Taking an optimistic look back at the environmental highlights of 2019, I've gathered my thoughts for the year, together with the things I'm looking out for in 2020.

  • The UK commits to be carbon free by 2050 (and Scotland by 2045)

Make no bones it’s a huge, necessary and welcome ambition. Transforming the UK’s economy will be a huge opportunity and a challenge. While the debate will about whether the progress is fast enough, the stated intention is clear.

  • The rise and rise of Greta

It’s clear that many of the “snowflakes” that adults love to deride are more impressive, articulate and engaged than many politicians and leaders.

environmental highlights 2019 blog

  • A record drop in electricity production from coal

Global electricity production from coal is on track to fall in 2019 as countries switch to cleaner alternatives. Coal power has fallen by 14% in the US this year, 19% in the EU and, even in China, the country’s coal plants have been running for less than half the time. It’s a welcome antidote to the meme that other countries are increasing coal combustion.

  • Bushfires and floods

This year brought another crop of reminders of the cost and impact of climate change. Australian bushfires and Yorkshire floods stood out for me.

  • Italy makes pupils study climate change

From September schoolchildren will dedicate an hour a week to learning about climate change and sustainable development. Great leadership from Education Minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti.  

  • The rise of EVs, and hydrogen trains

Nearly 10% of all cars sold in the UK this year will run at least some of the time on electric motors according the Society for Motor manufacturers and Traders. Nowhere near as many as in Norway, but it’s a clear trend. And on the rails, this year saw that UK’s first hydrogen-powered train.

environmental highlights 2019 blog EV

  • Climate change stress tests for UK banks

The announcement from the Bank of England at the end of last year, that seven lenders will stress test the resilience of their investments to climate change, is a world first, and groundbreaking.

  • The UK requires new developments to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity

Confirmed in March, this is a truly welcome step to reversing the 60% loss in diversity from the past 50 years.

  • The UK’s first Environmental Practitioner degree level apprenticeship.

I was really proud of our work to launch this first course in September, in partnership with Kingston University. With more universities are set to launch courses in 2020, it's a great new way for young people to get the skills to deliver a sustainable, prosperous, resilient economy.

environmental highlights 2019 blog study

  • Future Ready at the heart of our WSP global strategy

Finally, on a personal note, I was thrilled that Future Ready is now both golden thread through our new global strategy, and that it was the theme of our global conference this year.  Still so much to do but Future Ready is having growing impact across our global business and with our clients.

2020 will be a momentus year too. The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in Autumn 2020 will be huge – and needs to deliver after this year’s COP out. We need the new Government to crack on with delivering its manifesto commitments.  And if the UK’s going to meet its zero carbon commitments we need action. Because if we're going to be a zero carbon economy by 2050, that's 2,300 EV chargers and 1700 heat pumps each day, every day until 2050. 

This blog was written by David Symons, Future Ready leader at WSP and was first shared on LinkedIn

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