Despite the world’s challenges, IEMA members are surprisingly optimistic about 2023, finds Tom Pashby

2nd February 2023


Professionals working in environment and sustainability know it’s impossible to predict the future, especially relating to trends in our sector. With that in mind, I asked IEMA members to send me their thoughts on what we can expect to see in 2023 – a steep challenge.

In 2023, we mark the first full year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the third year of Covid-19 and the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are five decades into the mainstream Western environmental movement and we have just seven years left to dramatically change the way our economies operate if we’re to avoid cataclysmic climate breakdown, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

At the start of 2023, the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee called for a “war effort” in ramping up the UK government’s action on sustainable energy security following the Russian president’s use of gas supplies as a lever of war. IEMA members told me they believe 2023 will be a major year for energy efficiency in the built environment, both from a corporate and bottom-up approach, as well as a top-down, policy-driven area of work. We will also see significant advances outside the purely energy and climate space. Defra rules on biodiversity net gain will come into effect following the implementation of the Environment Act. Developers will be forced to prove they take their impact on biodiversity into account and are benefiting the natural world. More companies are already choosing to act on social issues and wider sustainability challenges such as governance, cybersecurity and supply chains.

ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) has seen an explosion in activity over the past couple of years, with everyone from asset managers to plant hire service providers committing serious money and time into pushing for sustainability. One thing I was surprised by when reading comments from members was the high levels of optimism. The living world faces massive challenges, yet in the face of the task ahead of us, IEMA members choose hope. I think this is because we know the incredible volume and variety of work going on both in public and behind the scenes to transform the world to sustainability. I have written previously of my pessimism about the climate and biodiversity crises. That doesn’t detract from the fact that every increment of global heating which we avoid by acting now means that more of the planet remains habitable for future generations.

As I write this, over the past few days I have seen dozens of news reports and videos on TikTok of people living on the west coast of the US experiencing extreme weather, washing away their homes. Reacting to a raging torrent of water near her home, American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres said: “We need to be nicer to mother nature, because mother nature is not happy with us.” For years, people in the Global South have been experiencing these events, like the extreme flooding which saw one third of Pakistan under water last year, and rising sea levels encroaching on small island nations, which are the least responsible for the climate emergency.

“[IEMA members] know the incredible volume and variety of work going on both in public and behind the scenes to transform the world to sustainability”

At the end of 2023, COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates, a petro-state whose wealth derives almost entirely from its oil and gas industry. The president of COP28, HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber, is also the head of the UAE’s national oil company. This is the first time in COP’s history that it will be chaired by an oil boss. Holding the world’s foremost climate summit in a nation dependent on revenue from fossil fuels is an excellent illustration of the situation we face. Continuing to rely on polluting energy sources that have brought a relatively small number of people untold riches while simultaneously trying to build a global society that is a net-zero greenhouse gas emission polluter will be the challenge of the year and for decades ahead.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close