Four sources of climate hope

It can be painfully slow to win action on climate change, but there are positive developments on the horizon.

With governments dragging their feet on climate action, broken temperature records and increasingly recurrent climate disasters, hope can sometimes be hard to find.

But it’s not all bad news. A number of important trends are working in our favour, creating opportunities that – if we seize them – could help pull the world back from the climate brink, and steer us towards a safer, fairer future.

1 The shift away from fossil fuels

The rollout of renewable technologies has been gaining pace. The construction costs of solar PV, wind power, heat pumps and battery storage all fell by around 80 per cent between 2010 and 2022, meaning that solar and wind are now the cheapest forms of energy generation. Between 2015 and 2022, the global rate of solar power installation grew by over 400 per cent and, after a recent slowdown, wind power growth is also expected to pick up again this year. It’s predicted that renewables will supply a third of global electricity in 2024, leading to a decline in new coal power stations.

To achieve the urgent transition that we need, this growth in renewables must be accelerated further. We will also need a reduction in wasted energy (especially in the Global North), stronger rules around workers’ rights, ethical sourcing of materials and genuine public and community control over energy. But the incredible rise of renewable energy is keeping hopes alive of a genuine shift away from fossil fuels.

2 What about China?

China may be the world’s biggest emitter in total, but per person the country is far behind the likes of Qatar, Australia, the US and Canada. China’s emissions are also on track to peak in the next few years, thanks to the mind-boggling numbers of wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles the country has deployed in recent years. In 2023 China added renewable generation equivalent to the entire electricity supply of the UK.

 

3 The death throes of dirty energy

The rise of renewables, electric vehicles and heat pumps means that experts are predicting global oil, gas and coal demand will start falling sometime in the next five years, which could trigger a sharp drop in fossil fuel prices. This makes the economics of new coal, oil and gas developments much more fragile than they might seem.

If campaigners can succeed in delaying new extraction projects and infrastructure by just a few years, then the underlying economics of many of these projects could fall apart. This is even more likely if we can also push governments to cut the tax breaks and subsidies that are propping many of them up.

4 We’re not giving up

Climate justice activism has continued around the world, despite the growing threat of crackdowns and repression. Frontline resistance by campaigners, communities and Indigenous groups has seen major fossil fuel projects blocked or delayed from Ecuador to Australia.

Groups like Just Stop Oil, Les Soulevements de La Terre and Letzte Generation have hit the headlines with disruptive protest tactics in Europe, while targeted actions have pushed banks and insurance companies away from projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Thousands fill the streets on international action days, while growing numbers of charities, businesses, and religious bodies are pledging to break ties with fossil fuel firms.

We need to be clear about the urgency of the climate crisis and the challenges we face. But it’s equally important to recognize the steps forward. Other futures are still available, and still worth fighting for.