Global commitments to net zero double in less than a year

Cities and regions with a carbon footprint greater than the emissions of the US and companies with a combined revenue of more than $11.4tn are now pursuing net zero goals

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The number of commitments made by local governments and businesses to reach net zero emissions has roughly doubled in less than a year.

That’s according to a new report form Data-Driven EnviroLab and the NewClimate Institute, which found cities and regions with a carbon footprint greater than the emissions of the US and companies with a combined revenue of more than $11.4 trillion (£8.9tn) are now pursuing net zero goals by the end of the century.

It reveals a nine-fold increase for regions, with an additional 101 this year, from 11 in 2019, an eight-fold rise for cities, with 823 more in 2020 and a three-fold increase for companies, with 1,541 this year from around 500 recorded in 2019.

The report found momentum among cities and regions spans most geographical areas and is especially strong in East Asia and the Pacific, where participating cities and regions, including Tokyo, Wuhan, Hong Kong and eight Australian states, represent more than 223 million people – or more than 10% of the region’s total population.

Nearly half of US states are also aiming for net zero in their overall emissions or in key sectors such as energy.

The majority of global cities and regions are targeting a zero carbon economy by 2050, as part of the UN Race to Zero campaign, the largest alliance of local governments, businesses, investors and other organisations aiming for zero emissions in the 2040s.

This now includes 22 regions, 452 cities, 1,101 businesses, 549 universities and 45 of the biggest investors.

UK Business and Energy Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “Climate change affects every single one of us and we all have a part to play to champion climate action ahead of COP26. Through the Energy Transition Council and the UK’s ambitious climate finance commitments, I hope to drive the transition to cleaner energies and I urge all businesses, cities and regions to join the Race to Zero coalition.”

A new platform, SME Climate Hub, is also being launched to support small and medium-sized businesses in joining the Race to Zero.

SMEs make up 90% of businesses worldwide, employ two billion people and have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, according to UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Corporations including BT Group, Ericsson, IKEA, Telia and Unilever have committed to support the SME Climate Hub by working closely with the small and medium businesses in their supply chains to reach net zero or negative emissions before 2050.

Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary added: “Those involved in the Race to Zero have made a commitment to achieve specific goals and will be held to those promises. The world cannot afford to be let down. Nor can this campaign become something that allows nations to defer action until a later date. It’s about needing more climate ambition and climate action now — in 2020.”

The announcements will be made today at Climate Week NYC, which will include discussions featuring businesses and government leaders.