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  1. Coping with COP
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  3. When the stats make you reach for Winnie the Pooh
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The reasons to be cheerful:
When the stats make you reach for Winnie the Pooh

Some of the stats are total clangers and the challenges we could face by 2050 are more than a little scary. But there are also plenty of examples of how we could sort ourselves out. We can have greener cities, fishier seas, healthier lives; part of the reason we’re in this mess is because we’re so darn good at inventing stuff. And nature can regenerate when we give it a hand - or even just leave it alone.

THE REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

It was the single biggest event where science and policy came together to take action and, literally, save the world.

– We mostly fixed the ozone hole
The REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL rectangle
THE REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Putting a value on waste is becoming a big theme. Expect to see lots of start-ups showing how we can make use of our rubbish and use resources in closed-loop systems.

– Social plastic fantastic
The REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
THE REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Costa Rica is a tiny country that packs a heavyweight climate change punch; it’s arguably the greenest country on the planet.

– Chainsaw massacre to green revolution
The REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL rectangle

Chainsaw massacre to green revolution

Costa Rica is a tiny country that packs a heavyweight climate change punch; it’s arguably the greenest country on the planet. In the 1940s 70-75% of the country was rainforest. Then the chainsaws came, in droves, to make way for cappuccinos and beef burgers. By 1990 it’s estimated half of the forests were gone.

It has since become the first tropical country to stop – and then reverse – deforestation. They removed the cattle subsidies then, in 1996, they outlawed deforestation and introduced a pretty pioneering payments system to encourage reforestation. The country is now 60% forest again. And it’s paid economic dividends.

Not only is tourism thriving, but so is agroforestry, where you plant crops under tree cover. It means more shade – so things do grow more slowly, and it can be harder work to harvest – but it can often mean tastier, more intense coffee beans, and it allows them to grow cacao, pepper vines and organic pineapples. It also means less pesticides. When plants such as coffee and cacao are nuzzled in with others, rather than in big single crop fields, it means more diverse insects - and nature is quite cunning; the insects that gobble cacao/coffee munching insects tend to live on plants that grow next to the crop. So bingo, free chemical free pesticides.

The country has also run on 99% renewable energy since 2014 – nearly 70% of it coming from hydropower.

Luke Skywalker and the new Bauhaus

There’s a rooftop in Barcelona that looks like a neo-classical take on Tatooine from Star Wars.

Its meandering red gravel paths (made from recycled brick), and white domed structures, divide beds that are home to over 10,000 native plants, as well as insect hotels and ponds. Solar panels power LED lights and irrigation systems – which then put spare power onto the grid.

It’s one of ten projects across Europe that have just been announced winners of the inaugural New European Bauhaus Prize. The prize is designed to sponsor projects across the EU that help create beautiful, sustainable and inclusive spaces

Free Willy bounces back

Whales have shown us that nature can recover if we give it a chance.

Thanks to a lot of of real-life Captain Ahab’s, over 2 million whales were killed between the late 19th century and 1950, decimating some species. Blue whales were pushed to the brink of extinction and Western South Atlantic humpbacks were thought to number less than 1,000. Then whaling was (largely) outlawed in 1986.

Since then, populations have started to bounce back. The humpback is back to pre-whaling numbers. We’re not out of the water yet though; 6 of the great whale species are still critically endangered, but the trajectory is currently upwards.

We mostly fixed the ozone hole

One of the greatest moments of international cooperation was the banning of ozone-gobbling CFCs with the Montréal protocol in 1987.

It was the single biggest event where science and policy came together to take action and, literally, save the world. Now it should serve as a reference where the world demonstrated that environmental changes can be solved for the better, with no economic setback.

Stop fishing and the fish come back

A little patch of sea off the coast of La Paz, Mexico, in California’s Big Sur has become a case study in ocean regeneration.

The area had become chronically overfished; nets that used to come up teeming with big old sea bass and grouper began to give up only the odd tiddler and a plastic bottle (not quite but near enough). In 1998 they introduced a no fishing zone, the strategy being that if they left the area alone the ecosystem might bounce back and regenerate itself. And, within 15 years, it had – massively so.

There’s now more coral, more fish and the big scary (but very much needed) predators have returned. More no fishing zones (or Marine Protected Areas) are being introduced in other parts of the world.

Sugar, ketchup and marijuana

British Sugar is a pretty sweet circular economy story.

In 2000, it built a whopping great greenhouse next to its Norfolk factory, creating the perfect nursery for tomatoes using the heat produced during the sugar making process. They used what was a waste product to help them become the UK’s largest tomato producer – growing 70 million of them a year. (The tomatoes were later swapped for medical grade cannabis, used to treat children with epilepsy).

In all, the factory produces 12 products using waste from the sugar process, from chemicals to animal feed. For every tonne of sugar produced, they produce just a hamster worth of waste.

Social plastic fantastic

Waste is becoming currency. Plastic Bank is a simple and adorable circular solution that helps local communities and limits the tonnes of plastic oozing into our seas everyday.

The premise is that people can collect waste plastic littered around their communities and take it to a Plastic Bank - where they can swap it for digital tokens. They then use those to buy things such as food, school vouchers, cooking fuel and health insurance. The plastic then goes to partner companies for use in their packaging. You can find Plastic Banks in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brazil - and soon Egypt - as more plastic enters the ocean in areas that lack waste management systems.

Putting a value on waste is becoming a big theme. Expect to see lots of start-ups showing how we can make use of our rubbish and use resources in closed-loop systems.

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