Top Environmental Victories from 2021

Sunset over a wind turbine farm
  • Dec 22, 2021

Happy New Year from CleanChoice Energy! As we head into 2022, we want to highlight just a few of the many noteworthy climate achievements from 2021. Here are some of the top environmental victories that will make you feel hopeful for the future of our planet: 

1. Renewables had another record-breaking year of growth

2021 is on course to set a new global record for renewable energy growth, according to a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA). About 290 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity (largely made up of wind turbines and solar panels) has been installed around the world throughout 2021—which beats the previous record that was set last year. On a global scale, renewable electricity growth is currently accelerating faster than ever. This is great news for the environment, as moving towards clean, pollution-free energy sources such as wind and solar will help curb global emissions and mitigate climate change. 

2. The first major offshore wind farms in the U.S. were approved

This year, the Interior Department approved the first two commercial-scale, offshore wind farms in the U.S. Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind project located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, is slated to become the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S. The 800 MW wind project will have enough capacity to provide clean electricity to more than 400,000 Massachusetts homes—which will have the same impact as taking 325,000 cars off the road each year! Additionally, South Fork Wind, a 132 MW offshore wind farm located between Block Island, Rhode Island, and Long Island, New York, will produce enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes. These two projects will bring clean energy to tens of thousands of Americans and play a significant role in the advancement of offshore wind energy in the U.S.

3. Several car companies announced major electric vehicle goals

A number of car manufacturers have announced plans to significantly increase their production of electric cars, while also phasing out the production and sales of their gas-powered cars. Nearly every major car manufacturer in the U.S. has now announced some sort of plan for increased investment in electric vehicles. Notable announcements from this year include GM’s plan to stop selling gas and diesel vehicles by 2035, Volvo’s plan to only make electric cars by 2030, and Mercedes’ plan for all new vehicle platforms to be EV-only starting in 2025. Check out a list of every car company’s EV plans here.

4. Many U.S. cities are phasing out gas in buildings

In an effort to mitigate climate change, many cities are taking steps to "electrify everything" and reduce the use of gas in buildings. In recent years, dozens of cities across the country have adopted policies to prohibit gas connections in new buildings. This year, New York City became the largest U.S. city to limit gas in new buildings. A new bill passed by the city council will prevent fossil fuel-powered appliances in some new buildings starting in 2024 and all new construction by 2027. This is a significant move, considering the city’s biggest source of planet-warming emissions is the fossil fuels burned in its buildings. 

5. The Keystone XL pipeline was officially cancelled

After 12 years of delays, fierce opposition, and controversy, the Keystone XL pipeline was officially cancelled this June. The pipeline was expected to carry more than 800,000 barrels per day of tar sand oil—the “dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet”—from Canada into the U.S. The pipeline’s cancellation was not only a massive environmental win and a "landmark moment" in the fight against climate change—it was also a major environmental justice victory for the Indigenous communities that would have faced its harsh environmental consequences. 

6. The EPA moved to slash emissions from potent HFCs

In September, the EPA released a new rule to cap and phase down the use of climate-damaging greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. The new rule will reduce emissions from HFCs by 85 percent over the next 15 years and avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century. HFCs are used in things such as aerosols, industrial refrigeration, and air conditioners and can warm the planet at a rate hundreds to thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide. Avipsa Mahapatra, climate campaign leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency, called HFCs “the most potent super-pollutants known to mankind at the moment” and praised this “landmark EPA rulemaking.”

7. Environmental justice was prioritized in the U.S. pandemic recovery

As part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress earlier this year, more than $30 billion was allocated towards issues related to environmental justice. $30.5 billion went towards public transit agencies, which can play a key role in reducing transportation emissions and air pollution in urban communities. Additionally, the EPA received $100 million to address air pollution and environmental health risks in minority and low-income communities—many of which have been hit hard by COVID-19, as their exposure to disproportionate air pollution puts them at higher risk of developing severe complications. Learn more about the importance of environmental justice in this blog post.

8. 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 plant-based meats from brands such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have skyrocketed in recent years, as more people try moving towards more plant-based diets. This year, fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Panda Express all added plant-based options to their menus—and Burger King opened a fully vegetarian pop-up restaurant in Spain! The UN has identified plant-based eating as a significant way we can fight climate change, so the shift towards more plant-based foods is exciting news for our planet.

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

A survey 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.

10. CleanChoice customers made a huge impact

This year alone, CleanChoice Energy customers have used more than 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of clean, renewable energy. That has the same environmental impact as planting more than 17 million trees, taking more than 234,000 cars off the road, or preventing more than 1.2 billion pounds of coal from being burned! By choosing to power their homes with 100% clean, pollution-free energy, CleanChoice customers help protect our planet every day and make a lasting, positive impact on the environment.

As we wrap up 2021, 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? Sign up for 100% clean, renewable energy today to ensure a cleaner tomorrow. Here’s to an even more sustainable 2022!

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