The 7 Biggest Climate Wins of 2023: Renewables, COP 28, and More
2023 was officially the hottest year on record. We saw climate extremes in the form of heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding across different parts of the world. But it wasn’t all doom, hopelessness, and despair.
We also made some significant developments to reduce our emissions and handle the climate crisis. Here are some of them that stood out:
The shift to renewable energy
In 2023, emissions from the fossil fuel industry peaked and began a terminal decline. The increasing adoption and declining cost of renewable sources like solar and wind played a major role in this shift. Today, it is cheaper to generate energy from solar or wind plants compared to coal or gas facilities. The U.S. witnessed its largest annual addition of solar in 2023, and analysts predict that 2024 will set another record for new solar installations. By 2027, the total solar capacity installed in the U.S. is expected to nearly double.
Rising adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs)
EVs are becoming more affordable and appealing compared to internal combustion (IC) vehicles. In the U.S., over 1 million EVs were sold in 2023, accounting for 7.6% of the total U.S. vehicle market, which is an increase from 5.9% in 2022. It is projected that the EV market share in the U.S. will reach 10% in 2024 with the introduction of more EV models, improved charging infrastructure, and government incentives like the Inflation Reduction Act. Globally, the electric car sales rose by 31% in 2023.
EU's New Carbon Tax
In October 2023, Europe implemented a landmark policy known as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which imposes charges on corporations in the EU for importing certain polluting products into the union unless the products originate from countries that have their own carbon price. Before 2023, this policy applied only to companies producing in the EU, enabling businesses to bypass it by offshoring production. The passage of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism will close this loophole and ensure that corporations are held accountable for their carbon emissions. The CBAM certificates will be applicable from 2026. From October 2023 to December 2025, the importers of goods covered by the CBAM will have to measure and declare their emissions.
Historic steps taken at COP 28
At COP28 in Dubai, the world leaders launched the long-awaited fund for loss and damage caused by climate change. Historically, rich countries have resisted the loss and damage fund, fearing liability for the climate damage they caused. It changed in 2023 when delegates took a significant step by establishing a loss and damage fund to compensate vulnerable, developing countries for the impacts of climate change. A $100 billion annual pledge was also met for the first time, providing financial assistance to countries impacted by climate change. This will help developing countries protect and educate their vulnerable communities about the impacts of climate change. COP 28 also witnessed, for the first time, an agreement to transition away from the use of fossil fuels for energy, which signifies the beginning of the end for fossil fuels. Let’s hope the momentum continues at COP 29 in Azerbaijan in 2024.
A treaty to protect the high seas
After more than a decade of negotiations, the United Nations member countries have agreed to the first-ever treaty to protect the world's oceans beyond national boundaries. Currently, only about 1% of the high seas, which make up two-thirds of the world's oceans, are protected. This leaves marine life vulnerable to threats such as climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic. The treaty will establish protected areas in international waters, contributing to the global goal of protecting 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.
Drop in deforestation rates in Amazon rainforest
In Brazil's Amazon rainforest, the deforestation rates in 2023 were halved compared to the previous year, reaching the lowest level since 2018. This achievement is largely attributed to President Silva's government's return to a successful strategy that effectively reduced deforestation from 2004 to 2012. It marks a significant step towards the goal of completely stopping deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 2030.
Let’s hope the list gets longer in 2024.
While businesses and governments are responsible for systemic changes, as individuals, there’s a lot of collective action that all of us can take.
Try this 1-minute quiz to help you discover your Sustainability Resolution for 2024 and reduce your footprint by 1%. The quiz results are tailored to your lifestyle, so you will receive recommendations that you are not already implementing and can feasibly do.