To reach net zero emissions mid-century, start today

(Climate Home News, 5 Oct 2020) In the span of just two weeks, there has been a tectonic shift in the global climate policy space. Net zero is now undoubtedly the benchmark of ambitious climate action.

First European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen floated a tougher 2030 target to support the EU’s climate neutrality goal. Then President Xi Jinping announced that China will peak emissions before 2030 and aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, the first time China has announced an absolute emissions goal on the international scene. More than a third of global emissions are now covered by net zero targets.

We have come a long way from the Paris Agreement, where an explicit reference to net zero was vehemently opposed and countries could only agree to a rather oblique reference to achieving a balance of sinks and sources. Net zero as a goal is now much clearer and many countries are aiming for it.

While new net zero targets are often celebrated, they can also be met with skepticism and criticised for missing immediate urgency. But net zero should not be viewed in isolation. It can enable stronger short-term climate action, by shifting perceptions and creating space for climate action in areas earlier considered untouchable.

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Climate Home News, 5 Oct 2020: To reach net zero emissions mid-century, start today