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10 key environmental moments for 2017

In another year dominated by Brexit and Trump, David Symons, our UK Director of Sustainability picks his ten key environmental moments of 2017 - relevant for both the UK and global environment.


1. June 7 - This was the first day renewables provided more than half of UK electricity. Add in nuclear and by 2pm low carbon sources were producing 72.1% of electricity in Great Britain that day.

2. Insects -  A searing German study showed a decline in insects of over three quarters over 27 years.  That’s bad news and shows the importance of both our ecologists’ biodiversity research and also of improved farming practices.  There is much more to do in 2018.

3. Blue Planet II -  With 80 million viewers in China alone, is this the documentary that will create a global change in single use plastics?

4. Michael Gove -   Whisper it quietly, but there’s a real change in momentum in DEFRA, the UK Environment Department. We can expect a stronger 25 Year Environment Plan and resources strategy in 2018, so long as cabinet reshuffles don’t lose the momentum.

5. The rise of electric vehicles - 2017 is the year that governments and cities started to make real progress on EVs as a solution to air quality. France and the UK have both committed to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and cities such as Paris, Copenhagen and Oxford have plans in place to move even faster.  It’s just as well since our 2017 research showed that air quality was the most important issue for London residents after house prices.

6. The world’s largest battery - Battery prices continued to fall in 2017.  This past year saw Tesla build the world’s largest battery in South Australia - powering 30,000 homes (although only for an hour).  We’re looking forward to more progress on this front in 2018.

7. We are still in - While the US may have withdrawn from the Paris Accord, more than 2,500 leaders representing more than 130 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy signed the We Are Still In declaration in pursuit of strong climate action. 

8. Climate Action 100+ - This five-year initiative led by investors to work with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters is a great example of the private sector taking action.  225 investors with more than $26.3 trillion in assets under management have signed up to the initiative in 2017.

9. Blockchain and supply chain provenance - We wrote about the emergence of blockchain as a fast emerging tool to prove the authenticity of products and supply chains earlier in 2017.  It’s exciting to see Nestlé, Unilever, Walmart, Sainsbury’s and the Co-Operative Group putting this into practice.

10. Future Ready - And finally, on a personal note, I’ve been thrilled by the energy, passion and our WSP team’s enthusiasm for our Future Ready programme.  2017 saw Future Ready embedded as one of our new brand values: We’re about to embark on a major roll out of the programme across Canada and we now have many case studies where our teams have designed more clever solutions for our clients that are ready for the long term, not just today.

Of course, there’s still much to do.  In 2018 we will see further focus on the Paris Accord at the Poland COP.  Developed economies are still using resources at three times the sustainable rate.  And short term political winds blow both in favour and against.  But there is ground for optimism.  Do share your thoughts and other highlights with me at david.symons@wsp.com