As the calendar turned to 2024, the world reflected on what was a pivotal year for the environment.
2023 marked the hottest year ever recorded, with temperatures reaching unprecedented levels globally.
However, there was a silver lining. Last year also broke the all-time record for renewable energy use, the cleanest form of electricity generation.
Are these records linked? Will 2024 be a turning point in our climate?
In this blog, we delve into the intertwining narratives of scorching temperatures and the surge in renewable energy, questioning whether 2024 will be a turning point both for our climate and UK businesses.
2023: A ‘Gobsmackingly Bananas’ Year
2023 will be remembered as a year that shattered records and raised critical questions about the future of our planet.
The heat was so far above previous averages that one scientist called it “gobsmackingly bananas”.
In fact, the global average temperature in 2023 greatly exceeded the previous record in 2016.
The cause of the increase in heat?
Scientific analysis was unanimous. This surge was caused by record emissions of carbon dioxide and exacerbated by the return of the natural climate phenomenon, El Niño. Climate scientists found that Earth was 1.48 degrees Celsius hotter this year than the pre-industrial era – before we started burning fossil fuels.
For businesses still sceptical about their environmental impact, these figures present irrefutable proof that industrial operations alter the climate we live in.
The consequences were widespread and profound. 2023 saw a rise in heatwaves, floods, and wildfires worldwide. Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves in Europe and the US, were also deemed virtually impossible without human-induced global heating.
How Did the Energy Market Respond?
In contrast to the alarming rise in temperatures, the energy market witnessed a transformative shift in 2023.
Analysis by Carbon Brief revealed a 22% year-on-year decline in UK electricity generated from fossil fuels, reaching the lowest level since 1957. Fossil fuel-based electricity production plummeted by two-thirds since 2008, with coal experiencing a remarkable 97% drop and gas decreasing by 45%.
This decline was driven by the rapid expansion of renewable energy, which has seen a six-fold increase since 2008. Lower electricity demand, down 21% since 2008, also played a pivotal role.
December emerged as a pivotal month environmentally, with the lowest average electricity generation at 122gCO2/kWh, showcasing the positive impact of renewable energy on carbon emissions.
On a global scale, 2023 witnessed an unprecedented surge in renewable energy adoption.
New solar power led the charge as countries embraced clean energy at an astonishing pace. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projected the addition of over 440 gigawatts of renewable energy in 2023, surpassing the combined installed power capacity of Germany and Spain!
In a historic milestone, China saw its installed capacity of renewable energy surpass that of coal power for the first time. This shift signifies a transformative change in the country’s energy structure, contributing to green growth and providing affordable and eco-friendly sustainable energy.
What’s in store for 2024?
2024 holds the potential for transformation.
What are the paths ahead for businesses?
Businesses’ reliance on the status quo will continue the dangerous trajectory of soaring temperatures and deadly wildfires. However, investment in energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures, including a shift to renewable energy, can create a more sustainable path.
Will 2024 be a turning point? Only time will tell, but the choices made today will undoubtedly shape our shared future.