49% of world’s GDP now covered by net-zero targets, study says

A boy wades towards a flooded alleyway in Pontypridd, South Wales, Britain, 16 February 2020, after Storm Dennis hit the area last night bringing torrential rains, floods and landslides. [EPA-EFE/NEIL MUNNS]

Just under half of the world’s annual GDP is now covered by nations, regions and cities that are legislating for a net-zero emissions target, a new study has revealed. EURACTIV’s media partner edie.net reports.

The latest analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a London-based think-tank, has found that 49% of GDP, representing more than $39trn, is now covered by regions with an actual or intended net-zero target.

A total of 121 nations have put mechanisms in place to deliver net-zero emissions in timeframes that are aligned to the calls of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report in 2018.

The IPCC Special Report warns that the world is already 1C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and that an increase to 2C would significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The report predicts that if the world can become carbon-neutral by 2047, we will have a 66% chance of meeting the most ambitious end of the Paris goals.

ECIU Director Richard Black said: “It’s extraordinary that just 18 months on from the IPCC report that showed the scientific case for reaching global net-zero emissions by 2050, nations, regions and cities representing virtually half of global GDP have set compatible goals.

“The majority of these targets are just targets – but still, it shows how quickly policymakers are grasping the science, and – in the case of cities and regions – deciding to act themselves when their national governments will not.”

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Just nine months ago, analysis by the ECIU found that 16% of GDP was covered by net-zero carbon emission ambitions, with fifteen nations, states and regional areas intending to reach the target by 2050. In December 2019, the figure was sitting at 40%.

That news followed 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. As well as the UK, Germany and the cities of California and Tokyo are amongst the highest regions in terms of GDP that have legislated or are discussing legislation for a net-zero target.

The ECIU is calling on the UK to ensure that the upcoming COP26 climate conference is 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.

The report was published days after London mayor Sadiq Khan reaffirmed plans to spend £50m on a Green New Deal for London as part of a pledge to make the UK capital carbon neutral by 2030.

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