Nearly half of global GDP could soon be subject to net zero emission targets -report

Published 03:32 on February 18, 2020  /  Last updated at 00:12 on February 19, 2020  / Stian Reklev /  Africa, Americas, Asia Pacific, Australia, Canada, China, Climate Talks, EMEA, International, Japan, Mexico, Middle East, New Zealand, Other APAC, South Korea, US

Governments representing 49% of the global economy have or are in the process of putting in place targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions, a report showed.

Governments representing 49% of the global economy have or are in the process of putting in place targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions, a report showed.

Over 120 national governments and some sub-national authorities with a total GDP of $39 trillion have signalled intent to bring their emissions to net zero by 2050 or sooner, according to the analysis by London-based think-tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

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

“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.”

Five nations – Denmark, France, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK – have enshrined targets in law, while the EU, Chile, Fiji, and Spain have proposed legislation.

In most of the regions counted in the ECIU report, the target is still only “under discussion”, and Germany is the sole top 5 economy included in the list, with the US, China, Japan, and India missing.

However, California and Tokyo represent some of the subnational jurisdictions with net zero targets in place.

In recent months, there has been speculation as to whether China might set a long-term emissions target ahead of the November COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, although a refocus to the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak is dimming prospects for China taking on stronger climate ambition in the short term.

The ECIU said its findings provided positive signals for the UK government, which will drive diplomatic efforts to encourage nations to present increased ambition at COP26 later this year.

“If it gets its own carbon-cutting on track to net zero well before the summit, the government and its new COP26 President Alok Sharma will be in a great position to launch something like a net-zero club of countries seriously embarking on a zero-carbon transformation,” the ECIU’s Black said.

“This would add real value to the other elements that need to be delivered at the summit, such as enhancements to countries’ carbon-cutting plans to 2030.”

Two nations – Bhutan and Suriname – have already achieved net zero, and the list of nations discussing such a target includes a number of developing nations, particularly in Africa and in the Pacific.

However, other nations remain far from ready to take on such pledges. South Korea is considering a number of options for a 2050 goal, with the most ambitious plan on the table proposing only a 75% reduction from 2017 levels by mid-century.

National governments in a number of other nations with significant emissions, including Australia, Brazil, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, have shown little or no interest in ramping up their targets ahead of Glasgow.

By Stian Reklev –