Environmental breakthroughs in 2023

As 2023 draws to a close, it’s essential to acknowledge that amidst the year’s tumult, several significant environmental milestones may have escaped your notice. In a world where eco-anxiety can overshadow progress, asset and wealth managers, and anyone working towards a more sustainable future, must focus on the brighter side. Positive news acts as a counterbalance, especially as we approach the year’s end—a time for reflection and recalibration.

So, here’s our list of 2023 environmental wins…

1. The green energy surge in the US: A testament to legislative impact

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, has catalysed a remarkable shift in the US’s green energy landscape. This legislative move spurred over $110 billion in new clean energy investments, with a significant focus on electric vehicles. Researchers predict that by 2035, these efforts could reduce emissions by up to 48% from 2005 levels, aligning the US closer to its climate commitments.

2. The rise of wind and solar energy

Globally, there’s been an unprecedented increase in wind and solar adoption due to growing energy security concerns, policy momentum, and improving competitiveness against fossil fuel alternatives. Investment in clean energy has risen 40% since 2020. Researchers agree that it’s likely solar power has crossed a tipping point, and is set to dominate the global electricity market before 2050. This not only represents an exciting shift in energy sources, but also indicates a growing market for sustainable investments.

Though still critically endangered, the Amur leopard population has expanded
3. Revival of endangered species

Several endangered species, including the majestic Blue Whale and the Amur Leopard, have shown remarkable recovery thanks to global conservation efforts and preservation initiatives. These successes highlight the power of targeted environmental policies.

4. Plastic ban successes

Numerous countries have successfully implemented bans on single-use plastics, significantly reducing ocean pollution and fostering a culture of sustainability. Here in the UK, the supermarket plastic bag charge has led to a 98% drop in use in England, 2023 data shows. Further plastic ban measures were implemented in October.

Though the Global Plastics Treaty has made little progress, new legal pathways are allowing people to take matters into their own hands and sue plastics manufacturers for damages. Snowballing climate lawsuits are adding to the pressure for circularity.

5. Renewable energy milestones

Countries like Sweden and Portugal have achieved record-breaking days where almost all their energy needs were met through renewable sources.

Between 31st October to 6th November, renewable energy production exceeded the country’s electricity requirements for 149 hours straight; a new record.

6. Corporate sustainability initiatives

An increasing number of corporations have committed to net-zero emissions, with credible plans and investments in sustainable practices. According to Net Zero Tracker 66% of the annual revenue of the world’s largest 2000 companies is now covered by a net zero target.

7. Growth in green bonds and ESG investments

The market for green bonds and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investments has seen significant growth, indicating a shift in investment trends towards sustainability. According to S&P Global, the green bond market reached a record high in the first half of 2023, with issuances totalling $310 billion. This marked the highest half-year total since the inception of the green bond market. Global ESG-related assets under management are forecasted to increase to USD 33.9 trillion by 2026, up from USD 18.4 trillion in 2021.

8. Urban greening projects

Cities around the world are increasingly adopting urban greening projects, boosting biodiversity, improving air quality and providing green spaces for residents (human and otherwise!). Shade, radiation deflection, temperature cooling provided by trees and generally-improved public health are among additional benefits cited by the The World Economic Forum.

As we embrace the festive season, let’s carry the light of these environmental successes into the new year. They are not just stories of progress but beacons of hope, illuminating our path towards a sustainable future.

Happy holidays from SI Engage, and here’s to a brighter, greener year ahead!

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