The first article analysed the milestones of last year which made progress towards, or set trends in connection with, the Sustainable Development Goals, legislative advances in human rights, gender equality and employees' disconnection from work.
In line with the previous section, we provide an overview of the key issues that arose in 2017 (and which will shape the media agenda in 2018) in the area of climate change, air pollution and the circular economy.
Climate change, natural disasters...
The World Economic Forum's annual Global Risks Report warned about a number of risks, including serious natural catastrophes, the failure of global warming mitigation measures (2017 went down in history as one of the three hottest years since the Industrial Revolution), and the increase in the number of climate refugees (64 million, 1,000 million in 20 years according to United Nations). Unfortunately, we did not have to wait for year-end to see all those gloomy predictions came true.
Meanwhile, running counter to the rest of the world, the White House announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement while 195 countries ratified their commitment by fleshing out the small print of the Agreement during the Bonn climate summit. The withdrawal of the US triggered the emergence of new leaders in the battle against climate change (China, Canada, the European Union, etc.), and the year ended with the One Planet Summit, organised by France, which showcased international support for plans to decarbonise the economy.
Based on the political support for this great Agreement, companies and countries had already started to implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most effective measures, carbon pricing, will continue to be a key issue. There were also some success stories, such as the carbon tax introduced in UK in 2013, which is leading the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions among the big European countries.
Air pollution — farewell to diesel
In 2017, the World Health Organisation estimated that one out of nine deaths in the world is related to air pollution. For this reason, cities are stepping up traffic restrictions and promoting sustainable mobility.
Paris, Mexico City, Oslo and China are among the locations which are prohibiting diesel cars and incentivising the purchase of electric and hybrid cars with the aim of transitioning to a non-polluting car fleet.
Circular economy and the fight against planned obsolescence
The circular economy, planned obsolescence and waste management have not been as popular as the issues described above. However, progress has been made and will impact future actions. The European Commission adopted a new "Circular Economy Package "to help European businesses and consumers to make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way". In 2017, the European Parliament approved the Resolution on a longer lifetime for products: benefits for consumers and companies, which offers tax incentives to products that focus on quality, durability and ease of repair, among other aspects.
Companies' and countries' approach to waste management was back in the limelight after China's recent decision to ban foreign waste imports. With this move, China has transferred the burden to exporters, who must now rethink their plastic consumption and recycling models.
This link will take you to the third part of Latest headlines about sustainability that you will continue to see in 2018.