About 40% of the world’s economic activity, totalling US$34.6 trillion, now takes place in jurisdictions that have adopted or proposed plans to bring their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 or before, according to analysis released last week by the UK’s Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
The London-based think tank released the data from its Net Zero online tracker while more than 30,000 delegates were in Madrid for this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP 25.
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“The majority of these cities, regions, and countries have neither a legally-binding commitment nor a mechanism to achieve their targets, so for the most part these are as yet only aspirations,” acknowledged ECIU Director Richard Black. “Nevertheless, it’s startling that little more than a year after science showed the rationale for reaching global net zero by 2050, national and local governments covering two-fifths of the world’s GDP have said publicly that their locality should step up.”
The list includes “net zero targets at various levels of development: where the target is under active political discussion, where leaders have made a political declaration, where legislation is under development, and where it has been enacted—and from two countries that are already carbon-negative,” the ECIU explains in a release.
Highlights of the list include:
• German Chancellor Angela Merkel setting a 2050 deadline for her country to reach carbon neutrality ($3.7 trillion);
• Then-California governor Jerry Brown’s 2018 executive order mandating carbon neutrality by 2045 ($2.8 trillion);
• UK legislation in June, 2019 establishing a net zero target by 2050 ($2.6 trillion);
• Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government declaring net zero target earlier this year ($1.9 trillion).
“The apparent appetite for carbon neutrality presents a tremendous opportunity for the UK, as host of next year’s pivotal UN climate summit, to lead a meaningful global effort on net zero,” Black said in the release. “If the UK can work with a significant number of countries and regions to turn their net zero aspirations into concrete plans with means of delivery attached, including enhanced 2030 targets, using the [UK] Climate Change Act and net zero methodology as a basis, that will be a material step forward to delivering a real outcome at the Glasgow climate summit.”
Policy statements are cheap and we’ve heard political and economic leaders make strong verbal commitments to absolute GHG emission reductions before. One could be fooled into believing that there’s correlation between the number of COP meetings and rising C02 levels!
So, more “aspirational targets” to become “net-zero” by 2050 or before are likely nothing more than the desire of political and economic leaders to be seen to be doing something significant In the face of a more aggressive and growing global climate justice movement.
With fossil fuel production and consumption still rising and renewables barely keeping pace with the increase in demand, it’s getting harder by the minute to see how a climate emergency exit plan can be implemented within a capitalist economic system hard-wired to incessant and ever-expanding commodity production.
As the climate justice movement puts it, we need “System Change, not climate change”.
2050 will be too late :(. We have to move much, much faster, globally. Let’s get real.