2023 in review: Climate milestones, the highs and lows

Reflecting on the year’s close, what key developments emerged in the realm of climate change and sustainability?
Wind energy on Global Wind Day

Throughout 2023, remarkable strides and significant milestones were achieved in the battle against climate change and in fostering sustainability. However, this period was also underscored by the impact of global warming. We bid farewell to this informative year with a review of the most important news discussed during these months.



The outset of 2023 brought disheartening news regarding decarbonization goals. Global CO2 emissions soared to an all-time high of 40.6 billion tons in 2022. With scientific consensus emphasizing the need to cap the planet’s temperature rise within 1.5 degrees by century-end, the reality looms grim as temperatures have already escalated by over 1.1 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Experts have long advocated for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, setting the trajectory to mitigate temperature escalation.

Nonetheless, a glimmer of hope emerged towards year-end with the signing of a crucial agreement to advance this objective. More on that further on.



A beacon of hope in biodiversity emerged in February as the UN finally brokered a global accord to safeguard marine life. After two decades of deliberation, the High Seas Treaty laid the groundwork for preserving international waters extending beyond 200 nautical miles from coastlines, aiming to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030—a threshold considered vital by scientists for its well-being.



March 2023 etched itself into the annals of water sustainability history with the convening of the first United Nations Water Conference in 50 years. This landmark gathering focused on devising solutions to protect, sustainably manage, and ensure universal access to water resources.



April directed attention towards the Middle East, which is grappling with severe drought. Nations in this region topped the list of the world’s most water-scarce countries, where annual water consumption far exceeded available resources. Despite the alarming situation, technological innovations hold promise as potent allies in combating this crisis.



Renewable energies asserted their undeniable role in combating climate change, witnessing a surge in energy production compared to fossil fuels. In fact, the next month’s review features a fantastic piece of news related to this topic.

Moreover, May spotlighted a lesser-known advantage of renewables: their easily reversible nature. The ease of decommissioning wind farms or solar plants at the end of their lifecycle signifies a technically straightforward, economically feasible, and environmentally sustainable process—a facet often overlooked.





Summer commenced with noteworthy statistics on renewable energy production in Spain and Europe. Solar and wind energy outpaced fossil fuels in the EU, marking a pivotal moment for Spain as domestic renewable generation consistently surpassed 50% of the total, averaging 58.66% throughout the year. Photovoltaic generation even eclipsed wind power during the summer months, a groundbreaking achievement for the country.



However, rising temperatures soon took center stage in the news. July brought alarming projections as experts warned that global warming could completely thaw the Arctic Ocean ice between 2030 and 2050.



The terminology surrounding the climate anomaly escalated further in August, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres alluding to the shift from global warming to the era of “global boiling.”



The summer ended with record-breaking temperatures and the news that July 2023 was the hottest month in the last 120,000 years. Furthermore, in Europe, 2022 witnessed temperatures soaring 2.3°C above the pre-industrial period average.



Amidst challenges, silver linings emerged in October with the rise of car-free cities fostering local health and economies through sustainable mobility.



Additionally, the revelation that breathing cleaner air, courtesy of decreased fossil fuel usage directly benefits public health. Annual deaths linked to particulate matter from fossil fuels decreased from 1,437,000 to 1,212,000—a 15.7% drop. Experts attribute this decline primarily to reduced air pollutants stemming from coal combustion.



The cherry on top of the year’s news had to wait until the last month, with an inspiring development redirecting the efforts of Paris Agreement signatories towards necessary decarbonization—the achievements of the COP28 climate summit. For the first time, after decades of talking about greenhouse gas emissions, the final agreement of the Dubai summit contains an express mention of embarking on the path to transition away from fossil fuels, the culprits of climate change. A declaration of intent that hopefully will take shape throughout 2024.

Summing up, 2023 emerges as a pivotal year in the global battle against climate change and the advancement of sustainability. The attained milestones unequivocally indicate that the world can no longer be a passive spectator in this fight, serving both as a testament to progress and a reminder of the substantial work ahead. As we transition into 2024, it is crucial to reflect on these accomplishments and draw inspiration to persist in building a more sustainable and resilient future.