10 wins for the environment in 2014

Issue 

1. A GLOBAL CALL FOR CLIMATE ACTION

Last year, more than ever before, people stood up to demand action from world leaders to address the climate crisis. On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of New York to insist on the need for stronger climate policy and more renewable energy.

2. EUROPE BANS PESTICIDES LINKED TO BEE COLLAPSE

The European Union has approved a partial ban on pesticides that have been increasingly blamed by scientists for the collapse in bee populations. The 28 member states agreed to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) for two years on flowering crops. Recent research has shown that while the pesticides rarely kill bees outright they impact their brain functioning and disrupt natural behaviour, a process that may eventually lead to collapsing colonies.

3. OZONE LAYER ON TRACK TO RECOVERY

The ozone layer, that shields the Earth from cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, is showing signs of thickening after years of depletion, and is well on track to recover by the middle of this century, thanks to concerted international action against ozone-depleting substances. Without the Montreal Protocol and associated agreements, atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050.

4. BENTLEY BLOCKADE STOPS COAL SEAM GAS

Campaigners described the victory over gas company Metgasco as “a huge win for people power”, when the NSW government suspended its exploration licence. Metgasco was planning to drill for coal seam gas in the northern rivers region of New South Wales, near Lismore. A massive, non-partisan and sustained local campaign showed how the community can mobilise to successfully protect water and land from mining.

5. CO2 EMISSIONS RISE MORE SLOWLY

The rise in global carbon emissions may be slowing down. That's the tentative conclusion from a report released by the European Commission in December that found global CO2 emissions increased at a slower rate (2.3%) than the average for the past ten years (2.5%).It does not mean that emissions are reducing, just that the rate of increase is slightly lower than previous years. The slowdown, which began in 2012, reflects mainly the lower emissions growth rate of China. Scientists say emissions must rapidly decline if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

6. FOSSIL FUELS DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN

The divestment campaign against fossil fuels is only a little over a year old, but has already achieved some major successes and, perhaps more importantly, has raised awareness about the role of fossil fuel corporations in pushing us toward catastrophic climate change. The movement has spread from the US to Australia and other countries and now involves universities, local councils, doctors, NGOs, and even zoos and aquariums.

7. BOTSWANA AND COSTA RICA BAN HUNTING

In many countries overhunting is devastating animal populations. In 2012 Botswana announced it would ban all trophy hunting on public lands from January 2014. Proponents of the law say the decline in Africa's mammals has become too great to allow hunting purely for sport. Costa Rica, however, made the biggest waves when it announced it was banning all hunting and trapping, both inside and outside protected areas. The new law will still allow subsistence hunting by indigenous people.

8. NEPAL CELEBRATES A YEAR OF ZERO POACHING

As wildlife crime escalates around the world, the Himalayan country of Nepal achieved a full year of no animal poaching in 2014. Not a single case of rhino, elephant or tiger poaching took place for 365 days. The success represents integrated and sustained efforts to reduce wildlife crime. Rangers on the ground, community-based anti-poaching units, and enforcement agencies all contributed to the win.

9. NEW BIOSPHERE RESERVE IN PATAGONIA

Argentina's Peninsula Valdes — teeming with wildlife including southern right whales, Magellanic penguins, massive elephant seals, flightless Darwin's rheas, and camel-like guanacos — was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Environmental, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2014. The reserve spans 4 million acres and increases legal protection for wildlife on the peninsula and in adjacent coastal waters.

10. INCREASES IN NUMBERS OF TURTLES

In Nicaragua, there was a dramatic increase in nesting of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, including the highest nest counts since a conservation project began there in 2000. The total nest count for hawksbill turtles in Nicaragua's Pearl Cays region increased 200% from 154 in 2000 to 468 in 2014.

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