A Look Back on 2023: Environmental Headlines that Will Make You Smile

by Sierra Winters

2024 is almost upon us! That means it’s time to look back at all the environmental events of 2023. Today, we highlight our favorite news stories that will bring warmth and positivity to the new year. From baby rhinos to electric vehicles, there was a lot to be thankful for this year. Enjoy!


French restaurants with 20 or more seats were banned from using single-use plates, cups, and cutlery on-site. This applies to fast food chains, as well as work and school canteens. Read more about the ban and its purpose here.


The European Union officially passed a law banning the sale of vehicles powered by fossil fuels in 2035. Electric cars will increasingly become the norm in Europe and worldwide.


The UN 2023 Water Conference brought environmental leaders and policymakers together in a format that has not been seen for 46 years. The conference focused on developing strategies to increase the availability of clean drinking water, particularly in light of catastrophes like flooding and droughts.


Previously believed to be locally extinct, a lion was spotted in Chad’s Sena Oura National Park after nearly 20 years. Conservation work and the war against poaching may finally support the repopulation of lions in Central Africa.


Panama gave sea turtles legal rights, which will help hold governments, businesses, and people accountable for protecting these creatures from pollution and poaching. Read more here.


As Switzerland continues to move away from nuclear power, it has passed legislation to help support its goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. This bill received a majority vote from Swiss citizens, with 59.1% of people in favor and 40.9% against it.


As of July 1st, New Zealand became the first country to ban single-use plastic produce bags. This follows restrictions on plastic grocery bags that have been in effect since 2019. California is expected to follow suit in 2025. Additionally, single-use plastic utensils, plates, and bowls were also banned.


Ecuadorians used their voices to vote against oil drilling in an incredibly biodiverse and remote region of the Amazon. The state oil company Petroecuador was required to cease operations in Yasuni National Park, an area that two uncontacted tribes also call home.


The German parliament passed a bill requiring heating systems to use at least 65% renewable energy from 2045 onwards. This means that oil and gas-powered heating systems will essentially be eliminated. Though the decision involved a fair amount of compromise, it was nevertheless a hard-fought win for environmental activists.


An oil and coal plant in New Jersey made headlines when it was demolished to make room for offshore wind farms. The plant operated since 1961.


Sumatran rhinos have been critically endangered for decades, but November saw the birth of a new calf in an Indonesian sanctuary. There are less than 50 Sumatran rhinos left, making this a major cause for celebration. They are, however, still considered extinct in the wild.


December saw the release of five gray wolves into the Colorado wilderness. Though they have been absent from the land for 80 years, biodiversity experts are in the midst of a groundbreaking effort to reintroduce them to their proper home.

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