As each year goes by, and the climate crisis becomes more urgent, the choices made by policymakers, businesses and other decision-makers will have consequences that shape whether we are able to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

Decision makers start the year facing several disturbing trends. Last year was the hottest year on record and was marked by extreme weather like wildfires, flooding, and temperature records falling on a regular basis. While America, despite the Biden Administration’s climate pledges, hit an all-time high for oil production. As 2023 closed the election of Geert Wilders in Holland and Argentina’s vote for Javier Milei showed that politicians vocally opposed to action on climate change can still win.

Faced with these challenges, what events, themes, and questions should we keep an eye out for in 2024, which has been dubbed the “biggest election year in history” with over four billion globally going to the polls? Here is a selection:

  • President Biden’s State of the Union Speech on 7 March: how much climate change is mentioned will indicate how much it may be for him on the campaign trail.
  • Elections by June in India – the world’s most populous nation – second largest coal user and lead engine of economic growth following a slow-down in China. How quickly will India transition?
  • European Parliament Elections in June: a shift to right-wing populism, as some fear, poses risks to ambitious European climate policy over the 2024—28 period.
  • What happens with the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea? Will parliamentary and NGO legal pressure stymie the necessary finance needed to take the project forward.
  • US Securities Exchange Commission is set to adopt Climate Disclosure Rule, where publicly listed companies will be required to disclose climate risks, including their Scope 3 emissions when they are “material” and when companies have set reduction targets for them.
  • Where will the voluntary carbon market go, following the lack of progress on common rules and standards at the COP in Dubai?
  • Will the UAE Government continue to play a constructive COP Presidency (Azerbaijan won’t take over until COP29) now it’s out of the spotlight?
  • Will the growth of China’s renewables market finally outstrip the expansion of domestic coal power generation? This would be a big deal: for emissions, clean energy, and for Chinese climate leadership.
  • Status and development of the EACOP in East Africa. This controversial pipeline project led by TotalEnergies is a major litmus test both for African “petrostates”  and for the actions of IOCs regarding fossil fuel production on the continent
  • Can the continued decline in the costs of renewable power feature more broadly in the debate about inflation in the West, and be more readily understood as a cost benefit and not cost burden?
  • EU Anti-Subsidy investigation into BEV imports from China: the European Commission’s investigation into Chinese subsidies making Chinese electric car import pricing ‘artificially low’ must be concluded by October at the latest. Will the old Commission decide to pass this political hot potato to the new Commission?
  • Can the momentum for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty be sustained in 2024? In particular, can significant diplomatic support for the treaty initiative be generated in regions outside the Pacific?
  • COP29, November 11-24 in Azerbaijan: another petrostate in charge, but without the UAE Presidency’s resources and expertise. Can this Presidency be an honest broker?
  • A UK General Election is likely this year: climate will be higher up the agenda than ever, but can Labour’s Climate Investment Plan survive major-league scrutiny and pressure?
  • An El Nino year: the UK Met Office has been saying that we may exceed an average of 1.5C global warming over this year, with former NASA scientist James Hansen suggesting we’ll reach 1.7C by May. If ever we needed proof that climate change is here now…
  • US gas prices are a key item for the US consumer and will shape how the public views the administration’s policies.
  • OPEC+ have been squabbling about the oil price. They are under pressure following the language agreed at the COP on the energy transition. Will members stay united?
  • Few countries will be more important on the international stage over the next couple of years than Brazil. They will hold the G20 this year – a dress rehearsal for Lula’s climate leadership at COP30 in 2025.
  • COP28 failed to deliver game-changing decisions on finance. Watch for how the climate and development agenda might fill the gap; and for a new UNFCCC acronym – the NCQG (the National Collective Quantified Goal).
  • Does the UN Secretary-General double down on his rhetoric about climate and fossil fuels as the source of the crisis? His mandate expires at the end of 2026, and his legacy will be weighing ever more on his mind.
  • The US Supreme Court will decide the “Chevron Deference” in the spring: Their ruling could limit the latitude US agencies have to act on climate issues.
  • Belgium has assumed the EU Presidency. The von der Leyen Commission will be hoping the Belgians can push through the final provisions of the European Green Deal on to the statute book before it steps down in the summer.
  • Will an improved economic outlook and prospect of lower interest rates put the offshore wind supply chain for Europe and the US back on track? The target agreed at the COP to triple renewables capacity by 2030 will help, but this is where policymakers and regulators will need to get cracking.
  • The IEA nailed their colours to the clean energy mast more than ever in 2024. Watch out for what they have to say on EVs and oil demand for road transport.
  • US Presidential Election in November. The outcome will shape US climate policy for years to come and could of course have major international implications.

In February, Chinese New Year will mark the Year of the Dragon. The year is thought to signify unprecedented opportunities and be a time when people can harness the mythical creature’s intelligence, leadership, and abilities to follow their dreams with creativity, passion, courage, and confidence.

As we look ahead, and the events and activities that will shape this year, it is likely we will need all those qualities to make the right choices. May all of us be so lucky.