden political changes for the global economy. This will lead to increased taxes on your company whether you’re a G20 country or not. The company is one of the world’s largest providers of data used by the global insurance industry to assess the risks faced by major businesses. The head of environments and climate change at Verisk said: “These conditions will leave business in carbon-intensive sectors facing the most disorderly of transitions  to a low-carbon economy.”

The performance of the world’s leading carbon emitters such as the US and China will be the most important factor in achieving the climate laws set out in the 2015 Paris accord. While the European Union has taken steps towards smoothing the transition, the bloc’s best performers France and Germany still lag behind the UK. 

Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.