The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence


In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Global Warming of 1.5°C report stated, to have a shot at achieving the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal of limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre industrial levels, every nation must cut its carbon-dioxide emissions in half by 2030—and neutralize them by 2050. Two years later, eight of the 10 largest economies have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Twenty-nine countries, plus the European Union, have net-zero pledges for either CO₂ or all greenhouse gases, accounting for 14.5 percent of global emissions. About 400 companies, including Microsoft, Unilever, Facebook, Ford, Nestle, Pepsi Co, and Brunswick Group, have signed on with the Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge, which is built on the IPCC’s analysis. To learn more, read The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence.”  Reading this article could require a subscription to the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Like most statements the IPCC sets down, the most important sentence ever written is just terrible—clunky and jargon-filled. What it says, in English, is this:
    • By 2030 the world needs to cut its carbon-dioxide pollution by 45%, and by midcentury reach “net-zero” emissions, which means any CO₂ still emitted would have to be drawn down in some way.
  • The half-by-2030, all-by-2050 guidance is keyed specifically to emissions of CO2, by far the biggest contributor to warming.
  • According to the World Resource Institute’s Kelly Levin, “Countries with the highest emissions, greatest responsibility, and capability should adopt the most ambitious target time frames.”
  • Since the Clean Energy D.C. Act became law in early 2019, it has been joined by dozens of other national or subnational jurisdictions trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The IPCC’s statement has proven to be a catalyst that sparked a sense of urgency for government leaders, corporate decision makers and utilities. Renewable energy goals are taking many forms, but they have similar targets and deadlines which can only be achieved through commitment, continued research and collaboration. The renewable energy future has not yet been achieved, but with the growing number of investors, innovators and subject matter experts working towards this goal, the path to decarbonization is coming into focus.


Photo: Alexander Tsang on Unsplash