COP26 President launches challenge to deliver net-zero ‘tipping points’ in every sector

The UN High-Level Climate Champions and COP26 President Alok Sharma have today (28 January) unveiled a radical new roadmap to push the global economy towards net-zero emissions, targeting a range of near-term, sectoral tipping points to deliver decarbonisation.

COP26 President launches challenge to deliver net-zero ‘tipping points’ in every sector


The Race to Zero Breakthroughs have been published in a special paper by the UN High-Level Climate Champions, COP26 President Alok Sharma, COP25 President Carolina Schmidt, and the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda. It will build on the Race to Zero campaign that was launched in June 2020.

The Breakthroughs outline how 20 sectors that make up the global economy, including finance, water, aviation and clean energy, can act on near-term tipping points to move towards net-zero emissions.

The paper articulates “what key actors must do, and by when, to deliver the systems change we need to achieve a resilient, zero-carbon world”. Specifically, the initiative is aiming to get “actors” that account for 20% of each sector to commit to a series of major breakthroughs, such as setting net-zero targets, ensuring the majority of sector energy use comes from renewables and creating capacity for certain green technologies such as hydrogen and zero-carbon facilities.

Actors range from supply-side companies such as manufacturers, demand-side companies like retailers, policymakers, financial institutions and the civil society. The initiative is aiming to get 10 sectors covered by a breakthrough by the time COP26 takes place in Glasgow this November.

COP26 President Designate Alok Sharma said: “It is vital that businesses go net-zero, as part of our fight against climate change. Which is why we look to all sectors to reach a point at which a clean way of operating becomes the norm. Because if every sector plays its part, we will see the global economy on the right path to achieving net-zero by 2050.”

Breakthrough breakdown

The paper notes that around two-thirds of global emissions are now covered by net-zero targets, which in turn can facilitate the creation of 35 million more jobs and $26trn in economic benefits compared to “attempting to resuscitate the high-carbon status quo”.

Currently, corporate commitments under the Race to Zero campaign cover more than 12% of the global economy and $9.8trn in revenue. Even while grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, net-zero commitments almost doubled in 2020.

The Race to Zero Breakthroughs have been drawn from the Climate Action Pathways roadmaps to reach the Paris Agreement. These were developed by the Marrakech Partnership.

One key member of this coalition is the Mission Possible Partnership. Some 400 heavy emitters from the transport and industrial sectors have formed the partnership aimed at accelerating the low-carbon transition, with financial backing from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Airbus, BASF, Boeing, Cargill, easyJet, Heathrow Airport, Royal DSM, Royal Dutch Shell and Volvo are among the first corporate members of the Partnership. The financial sector is also represented through members including Citi and Lloyds Register.

Anthony Hobley, Executive Director of Mission Possible Partnership, said: “The Mission Possible Partnership is delighted to act as the delivery mechanism for Race to Zero Breakthroughs in sectors where emissions are still hard to abate. Beginning with seven of the most energy-intensive industries, the partnership’s work will build on growing momentum, investor pressure, consumer expectations, and analytical tools to design and execute net-zero pathways for those industries, their customers, their suppliers, and their capital providers.”

Matt Mace

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