Sustainability 2023 wins
This year’s climate extremes may give the impression that humanity has not made any climate mitigation progress and we are soon to be doomed, but climate experts say we’ve made some progress in 2023 and that gives at least some hope. Let´s review major 2023 progress in the sustainability field.
1. Record growth for clean energy
Energy from renewables like wind and solar grew faster than the world’s power demand did, which means emissions from the sector were predicted to edge downwards for the first time. By the end of 2023, the world will have added enough wind energy to power nearly 80 million homes, making it a record year.
The IEA projected that more than 440 gigawatts of renewable energy would be added in 2023, more than the entire installed power capacity of Germany and Spain together. China, Europe, and the U.S. each set solar installation records for a single year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. China’s additions dwarfed those of all other countries, at somewhere between 180 and 230 gigawatts, depending on how end-of-the-year projects turn out. Europe added 58 gigawatts.
2. A loud promise to move away from fossil fuels
The final COP28 agreement, agreed by almost 200 countries, for the first time included a goal to move away from fossil fuels. Nations such as the US, Australia and the EU bloc welcomed the deal as historic for deciding to transition away from fossil fuels. Small island states, vulnerable nations, and poorer countries said the language was not strong or urgent enough, and criticised a lack of detail on how rich countries could provide support in the transition.
At COP28, delegates also took a historic step in establishing a loss and damage fund, the latest development in a three-decades-long fight to have wealthy, high-emitting countries compensate vulnerable, developing ones for the harms of climate change. Although the $700 million pledged so far doesn’t come close to the estimated hundreds of billions worth of damages, experts acknowledge that agreeing to a fund is a big deal
3. Climate trial victories
Several key court rulings also endorsed the climate agenda. Major victory was in U.S. courts when a Montana judge ruled that fossil fuel development could indeed violate a group of young people’s state constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment. In Europe, several major cases have framed climate inaction as a violation of fundamental human rights to life and health, a Dutch and Belgian court went as far as ordering the government to cut carbon emissions more quickly.
As a result, climate awareness is increasing among policymakers and people too and there are signs that public perceptions around certain solutions are changing.
4. A treaty to protect the high seas
After decades of negotiations, countries have finally agreed to a treaty to protect the world’s oceans that lie outside national boundaries. Until now, just 1% of these waters have been protected. The High Seas Treaty provides a framework for setting up marine protected areas, a crucial step to fulfil aims to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
5. Deforestation of the Amazon slows
Other hopeful forest news came from Brazil, where the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest dropped sharply, after Brazil’s new government pledged to stop deforestation completely by 2030 and took steps including monitoring the forest for criminal activity such as illegal logging. In Colombia, the rate has also slowed sharply.
One reason for the positive trend was that governments were returning to a strategy that successfully kept deforestation low between 2004 and 2012. This approach includes not only monitoring and fines but also alternatives of production.
6. CSRD and CBAN legislation in Europe
Meanwhile, in Europe, a landmark policies took effect. CSRD that will require up to 50 000 European companies to report on their non-financial ESG related strategies will significantly scale up ESG efforts in European value chains. The Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is also a game changer. In the EU, companies have long needed to adhere to strict limits on their carbon emissions, which has incentivized them to offshore production to other countries. The new legislation charges corporations for importing certain polluting products into the union unless they come from countries that have their own carbon price. This move could nudge many nations around the world to set a price on carbon pollution. The policy has one of the biggest potentials, as a single legislation, to really revolutionize the structures of global trade.
7. Record sales of EVS
Electric vehicle sales continue to grow faster than most people expected, even faster than professional analysts in the field expected. Electric vehicles are also becoming cheaper and more attractive than their gas-guzzling counterparts. Although places like Norway and China lead in EV sales, the U.S. reached a major milestone this year: For the first time, more than one million (1.4 for 2023) EVs have been sold in a calendar year. It’s a remarkable feat considering that in 2020, EV sales in the U.S. only scrapped through 250,000 for the first time. So far this year, more than 10.7 million plug-in electric cars have been registered around the world, which is about 16% of the total volume, we estimate.