POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: the good news you should know about
China gave cause for climate optimism, sperm whales got their own reserve, and Kenyans took a day off to plant trees, plus more good news
The world’s biggest polluter neared peak emissions
China’s CO2 emissions are forecast to start shrinking next year, with fossil fuel use predicted to head into an era of structural decline in the country.
That’s according to number crunchers at Carbon Brief, who this week said 2023 had broken records for installations of low-carbon energy infrastructure in China. The country is the world’s biggest polluter and has seen a spike in emissions this year as its economy bounced back following Covid.
However, Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at Carbon Brief, said that China’s muted economic recovery from the pandemic, along with surging investment in solar, EVs and batteries, and rebounding hydro generation “all but guarantee a decline in China’s CO2 emissions in 2024”.
Myllyvirta added that, for the first time, low-carbon energy expansion is meeting China’s annual increase in electricity demand. “If this pace is maintained, or accelerated, it would mean that China’s electricity generation from fossil fuels would enter a period of structural decline – which would also be a first,” he wrote.
Australia offered refuge to victims of climate change
Climate-hit residents of a South Pacific archipelago will be given the chance to resettle in Australia under a landmark refuge pact.
Up to 280 nationals a year from Tuvalu – a cluster of nine coral islands halfway between Australia and Hawaii – will be thrown the visa lifeline.
The low-lying islands are home to 11,200 people and vulnerable to rising seas. The treaty will allow resettlers to live, work and study in Australia. Tuvalu prime minister Kausea Natano called the deal a “beacon of hope”.
“The dedication of Australia to supporting the people of Tuvalu goes beyond words and it has touched our hearts profoundly,” he said.
Australian PM Anthony Albanese added: “I believe that developed nations have a responsibility to provide assistance and that is precisely what we are doing.”
Latvia legalised gay partnerships
First it appointed Europe’s first openly gay head of state, and now the Baltic state of Latvia has voted to legalise same-sex civil partnerships.
Edgars Rinkēvičs was made president in July, promising to stand for an ‘inclusive and respectful society’. The latest move, voted in by Latvia’s parliament, will come into effect from mid-2024 and gives same-sex couples legal recognition, hospital visiting rights and some tax and social security benefits.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, however. The new legislation does not grant the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples – the right to adopt a child, for example.
Nonetheless Latvia prime minister Evika Siliņa took to X to hail the measure. “This is a good day,” she posted. “Society has taken an important step in creating a modern and humane Latvia.”
Sperm whales got their own reserve in the Caribbean
Dominica is to restrict shipping and commercial fishing across 800 sq km (300 sq miles) of ocean off its western coast to create the world’s first sperm whale reserve.
The area is a vital feeding and nursing area for a local population of the endangered mammals. Only a few hundred remain in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with numbers falling by around 3% a year since 2010 due to entrapment in fishing gear, ship strikes and pressure from whale tourism.
The new reserve will boost Dominica’s protected marine areas by 70%. Large ships are likely to be banned altogether, and designated corridors will be created for ocean traffic. New tourism regulations are expected, and fishing will be allowed only on a small scale.
“The greatest threats to Caribbean sperm whales come from ships, fishing nets and marine pollution, and this sanctuary can better protect them from these dangers,” Danny Groves, head of communications at the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, told Positive News.
“Whales help keep the ocean healthy, and a healthy ocean is vital in our fight against climate breakdown. We need to boost whale populations and so any protected area is an important step.”