Almost half of global GDP under actual or intended net zero emission targets – ambition triples in eight months
Nearly half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is now generated in places where authorities have set or are proposing to set a target of bringing carbon emissions to net zero in or before 2050.
A new analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a London-based think-tank, shows that just over $39 trillion, about 49% of the world’s annual GDP, derives from nations, regions and cities with an actual or intended net zero target.  These include 121 nations.
The data comes from ECIU’s Net Zero online tracker and is released as the UK prepares to ramp up domestic action and international ambition before hosting the crucial UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow in November. The figure represents a tripling of global net zero ambition in the eight months since ECIU launched its tracker.
The list includes places with 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.
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."
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN organisation that collates and analyses climate science for governments, showed that in order to have a 50% chance of keeping global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5ºC, global carbon emissions need to reach net zero by 2050.
The IPCC report also found that the target can be achieved; and a number of other reports from bodies such as the Energy Transitions Commission and the UK’s Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have reached the same conclusion.
“Having so many nations, regions and states saying they want to move to net zero is a tremendous opportunity for the UK, as host of this year’s pivotal UN climate summit, to lead a meaningful global effort on net zero,” said Richard Black.
“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.
"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."
Individual places with high annual GDP figures that have or intend to have a net zero target include:
- Germany ($3.7 trillion), where Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to make the country carbon-neutral by 2050
- California ($2.8 tn), where Governor Jerry Brown in 2018 signed an executive order mandating carbon neutrality by 2045
- The UK ($2.6 tn), where Parliament passed legislation in June last year mandating net zero by 2050
- Tokyo ($1.9 tn), whose Metropolitan Government has declared it is targeting net zero in pursuance of the 1.5ºC Paris Agreement global warming target.