Global decarbonisation efforts need to be five times greater to reach 1.5C pathway

Global efforts to combat the climate crisis will need to be five times greater than current levels, with new research warning that the rate that carbon emissions are decoupled from economic growth slowed in 2019.

Based on the current decarbonisation rate, PwC warns that the century’s global carbon budget would be used up by the end of this decade

Based on the current decarbonisation rate, PwC warns that the century’s global carbon budget would be used up by the end of this decade

PwC’s Net Zero Economy Index tracks decarbonisation rates in relation to decoupling from economic growth. The latest index was released this week, revealing that the current global rate of decarbonisation reached 2.4% in 2019, the latest available data. However, a reduction in carbon intensity or emissions per dollar of GDP of 11.7% will be required annually to meet the 1.5C pathway of the Paris Agreement. That is five times greater than current levels.

In 2019, global energy-related emissions increased by 0.5%, while economic growth was recorded at 2.9%, meaning that carbon intensity fell by 2.4%. While this is above the average decarbonisation rate of 1.5%, it is still well short of efforts required to deliver the Paris Agreement.

Based on the current decarbonisation rate, PwC warns that the century’s global carbon budget would be used up by the end of this decade.

PwC UK’s global climate change leader Dr Celine Herweijer said: “Every year we underachieve on cutting carbon, the task gets tougher and the transition required is more radical. We now need decarbonisation and ultimately transformation of companies, industries and geographies at an unprecedented scale and speed. The good news is that when public policy, public interest, technological innovation and investment line up, we can see how fast systems can transform - the automotives industry today being a case in point.   

“The pandemic-related dip in global emissions this year will rebound quickly as economies emerge and fully open up, but swift action is needed to rebuild with the clean infrastructure, technologies, and solutions that are fit for the future. The wave of businesses, investors, and governments committing to ambitious net-zero targets in 2020, is a promising sign that a shared sense of urgency is emerging. We have just over two business cycles to transform every sector of the global economy to halve global emissions. Put simply, we are in the pivotal decade.” 

PwC notes that the UK recorded the highest long-term level of decarbonisation, maintaining a reduction rate of 3.7% over the course of the 21st Century. However, PwC has warned that up to £400bn needs to be unlocked and funnelled into green infrastructure to meet the 2050 national net-zero target.

According to the IEA, the Covid-19 pandemic is set to deliver the biggest disruption to the energy system since the 1930s, with global electricity demand to fall by 5% while the level of emissions for 2020 are set to fall by 8% - the largest annual decrease in emissions ever recorded.

In comparison, analysis from the UN Environment Programme estimates that global emissions would need to fall by 7.6% every year this decade, in order to put the planet on the 1.5C trajectory.

With the UK set to host COP26 in 2021, the impetus is on the nation to raise global ambitions and get more nations to set net-zero targets to drive the required levels of decarbonisation.

Carbon Brief states that more than 60% of global carbon emissions will be covered by a net-zero once the US sets out its new climate plan under the Biden Administration.

Matt Mace



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