Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.
The pandemic presented an opportunity for countries to invest in green growth; instead, some are banking on coal and oil to fuel their recoveries.
The story: Worldwide, massive economic recovery programs could help avert a climate catastrophe by accelerating a low-carbon transition, experts say. But some oil and coal producing countries are instead pumping public funds into fossil fuel infrastructure investments as part of their economic recovery efforts. Reporting for CNN, Ivana Kottasová, Swati Gupta and Helen Regan profiled four communities in Australia, Canada, India and Poland where jobs are tied to polluting industries that could speed up a climate catastrophe.
The big picture: Five years after the adoption of the Paris agreement, countries are lagging behind in their commitments to avert the worst impacts of climate change. According to experts, meeting global climate goals will require a large-scale transition to clean and renewable energy sources and increased investments in nature as a climate solution.
“This year, countries are submitting new climate goals under the Paris Agreement. It’s critical for countries to integrate natural climate solutions, like stopping deforestation or restoring mangroves and coastal areas, into their updated goals,” Conservation International climate policy expert Lina Barrera told Conservation News. “This will help ensure that natural climate solutions are prioritized when it comes to making policy decisions.”
Read more here.
In Africa, countries’ economies are improving — and so is their air quality.
The story: As economies get richer and populations boom, air quality tends to take a dive. However, a new study found that countries across the northern region of sub-Saharan Africa — from Senegal to Kenya — are reversing that trend, reported Shola Lawal for The New York Times.
According to the study, increased pollution from factories and transportation was offset by a recent decline in fires set by farmers to clear and prepare their fields for planting.
The big picture: In Africa, nitrogen dioxide, a gas linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, dropped by 4.5 percent between 2005 and 2017, the study found. While this is good news for the continent, where pollution is currently the leading cause of death, experts warned air pollution could rise again if the use of fossil fuels increases.
Importantly, research on air quality could inform national policies by filling “data gaps in Africa where there is a dearth of air pollution studies at multiple levels,” Andriannah Mbandi, an environmental researcher based in Kenya and affiliated with the Stockholm Environment Institute, told The New York Times.
Read more here.
Using cutting-edge technology, Hong Kong seeks to reduce its skyscrapers’ environmental footprint.
The story: Hong Kong is often described as the world’s most vertical city, but its buildings — including 1,500 skyscrapers — come at a high environmental price, consuming 90 percent of its electricity and contributing 60 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. To help the city reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, Hong Kong officials are tapping smart, energy efficient technologies — from rooftop wind turbines to sensors that optimize air-conditioning — to curb skyscrapers’ emissions, reported Matthew Keegan for BBC.
The big picture: Globally, cities generate 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and consume 78 percent of the world’s energy. Experts say that making cities more sustainable is critical in the fight against climate change. While energy efficient technologies can help reduce a city’s emissions, the first step is to ensure energy sources are greener by switching to natural gas and renewable energy, Cary Chan, executive director of Hong Kong's Green Building Council, told the BBC.
Read more here.
Cover image: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya (© Jonathan Irish)