Report: Net-zero targets now cover one-sixth of global economy

The new ECIU analysis shows that at least 34 companies with annual income above $1bn have set net-zero emissions targets

The claim, made in analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), reveals 16% of GDP is now covered by net-zero carbon emission ambitions, with fifteen nations, states and regional areas intending to reach the target by 2050.

Many of the countries have made commitments in policy documents, with two countries – Norway and Sweden – setting the target into law. Other countries aim to also make legally binding declarations with only two – Bhutan and Suriname – already absorbing more greenhouse gases than they emit. The nations are joined by 11 states and regions, including California, Catalunya and Scotland, and at least 23 cities including Barcelona, Los Angeles and New York on the net-zero map.

The report was launched at the UN climate meeting in Bonn, Germany, alongside the ECIU’s net-zero tracker, which collates information on countries, regions, cities and states that have set net zero targets, and countries that are planning to do so.

Director of the ECIU, Richard Black, said: “Having a net-zero target with a date before mid-century is probably the best single indicator of whether a nation is serious about delivering what it promised at the Paris summit, so it’s notable that such a large slice of the global economy is already being conducted under net zero targets.”

“Of course a target means little without a process to meet it. But science shows unequivocally that halting climate change means reducing emissions to net zero; so if a government isn’t planning to bring its own emissions to net zero, it can’t really claim to be planning to do its share of stopping climate change.”

UK targets

The news follows the UK declaring a climate emergency and laying legislation before Parliament on net zero as one of prime minister Theresa May’s final policy announcements. It also reveals that more countries are due to set net zero carbon targets – or but existing targets into a legislative framework – imminently.

It also comes as the UK is set to host COP26, the UN climate summit in December 2020 with governments due to further Paris Agreement plans and outline how they aim to cut emissions more deeply across the next 30 years up to 2050. The ECIU report calls on COP26 to be a ‘net zero’ summit, involving civil society, academia, business and the finance sector in planning to expand the spread of net zero targets and delivery of net-zero economies.

Last year, the Energy Transitions Commission, a global organisation including major businesses such as BP, Shell, Tata and Vattenfall, concluded that even sectors where decarbonisation is generally thought to be hard, such as aviation, shipping, steel and cement, could reach net zero by mid-century at a cost below 0.5% of global GDP.

The new ECIU analysis shows that at least 34 companies with annual income above $1bn have set net-zero emissions targets – and a few have already met them.

Black continued: “The fact that governments, regions, cities and businesses are beginning to set net zero targets indicates a growing level of concern among citizens and governments about climate change.

“It also reflects a growing body of evidence showing that it can be done, and done affordably.”

James Evison

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