But as we begin 2024, it’s understandable if many of us feel a bit hopeless – even scared – about the future of our planet. I know I sometimes feel that way.
As the calendar page turns, the task ahead looks daunting. Carbon emissions continue to increase, but scientists say we must cut emissions by 43% compared with 2019 levels by the end of the decade. Every passing day, the urgency only grows.
Which leads me to our next urgent task: making sure we don’t lose hope. So, at this crucial time, where can we turn for a bit of optimism?
Many climate leaders I spoke with in Dubai at COP28 said their hope lies in humanity’s incredible ability to ramp up change – quickly.
In fact, some experts say our collective efforts have put us on the verge of several “positive tipping points” that could help us reach those essential climate goals. These are turning points that could bring about exponential change, in a good way, this year.
1. Electric vehicles
Sales of electric vehicles tripled from 2020 to 2022. And they’re likely to have gone up another 35% in 2023, with EVs making up almost one in five new cars. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates EVs will save five million barrels of oil per day by the end of the decade.
As demand rises, new competition is set to drive down prices. In fact, Chinese car maker BYD recently overtook Tesla as the world’s top EV seller.
2. Renewable energy
The price of green energy technology – from solar panels to batteries – has been dropping at an incredible rate. That means in the majority of countries, building new solar and wind power facilities is cheaper than building new fossil fuel power plants. Next, it’s starting to become cheaper to put up solar panels than to burn coal in existing power plants.
With many developing nations hoping to skip fossil fuels altogether, economics matters. The cheaper clean electricity becomes, the easier that move will be.
3. Change in China
China’s use of fossil fuels is expected to peak in 2024, and is projected to begin falling in 2025 according to the IEA. And by 2025, the agency expects China to have enough renewable electricity to power the whole country.
China is the world’s top polluter – so a tipping point for China could be a tipping point for climate change.
As we discussed last month, countries didn’t get everything they were hoping for in Dubai. But the final text did include some powerful agreements. Nations promised to triple their renewable energy capacity and double their energy efficiency by 2030. The IEA says that could get us almost one third of the way closer to our climate goals.
Leaders in Dubai also, for the first time, called for a transition away from fossil fuels. It included some big caveats. But that signal on its own could be a big tipping point in climate leadership.
Yes, you can make a big difference for the climate. Small steps can have a large impact when multiplied across communities and countries. Whether it’s re-evaluating the way you eat, travel or purchase clothes, there are plenty of ways to make small but impactful changes.
For some quick, low-cost ideas and inspiration, explore our Sustainability on a Shoestring article series.
Tags: China's use of fossil fuels, Electric vehicles, International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy