What a year 2018 turned out to be for the environment.
The mixed performance of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power in 2017, which earned one-tenth of the box office draw of its 2006 predecessor, combined with the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement in the summer of 2017, left green interest at a crossroads entering 2018. Had we reached the peak of interest in going green?
The answer is no, as the following major green news stories from this year demonstrate.
US Government Not Taking Lead in Environmental Issues
Arguably the biggest lesson learned after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement is that businesses and citizens can lead the change. The We Are Still In partnership has 3,500 U.S. representatives including businesses, universities, and others who are committed to the goals and principles of the Paris Agreement. This group represents over $6 trillion in revenues.
The idea of governments not leading the change was reinforced on election day when voters in Arizona and Washington voted down Proposition 127 and Initiative 1631, respectively. Both measures aimed to increase renewable energy use, and in both cases it resulted in the largest funds raised for a ballot measure in that state. (Most of the money raised was used to fund negative campaign ads.) It once again demonstrated that waiting for governments to mandate environmental protection has flawed results.
Then on Black Friday, the U.S. government released the infamous Fourth National Climate Assessment. It reported that we have only 12 years to fight climate change before the effects are catastrophic, both in loss of life and economic repercussions. The White House response was minimal, but it was the first time a business case was made to save the planet. Time will tell how businesses and consumers respond.
No One Killed the Electric Car
One of the lesser reported aspects of General Motors’ November decision to start closing automotive manufacturing plants is that the company is re-investing in the future: electric and autonomous vehicles. This comes mere months after Ford essentially abandoned its sedan line to invest $11 billion in electric cars.
Perhaps the most famous electric car manufacturer, Tesla, has significantly increased production on its Model 3 to reduce wait times from 12 months to four.
Electric car sales are projected to hit 125 million by 2030 (compared to 3 million in 2017), and 2018 will likely be a pivotal year in evaluating the growth.
Non-Recyclable Plastic Is Not the Future
Will 2018 be remembered as the year that the U.S. took on straws? First California banned them from restaurants, then Seattle banned both straws and plastic utensils, then companies like Starbucks pledged to stop offering them.
Perhaps the biggest blow to plastic this year was China’s ban on importing certain recyclables from the U.S. Since the U.S. was sending one third of its material to China in 2017, and no new market developed, it meant stockpiles of landfilled plastics in 2018.
These stories, combined with continued concern over plastic in the ocean, are leading the movement toward manufacturing more sustainable plastic packaging. At the G7 meeting in September, companies including Coca-Cola and Unilever pledged to develop viable packaging alternatives and ensure that 100 percent of plastic is recycled or reused by 2040.
Expect more movement in the green space in 2019. This revolution is just getting started.