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In a year we’ll never forget, 10 to remember

05 January 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

Some might say 2020 was a year to forget, but for many, it will be hard to do so. The world around us changed in innumerable ways in the past 12 months, including in the sustainable technology and climate arena, so IHS Markit locked down 10 of the events, announcements and trends that loomed largest:

  • The global COVID-19 pandemic led to a 7% year-on-year decrease in GHG emissions, the largest on record.
  • China announced a net-zero carbon goal by 2060. It wasn't the only one though, with east Asian neighbors Japan and South Korea committing to net zero by 2050.
  • The International Energy Agency crowned solar power "king of electricity" in its World Energy Outlook 2020. All of the permutations computed by the IEA foresee a rapid growth in renewable generation, with solar at the heart of that expansion.
  • The US Federal Reserve Board agreed to join the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System. A month earlier, the Fed issued an analysis of the ways climate change could present risks to financial stability for the first time.
  • Due to falling oil products demand and overproduction from Saudi Arabian and Russian crude, in April, front-month NYMEX WTI futures entered negative territory for the first time, prompting oil and natural gas companies to slash their spending.
  • The EU launched its hydrogen strategy, and in December, the bloc raised its ambition for carbon dioxide reductions by 2030 (from a 1990 baseline) to 55%, from prior goal of 50%. From 1990 through 2019, carbon emissions in the EU have fallen 24%.
  • It was a good year for battery electric vehicles, as global sales reached a record of about 2.4 million, according to IHS Markit. Also, eight European countries and California have now announced bans on the purchase of new internal combustion vehicles in 2030 or 2035. With the future for EVs looking bright, Tesla joined the S&P 500 on 21 December, debuting with the fifth-largest weighting.
  • President-elect Joe Biden named John Kerry presidential US climate envoy. He'll be joined on an all-star climate roster by Gina McCarthy and Michael Regan, as they team up to tackle President Donald Trump's legacy, least of which was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Climate change impacts drew even greater notice. Australia began the year with record heat and its third year of severe drought. California saw rolling blackouts for first time in 19 years, with renewables taking some of the blame and battery storage getting a massive boost in its biggest US market.
  • Airbus announced plans to develop hydrogen planes. The world's second largest airplane maker is not alone in entering this brave new world though, US-headquartered startup ZeroAvia has backing from Amazon and Shell affiliates plus the UK government.

Posted 05 January 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Editor, Energy and Natural Resources Group, IHS Markit

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