One of the most promising trends in 2023 was the growth of renewable energy sources. Countries across the globe intensified their commitment to transition away from fossil fuels, embracing cleaner alternatives. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy capacity saw a substantial increase, outpacing the growth of traditional sources. This shift not only contributes to mitigating climate change but also fosters energy independence and job creation.
For wind energy, a major criticism was that turbines were expensive and required subsidies, mostly from governments, to survive. However in 2023, offshore wind generated energy became competitive with other forms of power generation, effectively removing the need for subsidy. The major factor in reducing these costs was turbine size, highlighted by skyscraper-sized wind turbines being built in the North Sea.
Solar power is getting cheaper and more adaptable. Generation of electricity from the sun is currently achieved via silicon solar cells.
But they take a lot of energy to produce, are rigid and can be fragile. The development of the world’s first rollable and fully printable solar cell in 2023 could result in producing cheaper solar cells on a greater scale than ever.
This new class of solar cell, made from perovskite, is matching the performance of silicon cells, with additional benefits that it is cheaper to produce and can be printed out using special inks and wrapped flexibly around uneven surfaces.
The resulting improvements in cost, application and performance could result in the production of cheaper solar cells on a much larger scale.
Scientists in 2023 created a meatball made of the flesh of extinct woolly mammoth, proof that cellular agriculture, sometimes called “lab-grown meat” can work, with the potential to offer a much more sustainable food source than traditional animal farming, and also help reduce the spread of disease and use of antibiotics.
Climate-related technologies or social and political behaviour can also pass similar tipping points, beyond which something better becomes inevitable, dubbed “positive” tipping points, which researchers say are happening in areas ranging from renewable energy and electric vehicles, to social movements and plant-based diets.
Recognising the pivotal role forests play in regulating the climate, nations embarked on ambitious afforestation projects. The United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration gained momentum, with countries collaborating to restore degraded ecosystems and plant millions of trees. China, for example, continued its afforestation efforts, aiming to increase forest coverage and combat desertification. Such initiatives not only contribute to carbon sequestration but also support biodiversity conservation.
Advancements in technology played a crucial role in environmental conservation efforts. Innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite monitoring systems were increasingly utilised to track and combat illegal deforestation, poaching, and other environmental crimes. Conservationists and governments collaborated to deploy these technologies, enhancing the efficiency of conservation efforts and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources.
Empowering local communities proved to be a successful approach to environmental preservation. Numerous grassroots initiatives emerged worldwide, focusing on sustainable agriculture, community-based fisheries management, and the protection of indigenous lands.
Examples are the building of sand dams in Kenya funded by The Charitable Foundation, and farmer managed land restoration led by World Vision’s Tony Rinaudo. These projects not only contribute to biodiversity conservation but also empower communities economically, creating a sense of stewardship over their natural resources.
The health of our oceans is critical for the well-being of the planet, and 2023 saw an upsurge in efforts to combat marine pollution. Innovative technologies designed for ocean cleanup, such as autonomous drones and floating trash collectors, were deployed in various locations, such as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Collaborative initiatives between governments, private enterprises, and environmental organisations aimed to reduce plastic pollution and restore the balance of marine ecosystems.
According to the Global Peace Index 2023, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace, the largest improvement in peacefulness occurred in Libya for the second successive year, followed by Burundi, Oman, Côte d’Ivoire, and Afghanistan.
Europe is the most peaceful region in the world and is home to seven of the ten most peaceful countries. The other three most peaceful countries are in the AsiaPacific region.
Finally, in 2023 a humble TV chat show about cricket’s World Cup proved to be a unifying force for traditional rivals and neighbours, India and Pakistan, just as a Pakistani music show was in 2022. Late last year thousands of Indians tuned in to watch The Pavilion, featuring high profile former Pakistan cricket stars Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq.
While India and Pakistan share an intense cricket rivalry, political tensions have meant that cricket often takes a back seat. In 2023 for the World Cup cricket tournament, hosted by India, it was initially unclear if the Pakistan team would even agree to take part. They eventually did, and the two sides played each other in a game that stopped both nations.
The Pakistan team were cheered by Indian locals on arrival at airports, and in matches. And clips from the Pakistani TV show were widely shared on social media in India, especially the ones in which the Pakistan former players praised the Indian team.