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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: Spain’s free trains, plus more positive news

Posted 15th July 2022 • Written by •

Spain made (some) trains free, fin whales staged a comeback, and the EU’s ‘big tech’ law was approved, plus more positive news

This week’s Positive News roundup 

The train took the strain in Spain

Now here’s a novel response to the cost of living crisis: let people travel for free on the trains. That’s exactly what the Spanish government plans to do, it announced this week. 

From September, commuter trains and medium-distance regional routes run by Renfe, the national operator, will be free until the end of the year. The 100 per cent discount is available only on multi-trip tickets, not singles, and does not apply to routes run by other operators. 

The ministry of transport said the move would guarantee access to a “safe, reliable, comfortable, economic and sustainable means of transportation amid the extraordinary circumstances of the steady increase of energy and fuel prices”. 

Spain isn’t the only country subsidising travel to ease the cost of living crisis. Germany has launched a €9 (£7.60) monthly ticket that provides unlimited travel on local and regional services. The deal is scheduled to run until the end of August.

Fin whales appeared to stage a comeback

The Antarctic fin whale population appears to be bouncing back, according to a study published this week.

Counting whales is a tricky business, but German researchers attempted to do just that. They were encouraged by what they saw: 100 groups of fin whales, consisting of one to four individuals each, plus one group containing 150 whales.

Based on the data, researchers estimate there could be at least 8,000 fin whales in the Antarctic, where they were hunted almost to extinction in the 20th century.

“This could be a good sign that, nearly 50 years after the ban on commercial whaling, the fin whale population in the Antarctic is rebounding,” said Prof Bettina Meyer of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. 

The EU’s ‘big tech’ law was approved

The European Parliament has approved legislation designed to make the internet safer, fairer and less intrusive for users. 

The Digital Markets Act will, among other things, oblige tech companies to conduct impact assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks to people. It will also prevent big tech from unduly ranking their own products and services above those of their competitors – something Amazon has been accused of, allegations it denies.

In an opinion piece, Wired magazine, a specialist in tech reporting, said: “The landmark legislation includes some of the most extensive transparency and platform accountability obligations to date. It will give users real control over and insight into the content they engage with, and offer protections from some of the most pervasive and harmful aspects of our online spaces.”

However, it warned that implementation of the legislation could be challenging. “As of now, there simply isn’t the institutional capacity to enact it effectively.”

The legislation is expected to be signed off by the European Council in September.  

Sticking with the EU…

Conservationists have welcomed a decision by the EU to effectively ban the import of crops grown with two insecticides linked to the decline of pollinators.

The bloc this week proposed setting the minimum residue levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam for imported food to zero. The protocol is set to be introduced in mid-2023 to give farmers time to source alternatives. 

Matt Shardlow, CEO of the charity Buglife, said: “This action is a brave and potentially revolutionary step. Current international trade protocols are inadequate for addressing 21st century challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, but this measure could change the game.”

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