Top 5 Environmental Wins of 2016

A polar bear rests on the Arctic sea ice under a clear blue sky. Photographed by Chase Dekker.

There are those that would say that 2016 had a lot of negative repercussions on the environment. While things may be looking down, there were quite a few promising steps in 2016 towards a more sustainable future. Whether it was global trends that seem to be on the upswing, or strong acts of conservation, 2016 did show us that an ever-increasing portion of the planet is taking steps to ensure we slow down the rising effects of climate change. It seems as though it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good news about the state of our planet as we are constantly bombarded by depressing news about the rapid state of decline. Here, we will instead take a look at five of the more positive accomplishments of 2016 that we can pat ourselves on the back for.

1) Paris Climate Agreement

While this accord is not perfect, it is definitely worth noting on this list. On April 22 (Earth Day), 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreements in an effort to address climate change. Many countries, including China and India, which are some of the top polluters, have voiced their concerns to keep global warming at a 2 degree Celsius cap, which would involve moving away from our traditional forms of energy to more renewable and environmentally friendly versions such as wind and solar power. 2016 marked the third year in a row that global temperature highs were hit, so the coming together of almost all the world’s nations cannot be stressed enough.

2) China Bans Ivory Trade

This has been a long time coming. Just when we thought 2016 was all over, China announced it was going to shut down it’s domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Even though there was a 1989 ban on ivory trade, poachers persisted in their efforts to kill elephants as China was still using it to carve into elaborate pieces. This was because the 1989 ban did not cover old ivory, which was still legal to be traded as many said the new ivory coming in was old. A bad loophole, but it is all in the past as China has stated they will educate their people on the consequences of killing Africa’s elephants. A few other countries still have an ivory trade, but with the largest importer declaring it's done, it is likely the last few supporters of the trade will shut down as well. 25 years ago, there were roughly one million elephants across Africa, and by the end of last year, estimates claimed there were around 500,000 left. This ban could not have come at a better time.

3) Renewable Energy Growth Accelerates

While the majority of our planet’s power is still produced from fossil fuels, renewable energy is on the rise