POSITIVE NEWS - What went right in 2022: the top 25 good news stories of the year
There were seismic shifts in energy, major medical advances, animal comebacks, four-day week trials, a night train revival, plus plenty more good news
1. The energy paradigm shifted
Two things happened this year that may have changed the energy paradigm forever. The first was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the West’s subsequent dash to wean itself off Russian gas while ramping up renewables.
Putin’s war was “a historic turning point towards a cleaner future,” said the International Energy Agency, which for the first time predicted global demand for fossil fuels would peak in the mid-2030s due to the conflict.
Even without the war, the economic and moral case for fossil fuels looked ever weaker in 2022, with Lloyds and HSBC among the banks pledging to stop funding new oil and gas fields. By contrast, investment in renewables surged.
While the smart money moved towards wind and solar, in a Californian laboratory scientists gave the world a glimpse of the energy of the future. US physicists cracked one of nuclear fusion’s biggest mysteries, bringing the prospect of near-limitless, low-carbon energy a step closer.
2. Climate policies and litigation ramped up
The climate crisis came into sharper focus in 2022, with more alarming reports and extreme weather. As it stands, the world is on course for 2.5C of warming by 2100, according to the United Nations. This is higher than the “upper safe limit” of 2C, meaning more radical action is needed.
Encouragingly, there were signs of progress. The US (the world’s second largest emitter after China) approved legislation to turbocharge its decarbonisation programme. Analysis suggests that it could slash US emissions by 44 per cent by 2030. The EU also set a target of reducing emissions: by 55 per cent this decade.
Climate litigation emerged as an effective tool for bringing about positive action in 2022, with high-profile wins, including a Filipino ruling that stated big polluters were “morally and legally” liable for climate damage.
“Climate litigation cases have played an important role in the movement towards the phaseout of fossil fuels,” commented the London School of Economics, which said climate-related lawsuits have doubled since 2016.
3. Climate reparations moved onto the agenda
For decades, poorer countries have implored richer nations to compensate them for the damage caused by climate change. For decades their calls have gone unanswered. Until now.
In the Egyptian desert in November, delegates at the COP27 climate summit agreed to set up a ‘loss and damage’ fund to help developing nations deal with a crisis that they’ve barely contributed to.
Exact details have yet to be thrashed out, but the pledge was considered a win from a summit that otherwise underwhelmed. It followed earlier commitments from Denmark and Scotland to compensate poor countries for climate damage.
4. Research gave us agency in tackling the climate crisis
The magnitude of the climate crisis leaves many people wondering how much difference they can really make. But research published this year suggested citizens have direct influence over 25-27 per cent of the emissions savings needed to avoid climate chaos.
The study was led by academics at Leeds University, which suggested six lifestyle changes that could help slash emissions. None of this absolves governments and corporations of their responsibilities, but it does provide a welcome sense of agency.
5. Businesses showed climate leadership
In the ultimate mic drop gesture of corporate responsibility, the owner of multi-billion dollar clothing firm Patagonia gave the company away to help fight climate change.
“Earth is now our only shareholder,” announced the company’s CEO Yvon Chouinard (pictured), who said that every dollar of profit that’s not reinvested back into Patagonia will go towards protecting nature and biodiversity.
Patagonia’s move is part of a broader trend for businesses to expand their remit beyond simply making money. Other firms have given nature ‘a seat on the board’, tied bonuses to sustainability targets, and used algorithms to clean up supply chains. Expect the trend to accelerate in 2023.