Good News on Poverty in Vietnam, Wind in Texas, and Funding for Ocean Conservation

Plus, peak carbon emissions in China by 2027, women's rights in Spain, global COVID-19 death rates plunging, an 'ecological miracle' on Lord Howe, the end of greyhound racing in the US, and the world's largest animal crossing.

Good News on Poverty in Vietnam, Wind in Texas, and Funding for Ocean Conservation

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‌In 2020, India approved Pneumosil, a vaccine for pneumococcal disease. It's a been a huge success story, produced in India, by an Indian company, and now being distributed globally to other low- and middle-income countries for S$2 per dose. Gavi, the international vaccine alliance, estimates it will prevent the deaths of around 50,000 Indian children each year.

Over one million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have now received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine. The rollout began as a pilot program in Malawi in 2019 and once widely deployed, could save the lives of up to an additional 80 000 children each year. WHO

“This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough, it’s life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

Remember COVID-19? We’ve come a long way… as of the 15th May 2022, we're down to 0.23 deaths per 1 million people worldwide, a level last reached on March 25, 2020. Although new variants are increasing the number of cases, the extraordinary global vaccination efforts is helping reduce hospitalisations as well as fatalities. OWD

Nearly half a million Kenyans were lifted out of extreme poverty last year as the country bounced back from the pandemic. The World Bank says the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell from 19.2 million or 35.7% of the population in 2020, to 18.8 million or 34.3% in 2021, and will fall further to 18.7 million by the end of 2022. Business Daily Africa

Vietnam has made significant progress on poverty in the last decade. The poverty rate fell from 16.8% to 5% between 2010 and 2020, lifting over 10 million people out of poverty. Although progress was stalled during the pandemic, it did not reverse, and the poverty rate is now falling again. World Bank

Bangladesh and Canada have both recorded declines in poverty in the past two years. Poverty in Bangladesh decreased from 12.5% in 2020 to 11.9% in 2021, making the country a role model for poverty reduction in the developing world. Meanwhile 1.4 million people in Canada were lifted out of poverty in 2020 thanks to substantial government supports during the pandemic.

The reduction in motor vehicle deaths in the United States is one of the country's most substantial public health acheivements. In 2000, car accidents were responsible for 13,049 deaths among young people (13.62 per 100,000 persons). Twenty years later, there has been a nearly 40% decrease, with 8,234 deaths (8.31 per 100,000 persons) recorded in 2020. NEJM

A new global study on type 2 diabetes has shown disease management and education programs and are working, with a decline in death rates across 16 high-income countries. "There is still a long way to go to control the many risks, but these findings provide promising evidence that we are moving in the right direction." Medical Xpress

The fight against diabetes continues in Mexico, where the implementation of a soda tax has helped decrease consumption of soft drinks. Diabetes used to be the country's leading cause of death between 2000-2006, but a group of advocates and politicians challenged the industry and passed a federal soda tax there in 2013. Fewer Mexicans are drinking soda as a result. Civil Eats

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, with estimates showing that 43% of the population will receive a diagnosis in their lifetime. Good news then - even though overall numbers are up, due to an ageing population - the age related mortality rate has dropped to its lowest level ever recorded. CMAJ

Age-standardized mortality rates for selected cancers in Canada, 1984–2022, by sex. Note: Shading indicates projected data.

A huge victory for LGBTQI+ rights in South Korea with a landmark judgement reversing the conviction of two soldiers who were jailed for consensual same-sex sexual acts while off duty. The military has a long history of violating same-sex rights and the ruling will hopefully pave the way for military personnel to live and love without the threat of prosecution. Amnesty

New Mexico recently established the most extensive tuition-free scholarship program in the US, and Maine has proposed making two years of community college free for high school graduates. This would bring the total number of states with free-college programs to 30, i.e 60% of all US states would have free tuition opportunities. CNBC

Spain is finalizing a draft law that guarantees the right to abortion, and scraps a requirement for 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain parental consent for the procedure. The new government is also introducing up to five days of medical leave for women suffering from severe period pain, and has made it a criminal offence for anyone to harass women attending clinics to voluntarily terminate pregnancies.

Since 1994, 59 countries around the world have expanded the rights of women to choose what to do with their bodies. Only four countries, Poland, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the United States, have tightened abortion laws during that period. The moral arc of history does bend towards progress - even if it's not always a straight line. NYT

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it

‌Allianz, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas insurers, just committed to stop insuring and investing in new oil and gas fields, new oil power plants, projects in the Arctic, and new midstream oil infrastructure as of January 2023, and will not renew existing contracts as of July 1, 2023. In case it wasn't obvious, this is a really big one. Insure Our Future

BlackRock, the world's largest private equity firm, and still the largest investor in coal developers, is now projecting that by 2030, three quarters of the investments in its portfolio will be tied to a requirement to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, up from 25% currently. Reuters

Quebec has become the first jurisdiction in the world to explicitly ban oil and gas development in its territory, following decades of environmental and grassroots campaigning. It's a pretty radical move - Canada is among the top five oil producers worldwide; the new law ends all petroleum exploration and production as well as the public financing of those activities in Quebec. National Observer

96% of all new electricity capacity added in the US in the first two months of this year was either wind or solar, and in April 2022 the country reached a major milestone, with wind and solar accounting for 20% of all electricity production. Ember

The change is being predominantly driven by a wind boom across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. "I love the sound of wind turbines in the morning - it's the sound of money." And California just set an extraordinary new record: on the 30th April, 99.87% of the state's electricity load was served by renewables. Desert Sun

The US Bureau of Land Management is planning 39 utility scale solar projects totalling 29GW of capacity on federal lands within the next three years. That’s China-scale stuff, more than twice France’s entire installed solar capacity, and five times larger than the record-breaking US wind power auction held earlier this year. Recharge News

After years of dithering, American utilities are finally getting with the program. In the next two years they will spend $280 billion on upgrading the country's ageing grids. It's the largest overhaul of energy infrastructure since the 1970s, and will make the transition to renewable energy possible, and prepare the influx of electric vehicles. WSJ

Just in time too. The pipeline of solar, wind, and storage projects in interconnection queues across the United States has soared to a record 1,300GW. “The sheer volume of clean energy capacity in the queues is remarkable.” By contrast, there's only 75GW of fossil gas is in the queue, and less than 1GW of coal. Berkeley Lab

Hello energy transition!

Capacity in interconnection queues in the United States as of the end of 2021.

According to Bloomberg, China is on track to install 140GW of wind and solar power this year. That's more than the entire world installed in 2020. Oh, and and IRENA just reported that in 2021, 81% of all new energy generation capacity added around the world was renewable - 88% of that from wind and solar.

China's momentous 2021 pledge to end support for new overseas coal power plants has led to 15 projects being shelved or cancelled, with another 32 on the chopping block. Meanwhile, Inner Mongolia, the country's second largest coal-producing region, is planning to add 135GW of renewables by 2025 in an effort to meet Beijing’s goal of peak emissions by 2030. Bloomberg

The Chinese Academy of Engineering has joined a chorus of researchers who think the country will hit peak emissions before 2030. The state-linked think tank is is projecting that emissions will top out in 2027, and that more than 80% of China's power will come from non-fossil fuel sources by around 2045. Bloomberg

How's this for a sign of the times. More than a decade after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima rendered large swaths of farmland unusable, some of those fields are now home to sprawling solar arrays. Around 40% of the prefecture's power now comes from renewables, with plans underway to spend $2.75 billion to get to 100% by 2040. France24

13 April 2014 (left) vs 31 March 2022 (right). Click to enlarge

Carbon dioxide removal has been on the fringe for years, but in the last few weeks, almost $2 billion of funding and government has been announced, indicating the start of a new era.

  • Climeworks has raised $600 million in the biggest carbon removal startup deal ever.
  • Stripe, Alphabet, Meta, Shopify, and McKinsey have teamed up to launch Frontier Climate and catalyze the carbon removals market with nearly $1 billion of advanced commitments.
  • Lowercarbon Capital has pulled the wraps off a $350 million in new CDR-exclusive venture fund.
  • The US Department of Energy is investing $14 million in pilot projects to scale up direct air capture and storage technologies.

We've been saying this for a while - wait until the Germans get going on electric vehicles. Mercedes is now taking the fight to Tesla with their EQXX prototype, which has a 1,000 km range, well above the range of any petrol or diesel-powered vehicle, and 40% more energy efficient than a Tesla Model 3.

The only home we've ever known *

‌The 2022 Our Ocean Conference has just finished, and secured 410 new commitments worth over $16 billion for improving the health, productivity and protection of the world’s oceans. This includes $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef. To date, the event has protected at least 13 million km2 of ocean. Mongabay

The Biden administration has just signed an executive order strengthening the protection of the country’s old-growth forests, conservation organizations in Maine say they now have more than 20,000 acres under management, and a remote wilderness in Michigan is expanding after been gifted 1,300 acres of neighbouring property.

After a monumental effort to rid Lord Howe of an estimated 210,000 rats, the island’s ecosystem is thriving. “What is unfolding is an ecological renaissance, since the rodents have gone, the catchphrase is: ‘I’ve never seen that before’.” Among the animals bouncing back is one of Australia’s rarest birds, the flightless Woodhen, whose population has doubled to 565 in the past three years. SMH

The team from the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program and the Australian Museum spent more than 400 painstaking hours looking for the tiny snails at 200 survey sites on the remote island.

Greyhound racing is essentially dead in the United States. By the end of this year, there will only be two tracks left in the country. To put this in perspective - in the 1980s there were more than 50 tracks, but concerns about how dogs were treated have now nearly eliminated a sport that gained widespread appeal a century ago. Nat Geo

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is adding an additional 796 km2 to its community led conservation programs in the DRC, in an effort to repeat its success with mountain gorillas for lowland dwelling Grauer gorillas. The move means that 2,379 km2 are now being watched over by about 20 families. AP

Construction has begun on the world’s largest wildlife crossing for animals caught in Southern California’s urban sprawl. The bridge will stretch 61 meters over the US 101, giving big cats, coyotes, deer and other wildlife a safe path to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. “This crossing could not have come at a better time. It is truly a game changer.” AP

The NOAA has designated a large swathe of Alaskan coastline, roughly the size of Texas, as critical habitat for nayiit and makliit (ringed and bearded seals). It’s a preventative measure to protect populations in the wake of melting sea ice. and new restrictions on oil missions, commercial fishing, and federal military activities have also been enforced. Kyuk

The Magpie River in Quebec has been granted legal personhood as the ‘rights of nature movement’ gains global momentum. The rights were advocated by the Innu First Nation people to combat the impact of dams, and include the right to flow, maintain biodiversity, be pollution-free, and to sue.  Many of the world’s rivers have now been granted legal rights, most notably the Amazon in 2018. Nat Geo

We need to see that as humans we are not above the water or the animals. We are part of a whole. When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves, too.
Uapukun Mestokosho, a member of the Mutehekau Shipu Alliance

The Magpie River. Credit: Peter Holcombe

California’s coastal kelp forests are making a comeback, with the area of several sites now increasing. The forests had receded by more than 95% due to global warming and an explosion in purple sea urchins that local conservatists removed by hand. Kelp forests play a crucial role as carbon sinks, sequestering three to five times more carbon than similar size tropical forests. Discovery

A rewilding project in Dorset is close to establishing a breeding population of ospreys in the British Isles for the first time since the Middle Ages. The project began in 2017 with the transfer of six week-old chicks from Scotland and recently a male and female returned safely from their migration to Africa. Conservationists have their fingers crossed for the pitter-patter of osprey claws. BBC

Researchers in Greece are experimenting with farming metal from shrubs. The plants, known as 'hyperaccumulators' thrive in toxic metal-rich soils by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems. As well as providing a source for rare metals like nickel, zinc, aluminium and even gold, these plants sequester carbon in their roots, regenerating the soil for other crops. Guardian

Humans have sought out deposits of rare metals for thousands of years and developed ever-more violent ways of accessing them, but these plants have found more equitable and regenerative ways of doing much the same thing. Perhaps we have something to learn from them.
James Bridle, Author of Ways of Being: Beyond Human Intelligence

The famous blue latex of the New Caledonian tree Pycnandra acuminata, containing 25% nickel.

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