5 Major Environmental Wins in 2021

2021 has been another weird year, right? In a year filled with news of earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and seemingly endless natural disasters, it's hard to not get sucked into the climate doom.

But there are still many reasons to be hopeful about the environment, and today we’re celebrating 5 huge victories for both people and the planet this year.

1. Near-Endangered Species Are Making a Comeback

In the world of wildlife, 2021 brought about some big wins for our animal friends around the globe. Future conservation commitments were made, wildlife protections were reintroduced, and many endangered animals have miraculously been brought back from near-extinction.

Here are a few big wins for the animal kingdom:

Giant pandas are no longer considered to be endangered in China. The Iberian lynx population is bouncing back. Tasmanian devil babies were born in a nature reserve on mainland Australia for the first time in 3,000 years. And the wild tiger population in Nepal is on track to double by 2022. The wildlife wins were abundant this year, so here's to surpassing them in 2022!

Tasmanian devil

2. The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Was Cancelled

After a decade-long battle and tireless work from Indigenous activists, it’s official – the Keystone XL Pipeline is now gone for good. 

The Keystone XL Pipeline would have transported 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil every single day from Northern Canada, through the U.S. Midwest, and all the way down to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. And just like all oil pipelines, it posed a major threat to the environment.

The pipeline was set to run directly through sacred native lands, threatening everything from the water, to the wildlife, to the health of the communities living nearby. But in June of 2021, TC Energy pulled the plug on its plans, resulting in a monumental victory for the environment, as well as the Indigenous activists at the forefront of the fight.

3. Big Climate Commitments Were Made

2021 saw a series of major wins for climate commitments. Not only did the United States finally rejoin the Paris Agreement (heavy emphasis on finally), but the COP26 Climate Change Conference brought some important commitments from big players across the globe. 

  • 100 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030.
  • 150 countries pledged to cut 30% of current methane emissions by 2030.
  • 190 countries declared they will shift away from coal and end support for new coal power plants… although China and the United States, two of the world’s biggest coal users, were mysteriously absent from signing this one (tsk tsk).

    4. 2021 Brought About a Major Shift Towards Plant-Based Eating

    Changing the way we eat is vital for the future of the planet. Considering that industrial animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it’s been clear for a very, VERY long time that something needs to change.

    The good news is, 2021 brought about a major shift towards a plant-based diet. In fact, 9.7 million Americans are now following plant-based diets – which is a 9.4 million increase in the last 15 years. That indicates a very hopeful shift towards sustainable eating habits and away from eating in ways that are damaging to our planet.

    5. A ‘Mega’ Marine Protected Area is Being Created in the Pacific

    Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica announced that they are joining their current marine reserves to form a huge protected corridor where whales, sea turtles, sharks, and rays can migrate safely – and far, far away from threatening fishing activities.

    The main goal of this mega marine protected area (MPA) is to protect fish and marine species that are facing extinction due to industrial fishing.

    The corridor will cover more than 200,000 square miles, which is an area nearly the size of Texas – whoa! And while there’s still a long way to go in the world of global marine conservation, this commitment is a big step in the right direction, and it's very likely that other countries will soon follow in their footsteps.