Leaders Summit on Climate: Forward Progress to the Net Zero Economies We Need

April 27, 2021
  • David Wei

    Former Managing Director, Climate and Nature, BSR

The Paris Agreement’s goals to keep global warming well below 2°C and pursue 1.5°C were never going to be reached all at once, but rather by countries strengthening their emissions reduction targets every five years. For the first time since Paris, the Leaders Summit on Climate kicked off a new round of stronger targets from major emitters, which will culminate at COP26 this November.

Signaling full U.S. engagement in the global effort to combat climate change, the Summit stepped toward the net zero economies we need.

Leading the way:

United States New 2030 target to reduce emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels, including creating a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net zero economy by 2050
Canada Strengthened its 2030 target twice in a single week, landing at 40-45 percent below 2005 levels as part of a plan to reach net zero by 2050
Japan Increased its 2030 target to 46 percent below 2013 levels, with efforts to achieve 50 percent
United Kingdom  Committed to a 2035 target of 78 percent below 1990 levels, part of its sixth carbon budget
European Union Reached provisional agreement on the European Climate Law, enshrining its goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and a 2030 target of 55 percent below 1990 levels
South Korea Committed to strengthening its target and announced an end to public finance for overseas coal
China Announced that it would strictly limit the use of coal in the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) and phase it down in the 15th Five-Year Plan period (2025-2030)

These updated pledges will meaningfully draw the global emissions curve downward but fall short of staying on track toward the Paris goals. We must look to the major emitters to do more ahead of COP26. And when the COP is done and dusted, we must look to governments to implement these targets as domestic policy, providing more certainty to guide business action.

These targets and others will galvanize the business transformation of BSR’s members and the wider business community. By innovating across business functions, companies will seize the economic opportunities of an inclusive net zero economy, leading to better jobs, shared prosperity, and Paris-aligned emission reductions during this Decisive Decade.

By working with leading collaborations such as Transform to Net Zero and the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders and with our members, BSR will spend the coming years bringing net zero implementation ever closer to reality.

The Summit also was also notable for the launch of two major private-sector initiatives: the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, including a new Net-Zero Banking Alliance, and Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF), a new public-private coalition with the aim of mobilizing more billions to protect tropical forests at jurisdictional scale.

The new national targets remind us that net zero pledges ring hollow unless, as the Transform to Net Zero Position Paper and Action Plan sets out, they are consistent with and supplement shorter-term science-based emissions reductions across value chains. And the LEAF coalition reminds us that the need to remove carbon from the atmosphere to achieve net zero targets cannot blind us to the need to invest in avoided emissions to keep the door to Paris open.

Leading businesses on climate are called in these different directions—to achieve science-based reductions across the value chain en route to net zero goals and to invest in solutions to systemic issues like tropical deforestation. After the Leaders Summit on Climate, we know they will be joined by governments eager to accomplish the same.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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