20 Environmental Victories from 2020

sun setting over solar farm
  • Dec 14, 2020

Happy New Year from CleanChoice Energy! As we head into 2021, we want to highlight just a few of the many noteworthy climate achievements from this past year. Here are 20 environmental victories that will make you feel hopeful for the future of our planet: 

1. More than 100 million Americans now live in places committed to 100% clean energy

More than 170 cities, 13 counties, and 8 states in the U.S. have commited to transition to 100% renewable energy. In April, the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act marked a major milestone: 100 million Americans now live in communities that are committed to clean, renewable energy. That’s nearly one in three Americans—and will have the same impact as taking 66 million cars off the road! 

2. Renewables surpassed coal and set records in several countries 

April was the first month in U.S. history during which renewable sources generated more electricity than coal on each day of the month. Also this spring, the U.K. went an entire month without using coal power for the first time in 138 years. Additionally, renewable sources provided the majority (nearly 53%) of Germany’s energy for the first 9 months of this year, with wind accounting for nearly 27% of the country’s total. 

3. A new report found that emissions likely already peaked

A report released in October found that global greenhouse gas emissions likely peaked in 2019 and may never again reach that point. While there is still much more work to be done, a peak in emissions is an important first step and a symbolic turning point in our global efforts to reduce emissions.

4. Europe’s biggest utility company announced major investments in wind and solar 

Italian utility company Enel SpA, the largest utility company in Europe, announced plans to spend the equivalent of $83 billion to expand its presence in wind and solar power in the coming decade, increasing its renewable energy capacity from 45 gigawatts to 120 gigawatts. Enel seeks to become the world’s largest renewable energy producer outside of China. 

5. U.K. pledged to get 100% of residential power from wind turbines

In October, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to power every home in the U.K. with offshore wind energy, declaring that the U.K. will “become the world leader in low-cost clean power generation.”

6. China and Japan announced carbon neutrality pledges

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. China is the world’s second largest economy and the world's biggest carbon emitter, responsible for about 28% of global emissions. In addition, Japan, the world’s third largest economy and fifth largest carbon emitter, announced this year that it will become carbon neutral by 2050.

7. The largest solar project in U.S. history was announced

In November, Invenergy announced plans to construct a 1,310-megawatt solar farm in Texas that will provide renewable energy to companies such as AT&T and Google. The project will be the largest solar project in U.S. history and will support more than 600 jobs throughout its 3-year construction period.

8. Tech giants announced carbon goals

In January, Microsoft pledged to be carbon negative by 2030 by removing more carbon than it emits. Microsoft also said that by 2050, it will remove all of the emissions it has generated since its founding in 1975. In addition, Google, Apple, and Facebook all announced major climate goals this year, joining the more than 270 RE100 companies that have made commitments to go 100% renewable.

9. JetBlue became carbon neutral

In August, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to become carbon neutral. JetBlue announced in January that all of its domestic flights will be carbon neutral, through reducing the emissions of its flights and investing in carbon offsets. While the airline industry still has significant work to do to reduce its environmental impact, this news, coupled with the progress made this year in the development of electric airplanes, is a good first step towards more sustainable air travel.

10. Several universities announced divestment from fossil fuels

Georgetown University, George Washington University, University of Oxford, and Cambridge University all announced this year that they will end investments in fossil fuel companies, joining a growing group of institutions that have divested from fossil fuels.

11. Every major bank ruled out funding Arctic drilling

All 6 major U.S. banks—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citi—have all stated that they will no longer finance fossil fuel exploration and oil and gas development in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is a major victory for the precious Arctic region, as well as the many activists who have fought hard to protect it.

12. Subaru and Kia announced plans for electric cars

Subaru aims to go fully electric, with a goal to sell only electric vehicles worldwide by the mid-2030s. Kia announced that it plans to offer 11 electric vehicle models by 2025 and hopes to sell 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2026. 

13. U.K. banned gas cars after 2030

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in November that new cars and vans powered by gasoline and diesel will not be sold in the U.K. after 2030, as part of a "green industrial revolution" that Johnson says could create as many as 250,000 jobs in energy, transportation, and technology.

14. U.S. Plastics Pact launched and set major plastic goals

In August, the U.S. Plastics Pact, a coalition of more than 60 major brands, government agencies, and nonprofits, announced its launch. The group aims to achieve several plastic goals, including ensuring all plastic packaging will be 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. The Pact is led by The Recycling Partnership and World Wildlife Fund and includes partners such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Target, Unilever, and Walmart.

15. China will phase out single-use plastics

China announced increased restrictions on the production, sale, and use of single-use plastic products. Plastic bags will be banned in all major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022, while other items such as plastic utensils and plastic straws will also be phased out. 

16. Several pipelines were stalled or blocked

In July, 3 high-profile pipelines were dealt major blows in the span of a few days: Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a federal judge ruled a shut down of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Supreme Court rejected a request to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. These victories are thanks in large part to the many activists throughout the country who protested these pipelines. 

17. Plant-based eating has taken off

Plant-based eating has significant environmental benefits, and it’s becoming more mainstream in the U.S. and around the world. Sales of the Impossible Burger, one of the leading plant-based burgers, have increased 77-fold since March! 72% of these customers are buying Impossible Burger as a replacement to beef, meaning Impossible Burger has increased its market share directly at a cost to the beef market. 

18. Climate change was discussed in U.S. presidential debates 

For the first time in 12 years, candidates were asked about climate change during the U.S. presidential debates. The issue of climate change came to the forefront during the 2020 election season like never before. In fact, a Pew Research Center survey found that 68% of voters considered climate change a very or somewhat important issue ahead of the 2020 elections. 

19. Majority of Americans have had an “eco wake-up call” during the pandemic 

A survey conducted this spring found that 64% of Americans have had an "eco wake-up call" during the pandemic, inspiring them to adopt more eco-friendly habits such as recycling more and reducing their food waste. 79% of survey respondents have thought more about the connectedness between people and the planet as a result of the pandemic, and 81% of respondents plan to keep their new eco-friendly habits beyond the pandemic.

20. CleanChoice customers made a huge impact

This year alone, CleanChoice Energy customers have used 980,936,823 kilowatt hours of clean energy. That’s the equivalent of more than 11 million trees planted, more than 764 million pounds of coal not burned, or more than 149,000 cars taken off the road!

As we wrap up 2020, these victories (and many others) give us reason to feel hopeful for the future. Feeling inspired to do even more to help the planet in 2021? Check out these eco-friendly New Year’s Resolutions—or sign up for 100% clean, renewable energy today to ensure a cleaner tomorrow. Here’s to an even more sustainable 2021!

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