Each week we share the top sustainability news stories from around the world. Here’s this week’s round up:
This week, we explore a country that’s taking it a step further than just a net zero target, a country whose indigenous people are fighting back against a massive fossil fuel corporation, and a country whose people want to see their government encourage more sustainable living through post-covid recovery policy.
Costa Rica Taking Giant Climate Steps:
The small Central American nation isn’t just aiming for a net zero target by 2050, but a total decarbonisation. This means the country would produce no more emissions than it can offset through things such as maintaining and expanding its extensive forests. Costa Rica aims to show other nations globally that the potential is great when making a difference towards addressing the climate crisis. Despite being a small country, it plays a major role in international environmental politics and has aided other countries in joining the Paris Accord.
After suffering some of the highest deforestation rates in the world during the 70s and 80s, Costa Rica has been able to recoup losses and regrow large areas of tropical rainforest. The country now is pushing others internationally to commit to the protection of at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans to prevent biodiversity loss.
Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada has stated that “conservation is one of the key factors that scientists point out as relevant for protecting biodiversity and also, for addressing the climate crisis. But working alone is not as effective”. The country is now becoming a member of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and has high aspirations for global action on the environment that will result from the current pandemic. As the country is located in a region that has been prone to climate change related disasters like hurricanes, which have devastating effects on economies, inequality and migration, it wants to help other countries nearby and far away address sustainability in an impactful way to limit these disasters in the future.
He has spoken with other leaders in the Americas like U.S. president Joe Biden and has talked about working together in addressing the climate crisis. Costa Rica will continue to encourage other governments to take bold actions on biodiversity.
The Fight Against Oil Pipelines:
A pipeline designed to transport nearly 1 million barrels of tar sands a day from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin, United States is being met with protests, particularly from Native American communities. Protestors cite the pipeline’s devastating impacts on the climate crisis, potential oil spills, and the pipeline’s infringement of native treaty rights.
Line 3 is a proposed reroute of a 52-year old pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc., based in Canada. After two major oils at the hands of Enbridge, including one that was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, the U.S. department of justice ordered the replacement line due to previous structural issues. However, the replacement line will run through a completely new route than the previous one, crossing through a region known as the “land of a thousands lakes”. The construction and potential for oil spills can have a devastating impact on the environment around the pipeline. Tar sands also have much higher emissions than other types of crude oil and are considered dirtier and more hazardous.
Politicians and activists involved have written U.S. President Joe Biden, calling on him to cancel the permits that allow the pipeline to cross under rivers because of these issues along with the violation of indigenous territory as the local native population was to be able to use lands and waters forever without external forces like the pipeline causing pollution. Pressure will continue to mount as activists and environmentalists argue that building new fossil fuel infrastructure will jeopardise the ambitious climate plans of the newly elected president.
U.K. Public Supports Sustainable Changes:
According to a report, a staggering 93% of respondents in the U.K said that as the lockdowns eased, the government and employers should encourage lifestyle changes to cut emissions. The people surveyed would be prepared to continue many of the lifestyle changes enforced by the rolling covid lockdowns to help tackle the climate crisis. This indicates that the government would have broad support for a green economic recovery in a post covid world. The findings come from Climate Assembly UK, a citizens assembly group who are chosen to help shape future climate policy by discussing options to reach net zero, in line with the government’s target.
One respondent said that “It feels that climate change is as big a crisis as Covid, we don’t want the government to put climate change on the back burner because of Covid”. Another respondent stated that incentives to reduce emissions are further needed and penalties should be applied to people and businesses who do not consider the environment when building or rebuilding businesses.
While the U.K. has already committed to become net zero in carbon emissions by 2050, activists have already been saying the government isn’t doing enough to meet that ambitious goal and is sending mixed messages, noting the construction of the UK’s first coal mine in 30 years in Cumbria.
The findings from this report bode well for other governments around the world. Citizens assemblies in other countries have been used to help guide government decisions on tricky or controversial policies. These assemblies like Climate Assembly UK can be used elsewhere around the world to appropriately shape what its citizens want with regards to addressing the climate crisis.
Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.