This week: Southern Africa is in the throes of a climate emergency. China cracks down on single-use plastic. And Barcelona declares a climate emergency. Plus, Microsoft sets itself ambitious net-zero target, YouTube is promoting climate denialism, and Colgate launches a recyclable toothpaste. Read on for the week’s top environmental stories.
(Want to get top environmental stories in your inbox every week? Here’s the sign-up.)
1. UN sounds alarm over unprecedented levels of hunger in Southern Africa.
45 million people are facing severe food shortages (with women and children bearing the brunt of it), after years of drought, widespread flooding and economic disarray. The Southern African Development Community, a region termed as a climate “hotspot” by the IPCC, has only experienced one regular growing season in the past five years. Seasonal rains have been late in many countries, and UN experts are predicting that another bad harvest is due. “The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before,” said Lola Castro, World Food Programme’s regional director for Southern Africa.
“The annual cyclone season has begun, and we simply cannot afford a repeat of the devastation caused by last year’s unprecedented storms.”
2. China cracks down on single-use plastic
The Jiangcungou landfill in Shaanxi Province, China’s largest dump spanning 700,000 square metres, is full; 25 years ahead of schedule. Unsurprising given that in 2017 alone, Chinese households produced 215 million tonnes of waste. But finally, China has called time on single-use plastics. By the end of 2020, non-biodegradable bags will be banned in all major cities, and all cities and towns by the end of 2022. It’s also placing a single-use straw ban on the restaurant industry.
China is the largest producer of plastic in the world (it generates 30% of all plastic products), so this is a welcome step in the right direction.
3. Barcelona declares a climate emergency
The EU’s announced it, Scotland too. Now Barcelona’s getting on board. It has set a target to halve its emissions by 2030. Mayor Ada Colau echoed the words of Greta Thunberg in her public awareness campaign’s slogan: “This is not a drill”. “We wanted it not to be a rhetorical statement,” she said, “but a document containing measures that mark a before and after.” Barcelona’s city hall plans to invest €563 million, into reducing private cars on roads, producing more renewable energy, increasing recycling, etc. Officials also mentioned they wanted to start speaking with Barcelona’s port and airport about curbing their environmental impact.
We’re excited about these proposed changes and discussions—what do you think?
4. Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030.
“The scientific consensus is clear,” Microsoft says on its website. “While the world will need to reach net-zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint.” How? Through shifting to renewable energy, an internal carbon tax, various technologies, and even empowering customers. While this is an exciting announcement, it’s incredibly bold. “It won’t be easy for Microsoft to become carbon negative by 2030,” as it says. “But we believe it’s the right goal.”
5. Colgate launches vegan toothpaste in recyclable tubes!
Did you know toothpaste tubes are traditionally impossible to recycle? They’re made from a mixture of plastic and aluminium. And because of that, the majority of toothpaste tubes are just thrown away. Colgate’s found a solution that’s vegan and recyclable. It said that its engineers discovered a way to turn the hard plastic into a “comfortably squeezable” tube. The downside? It’s six times more expensive than a regular tube of Colgate. And it’s still not ethically made.
6. YouTube’s spreading climate denialism?
Apparently. According to a new report from campaign group Avaaz, YouTube has been “actively promoting” videos containing misinformation about climate change. After looking through 5,537 videos that pop up with the search terms “climate change,” “global warming”, etc., they found that some videos suggested by YouTube’s “up-next” sidebar contain information going against the scientific consensus on climate change. “We found that it’s very likely that at least one in five users who search for a term like global warming or climate change could be sent down this type of misinformation rabbit hole,” says Fadi Quran, a campaigns director at Avaaz.
Image credits: Ollie Millington, Getty Images via TIME