25 June 2019: Almost 16% of global gross domestic product (GDP) is covered by net zero emission targets set by countries, regions and cities, according to an Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) analysis that maps global progress towards net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.

According to the report titled, ‘Countdown to Zero: Plotting Progress Towards Delivering Net Zero Emissions by 2050,’ 15 countries have announced their intention to achieve this target, with Norway and Sweden setting targets in national legislation, and Bhutan and Suriname already absorbing more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than they emit. In addition, 11 states and regions, including California and Scotland, and at least 23 cities, including Barcelona, Los Angeles and New York, have made similar announcements. At least 34 companies with annual income above USD 1 billion have set net zero emission targets, with some having already met the goal.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) highlighted that to meet this goal, governments must collectively reach net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. According to the report, increasingly, the existence of a net zero target and an implementation plan is the most important single indicator of a country’s commitment to delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement and contributing its share towards combating climate change.

Even in sectors where decarbonization is generally considered difficult, net zero by 2050 could be reached at a low cost.

For businesses, establishing a net zero target will facilitate more prudent investment. In 2018, the Energy Transitions Commission, which includes businesses such as BP, Shell, Tata and Vattenfall, concluded that even in sectors where decarbonization is generally considered difficult, like aviation, shipping, steel and cement, net zero by 2050 could be reached at a low cost.

The ECIU report presents the scientific and political rationale for net zero emissions, outlines types of targets that can be set, and assesses the ways in which net zero emission targets are expected to become more widespread in the coming years.

The report shows that more countries are expected to set net zero targets or to put existing targets in legislation in the coming months. The UK is expected to become the largest economy with a legally-binding net zero target, with legislation currently before Parliament. If the UK hosts the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC, for which it is a candidate country, it could make the meeting a “net zero COP” to expand the number of net zero targets and methods of delivering net zero economies.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2019, along with ECIU’s online Net Zero Tracker, which presents information on countries, regions, cities and states that have set net zero targets, and countries that are planning to do so.

The ECIU is a UK non-profit organization that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues. [Publication: Countdown to Zero: Plotting Progress Towards Delivering Net Zero Emissions by 2050] [ECIU Press Release]