2023 was a shining spot of hope amid decades of bad climate-related news. From policy changes and legal rulings to individual success stories, last year saw a number of wins for the planet. We’ve rounded up the top 23 from across the world:
- France banned single-use plastics at fast food restaurants. This is one step in a larger plan for the nation to stop use of all single-use plastic products by the year 2040.
- The United Nations adopted the High Seas Treaty, creating guidelines to establish marine protected areas. This is in efforts to preserve biodiversity, and an important step in reaching the UN’s “30x30” target to protect and conserve at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
- New Environmental Protection Agency regulations will cut large amounts of methane pollution from oil and gas operations. The impact of these regulations is huge. By 2038, the reductions in pollution are projected to have nearly the same climate impact as removing one billion cars from the U.S. for a year.
- The final COP28 agreement, agreed upon by almost 200 countries, included a goal to move away from fossil fuels for the first time ever.
- In a case brought by young climate activists, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that “regulators must consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing permits for fossil fuel development.”
- The Biden Administration established the American Climate Corps, which will train 20,000 young people in the areas of conservation and clean energy.
- The Biden Administration also canceled all remaining oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge.
- The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol passed with bipartisan support. It phases out chemicals commonly found in air conditioners and refrigerators, known as hydrofluorocarbons. When hydrofluorocarbons leak and enter the atmosphere, they heat up the planet. This amendment is predicted to avert 1 degree Fahrenheit of global warming by the end of the century.
- The Inflation Reduction Act includes $369 billion for climate priorities.
- One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that plants a tree for every dollar donated, hit a major milestone. In the nine years since its founding, it has planted 100 million trees!
- For the first time in a decade, the white rhino population has increased. Northern white rhinos are critically endangered, with only two still in existence at the start of 2023. Thanks to advancements in in vitro fertilization technology, scientists from the BioRescue consortium were able to raise the population to 30.
- The California pipevine swallowtail, a butterfly species, has been rapidly declining due to loss of habitat. Tim Wong, an aquatic biologist, built a backyard botanical garden to help save the species. After starting off with just 20 caterpillars, he now has over 1,000!
- A project to remove the Klamath River Dam began in 2023, and will continue into 2024. These dams have degraded water quality for wildlife and led to excessive growth of toxic cyanobacteria.
- El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, ran on only wind and water power for 28 straight days!
- 21 nations gathered in Tokyo for the first “litter picking World Cup.”
- Six new countries pledged money to the Green Climate Fund. This brings the total amount pledged to over $12 billion!
- Many European researchers found that climate strikes are slowly working to “effectively raise awareness” and influence public discourse.
- 2023 saw record-breaking global increases in renewable energy adoption. The International Energy Agency also delivered promising news for the future of renewable energy, saying that the “world's capacity to generate renewable electricity is expanding faster than at any time in the last three decades.”
- The U.S. private sector has announced more than $110 billion in new clean energy investments.
- The ozone layer is officially on track to heal by 2040!
- In 2023 there were more new investments in solar power than in oil.
- Arizona is building the first solar-covered canal to supply clean energy and reduce water evaporation.
- Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest fell by 22%!
Continuing the positive momentum that we set for the planet in 2023 is possible, but it requires a strong commitment from lawmakers, climate activists, and everyday people throughout 2024. Consider sending your local lawmakers a letter or calling them in support of climate related bills, joining protests and engaging with your community, making small lifestyle changes, or even just sharing this information with your friends and family. Find more information about steps you can take in this article, and ideas on how you can contribute to the movement to live sustainably throughout our blog.
Think we missed something? Have a personal or community success story? Share that with us here!