Anyone would be forgiven for thinking there was little good news in a year dominated by the war in Ukraine as well as the cost-of-living crisis and record climate-related disasters. But there were, indeed, some bright spots. FRANCE 24 looks back at 10 good news stories from 2022.
After two years in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, many had hoped 2022 would herald a brighter future. Those hopes were dashed just a few weeks later with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The past 12 months have also been punctuated by record climate disasters, the overturning of federal abortion rights in the United States and the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Nevertheless, there was also some good news, from scientific breakthroughs to progress on human rights. FRANCE 24 brings you a round-up of some of the positive stories from 2022 that you may have missed.
Hopes for treating Alzheimer’s, sleeping sickness and HIV/AIDS
The results of a large-scale clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in late November were hailed as a breakthrough on Alzheimer’s research. A drug called lecanemab was found to slow the cognitive decline of patients by 27 percent. Unfortunately, lecanemab also causes side effects, some of them serious, so longer clinical trials are needed to be sure that the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. More than 55 million people suffer from dementia around the world, with Alzheimer’s disease the most common form.
Elsewhere, a drug known as acoziborole could help eradicate sleeping sickness by 2030, according to data published in The Lancet medical journal. This parasitic disease, transmitted by the Tsetse fly, threatens at least 60 million people in 36 African countries and is fatal if left untreated. Until now, all existing treatments for sleeping sickness required hospitalisation. But acoziborole, co-developed by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, can be taken in tablet form, making it much easier to distribute.
In a further piece of good news from the medical world, scientists announced in February that a third person – the first woman – had been cured of HIV, thanks to an innovative treatment consisting of transplanting stem cells from umbilical cord blood.
Last but not least are the hopes that mRNA vaccines, originally developed against Covid-19, could be tools in the fight against cancer. A team of US researchers announced in August they had developed a cancer vaccine with very good results on mice.
From tigers to grey wolves: Endangered species come back from the brink
We all too regularly see headlines about wildlife disappearing, a worrying sign of the biodiversity crisis. However, scientists were also able to observe the opposite phenomenon in 2022, with some endangered species coming back.
Almost 50 years after researchers lost track of the Anatolian leopard, one was spotted in Turkey in May. Meanwhile, wild tiger numbers have turned out to be 40 percent higher worldwide than previously estimated and their population appears to be increasing, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced in July. The same goes for grey wolves. In France, where they are listed as a protected species, their number has increased to 921 from 783 in 2021, according to the French Biodiversity Agency.
These developments are excellent news since it’s estimated that vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 69 percent in less than 50 years, with far-reaching consequences for the planet.
The end of 2022 saw more good news for nature, with a landmark deal reached at the UN COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada, on December 19. The agreement pledges to secure 30 percent of the planet as a protected zone by 2030 and to provide $30 billion in conservation aid annually for the developing world.
Nations step up efforts to fight deforestation
The year also brought reassuring news for the protection of forests, considered essential to fighting climate change. Among them was the return to power of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil – the leftist president-elect has already vowed to halt deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which increased sharply under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. During his speech on November 16 at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Lula declared: “There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon. We will do whatever it takes to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes.”
Meanwhile, EU lawmakers and member states reached a historic deal on December 6 to ban the import into the bloc of several products considered “main drivers of deforestation”. These include palm oil, beef, soy, coffee and cocoa produced on land that was deforested after December 31, 2020. The European Council and the European Parliament have yet to officially adopt the legislation, but are expected to do so.
Three more countries abolish the death penalty
In 2022, Papua New Guinea, the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea passed legislation abolishing capital punishment for all crimes. According to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, an international alliance headquartered near Paris, 111 countries out of 200 have now entirely abandoned the practice. Three nations – Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – accounted for 80 percent of executions in 2021.
Victories for LGBT rights around the world
In a historic referendum, Cubans voted overwhelmingly in favour of legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt. Some 67 percent of voters backed the changes on September 25, making Cuba the first Communist country in the world to legalise gay marriage and adoption two days later.
The Japanese capital Tokyo began rolling out a partnership certificate scheme, which allows same-sex couples to be treated the same as married couples when it comes to housing, medicine and welfare. These certificates already exist in other prefectures across Japan, but their introduction in Tokyo on November 1 means that more than 60 percent of the Japanese population can now benefit from them. The move was welcomed by LGBT activists as a step forward in the only G7 country that does not allow same-sex marriage.
Singapore’s parliament also repealed a British colonial-era that criminalised sex between men. Although it was not actively enforced, the law had punished gay sex with up to two years in jail. Its repeal on November 30 had been a long-running demand of LGBT activists.
Scotland makes period products available free of charge
In a world first, menstrual products became available free of charge in Scotland thanks to a new law that aims to combat period poverty. The move follows pioneering legislation from 2018 that made period products available in Scottish schools, colleges and universities. Since August 15, local authorities in Scotland are now legally obliged to provide menstrual products to “anyone who needs them” – in practice, this means making the items available at libraries, swimming pools, public gyms and community centres. In addition, a mobile app, PickupMyPeriod, helps women and girls locate their nearest distribution point.
Equal pay for US men’s and women’s football teams
In May, the US Soccer Federation announced it had reached a deal guaranteeing equal pay for its men’s and women’s national teams. The landmark agreement marked the culmination of a lengthy legal battle for the US women’s players spearheaded by stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
The men’s and women’s teams will now receive the same fees and bonuses, be it for “friendlies” or competitive matches. The deal also stipulates that players from both teams “pool and share” the otherwise unequal prize money paid by FIFA for participation in their respective World Cups. As for “commercial revenue”, including from broadcasting and partnerships, this will now be shared equally between the two teams.
“This is a truly historic moment. These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world,” US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement on May 18.
James Webb telescope captures unknown corners of the universe
On July 11, six months after its launch into orbit, the James Webb Space Telescope delivered its first colour image. The breathtaking snapshot shows galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago – the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far”, according to NASA.
Since then, the “telescope of the century”, the most powerful ever sent into space, has provided stunning images of little-known or even unknown corners of our universe, from nebulas to exoplanets and galaxy clusters. It’s hoped that this will lead to significant progress in astronomy in the years to come.
Nuclear fusion, a ‘major scientific breakthrough’ that brings hope for the planet
A team of US scientists announced in mid-December they had achieved “ignition” – a net energy gain – during a nuclear fusion experiment. The researchers hailed the milestone as a key step in demonstrating the viability of the carbon-free technology, which they say could provide a clean, infinite and inexpensive energy source in the future. However, there is still a long way to go before nuclear fusion can power people’s homes, as numerous engineering challenges remain.
Germany bets on sustainable transport
As a consequence of the war in Ukraine and resulting cost-of-living crisis, 2022 saw a move to more sustainable modes of transport. In a bid to help offset inflation, Germany launched a €9 pass for three months over the summer, allowing unlimited travel on local and regional trains, buses and trams. Despite some hiccups, such as overcrowded trains, the operation – a world first in terms of affordability – was considered a success.
In total, more than 52 million individual tickets were sold, while a further 10 million pre-existing subscribers received the discount. According to the Association of German Transport Companies, nearly 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 were saved as a result. Following this experimentation, the transport ministers of the 16 German regions announced in mid-October that a nationwide transport ticket would be introduced from January 1, 2023, costing €49 a month.