There’s no doubt about it, the picture isn’t that positive when it comes to the climate crisis. However, around the world, people are working together on incredible campaigns, political movements, technical innovations and natural solutions to combat climate change. Here are just 10 good environmental news stories from 2021.

Cambo oil field development ‘paused’

People power works. Campaigns including Stop Cambo and Paid to Pollute called attention to the hypocrisy of the UK hosting COP26 whilst considering approving a new oil field in the sea off of Shetland. Shell pulled out and the co-owner, Siccar Point Energy announced they were pausing the project. Take a look at Stop Cambo to get involved in stopping it for good.

The brakes were also put on plans to open a new coal mine in Cumbria. And further afield in the US, permits for the controversial Keystone oil pipeline were cancelled.

Climate protests ramp up again

Climate strikes and demonstrations moved online during the height of the pandemic, but there are signs that momentum is gathering again. Events such as the September 2021 climate strike and the Global Day of Climate Action during COP26 saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets to demand a green, fair recovery that supports people and planet.

Indigenous climate protesters at COP26.
Indigenous climate protesters, COP26.
Climate change in the courts

There is a growing trend for ordinary citizens taking companies (and even governments) to court over the climate crisis. A landmark case in the Netherlands early this year ruled that oil giant Shell ‘is responsible for its own carbon emissions and that of its suppliers’, and must cut emissions by 45% by 2030.

Other court cases have been brought by young people. For example, six youth climate activists in Brazil alleged that their government was violating its obligations under the Paris Agreement. As of July 2021, there were over 1,800 climate change court cases filed – with over 1,300 in the US alone.

Engineers maintaining the top of a wind turbine, New Mexico.
Engineers maintaining a wind turbine in New Mexico. Climate Visuals, 2021.
Record growth for renewable energy

2021 was another year of record renewable energy development. The International Energy Agency reported that renewables account for 95% of the increase in global power generation capacity, with renewable generation set to overtake fossil fuels by 2026.

COP26 commitments

The UN climate talks took place in Glasgow in November. Despite disappointments including the majority of countries failing to present climate action plans that would succeed in limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees, there were a number of positive developments.

One of these included a commitment to end deforestation by 2030. The agreement was signed by over 100 countries (including Brazil, China, Russia, Canada, the UK and Indonesia) which together hold over 85% of the world’s forests. Read about some of the benefits of forest restoration in this article on how communities in Kenya are protecting mangroves, which store carbon, provide a habitat for wildlife and prevent coastal erosion.

Pension funds divesting from fossil fuels

Good Energy supports the Make My Money Matter campaign, which makes it easier for people to ask their pension providers to stop investing their money in funds that contribute to climate breakdown. In just 1 year, they’ve helped secure £1 trillion in net zero pension commitments.

Major economies to stop financing international fossil fuel projects

While committing to reduce reliance on fossil fuels at home, many governments still invest in new fossil fuel developments overseas. The UK has now joined a group of 20 countries, including Canada, the US and Italy, in committing to end new investment in fossil fuel projects by 2023. Collectively, the countries are responsible for an estimated $18 billion in finance a year.

The rise of carbon farming

Soil stores three times as much carbon as the atmosphere – but conventional farming can lead to agricultural land becoming a source of emissions, rather than a sink. More and more farmers are turning to regenerative methods that limit how much the land is disturbed. This can include planting cover crops that capture carbon from the air and trap it in the soil, before making offsetting credits available to local businesses. While offsetting alone is not enough to reduce carbon emissions, carbon farming is an innovative way for farms to access financial support for sustainable practices.

Solar parks support bee populations
Wildflowers growing around solar panels.

The UK needs to substantially increase its solar capacity to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The good news is, if managed in the right way, solar parks have the power to support pollinators – and the farms that rely on them to pollinate crops. A study from Lancaster University found that sowing wildflowers alongside solar panels creates a sheltered habitat that boosts bumblebee numbers for around 1km beyond the borders of the solar park.

International industries pledge climate action

It isn’t just governments that are setting net zero targets. This year, the Music Climate Pact saw many of the world’s biggest record companies as well as independent labels commit to taking individual and shared action to limit their carbon emissions. As well as setting Science Based Targets, the pact calls signatories to “support artists in speaking up on climate issues” and “communicate openly with fans about the impacts of the music industry”.

What happens next?

Despite good news about positive developments, there’s no time to be complacent. Halving carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 is a mammoth task, and the world isn’t on track to achieve it yet. So let’s all make 2022 another year where we keep climate action in the spotlight.

Whether that’s by making sustainable changes in our own lives, supporting environmental charities that are driving change, or making sure our political leaders know we expect them to keep their climate promises.