I have to make a confession – I’m an optimist. In spite of the fact that I believe we have gone way past any tipping point of environmental recovery, I still believe that 2018 will see the world become a better place. A lot of the changes won’t register as mainstream news, but they will impact on the life of our planet in big, positive ways.
Climate scientists have been telling us to expect heatwaves, hurricanes and wildfires, and in 2017, we got them. Scientists said to expect melting ice sheets and vast expanses of warming tundra. Yes, we got them too. Scientists have pointed out the threats to us economically and politically of degrading our eco-systems and yet president Trump removed climate change from the list of security threats.
It often appears that we live in a world without hope, or rationality. Yet we have witnessed a big turn around in public attitudes to plastic in 2017, thanks to both hard working campaigners and the makers of Blue Planet2. Michael Gove has promised us a Government action plan on waste to be consulted upon in the new year, in which we are likely to get action to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. One of the biggest threats to life on our planet is being recognised and possible solutions are being debated.
Senior Government figures constantly misread public opinion in 2017 and suffered a backlash. From Theresa May inserting a vote to reverse the ban on foxhunting into the Conservative Manifesto, through to the recent Ministerial refusal to accept the amendment on Animal Sentience, put forward by Caroline Lucas. As a result, it seems likely that 2018 will see foxhunting continue to be banned and Michael Gove will bring forward special legislation to enshrine Animal Sentience into British policy making. We have also seen the Government being pushed towards greater protections for animals, such as a complete ban on the trade in ivory.
The single most polluting UK project, Heathrow expansion, seemed set to be given the go ahead in 2017, due to the support from both the Government and many Labour MPs. Yet it has again been put on hold because of fears over air pollution. I’m optimistic that greens can make life difficult for Corbyn over Labour’s failure to oppose this and we can swing any Parliamentary vote.
The bringing together of the air pollution and the climate change campaigns has changed the debate in many urban centres around the world. The combustion engine is being phased out, coal fired energy is being rapidly dumped and cities are getting together to act, even when their Governments don’t. Climate change might seem too big and impersonal to connect with people’s ordinary lives, but the need to reduce air pollution is driven by visible impacts on human health.
Above all, the growth of renewables and ‘clean’ energy is now unstoppable. In many countries it is led by Government incentives, in the UK it is likely to be driven by green consumers who are simply looking to get the best long-term deal and escape the clutches of the energy giants. My big prediction is that improvements to household battery and energy storage will combine with the roll out of electric vehicles to make a decentralised energy revolution inevitable. There will be no more wars for oil, as we will be happy to see it left in the ground. 2018 is when the world finally starts to put the brakes on runaway climate change.