After a year of pandemic, extreme weather, environmental promises and more, now is the time to reflect on the past year, both good and bad.
Whilst overall littering has reduced, the pandemic has led to masks, wipes and disposable gloves being discarded, with face masks being responsible for 0.84% of all litter in the countries of the UK, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, the US, Spain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, compared to only 0.01% previously. Gloves and wipes rose from 0.2% to 2.4% but have settled down to 0.4%.
Weather events over 2021 have been disastrous, with flooding, storms and Hurricane Ida, all of which have been linked with climate change. Ida was responsible for the deaths of 95 people and a loss of $65 billion, whilst flooding throughout Europe caused $43 billion in damages and took the lives of 240 people. Cyclone Tauktae forced 800,000 people out of their homes in South Sudan and resulted in 200,000 having to permanently move.
Despite these catastrophic events, they prompted discussions with world leaders at COP26. The 26th Conference of Parties has been deemed more successful than others with evidence that many countries were taking notice of the effect climate change is having. COP26 came to an end with the Glasgow Climate Pact being established, highlighting a need to phase out coal, reduce methane and continue aiming for 1.5oC global warming increase. This is in addition to further funding for poorer nations and agreements, such as plans to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
Going into 2022, we can already see actions being taken to reduce emissions, with Denmark seeking to make all domestic flights free of fossil fuels by 2030 and North Ireland working on making two climate change bills law after having no climate-related legislation up to this point. Understandable worries about further extreme weather or nations failing to live up to their promises remain. Hopefully 2022 sees advancement for the world, both past the pandemic and to aid us through this critical century.