Yes, 2020 was a year saturated with negative news. But we wouldn’t do it justice if we only remembered it for the doom and gloom. Throughout the year’s unprecedented times, there have also been plenty of moments that brought a sense of optimism over our planet’s future. Our global energy sector, in particular, has been packed with such positive developments. Here’s a rundown of the most important ones:
- Coal is on its way out
The green energy transition is well underway in the US, where power companies announced more than a dozen coal plant retirements this year. The same goes for Europe, where coal plant retirements outpaced the commissioning of new generation for the first time.
- Gas isn’t far behind
As utilities retire coal plants, they are opting for renewables rather than gas. This is thanks to clean energy from solar and wind becoming increasingly competitive with natural gas power.
- China commits to carbon neutrality
Not long after the EU pledged to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030, China made an unexpected announcement in September that it will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 — a move that’s a major boost to the prospects for next year’s UN climate summit.
- Carbon-free electricity goes mainstream
Zero-carbon electricity has gained significant momentum this year. EU’s stimulus package set aside 25 percent for climate-friendly measures, including clean energy technologies. The US is also expected to commit to a carbon-free power sector by 2035.
- Big banks make major climate commitments
This year has seen major moves on climate action by some of the world’s largest financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley.
- Financial institutions are also getting on board with shipping decarbonization
Signatories of the Poseidon Principles — a finance initiative to decarbonize the maritime shipping sector — now represent around $140 billion in loans to international shipping, about 30 percent of the total global ship finance portfolio.
- Green hydrogen is off to the races
Green hydrogen — that is, hydrogen made with electricity that comes from renewable sources — has seen a significant boost in 2020. Seven world-leading companies have announced a global coalition that will accelerate the scale and production of green hydrogen 50-fold in the next six years.
- The US will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement
The results of the 2020 presidential election mean that the US will rejoin the Paris accord, in a boost to international climate action.
- Bans on gas vehicles are growing
In September, California became the first US state to announce a ban on internal combustion powered vehicles by 2035. The move followed in the footsteps of France, Canada, the United Kingdom and at least a dozen other countries that have committed to banning internal combustion vehicles over the next two decades.
- Methane emissions are getting attention
The EU adopted a methane strategy as part of the European Green Deal that requires improved measurement, reporting, and mitigation measures for methane emissions. The move was supported by major oil and gas companies.
- Racial justice enters the climate activism discussion
Amidst waves of protests against systemic racial injustice, climate activists have brought to the public’s attention the deep-seated links between climate change and racism. Some of the most prominent groups recognizing and acting on racial and climate justice include the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, and Rocky Mountain Institute.