Analysis and comment on COP26 ‘Race to Zero’ launch

More than half of global GDP under net zero ambition, research shows

By George Smeeton

Last updated:

As the High-level Champions for COP26 together with the UN climate convention today (5 June) launch the “Race to Zero” campaign, updated analysis shows that just over half (53%) of global GDP is produced in countries, states and regions, and cities that have either set a net zero target or have expressed the intention of doing so.

The analysis, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)’s Net Zero Tracker, shows that these net zero targets account for about a quarter (23%) of global CO2 emissions, and that the populations of net zero regions includes over 2.6 billion people, the first time this analysis has included share of emissions and population figures. See it in infographic form here.

Commenting, Adair Turner, Senior Fellow, the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), said that the analysis highlights the feasibility of reaching global net zero targets:

“It is technologically and economically possible for the whole world to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, and essential in order to limit global warming to well below 2C,” he said.

“So it is heartening that an ever widening range of leading countries, companies and cities are committing to that objective. The very fact that they do so will spur the investment and innovation needed to make the goal attainable.”

Dr Alison Doig, International Lead at ECIU, highlighted the importance of the new campaign in promoting action on climate change:

“With the Race to Zero campaign the UN High Level Climate Champions are firing the start gun on a race to the top on climate action. Their aim is to accelerate the groundswell of climate ambition we’re already seeing across the real economy as we invest in the recovery from the pandemic,” she said.

“The ECIU net zero tracker shows that just 18 months after the world’s climate scientists made the case for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, countries, states and cities representing 53% of global GDP and 23% of global CO2 emissions have already declared an intention to do just that. Now joined by over 1000 companies and 35 big investors, the challenge is to gather momentum for many more actors to join.

“This is not however about pushing climate action to some date in the future; no entity can reach net zero in 2050 without starting now, and so it’s entirely sensible that in order to qualify for entry to the Race to Zero, participants will have to present delivery plans, including setting interim targets for the next decade, by the time COP26 opens in Glasgow next year.”