How dare you!” raged Greta Thunberg to UN climate summit leaders in 2019. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” She was bang-on. Climate change is very real.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gives us 10 years before climate catastrophe becomes irreversible. Over 11,000 scientists have unanimously declared that the climate emergency could bring about “untold suffering”. There’s more man-made material on the planet than living matter.
And yet there’s hope for a better future.
Change is happening, for real.
Dedicated climate activists have had a huge impact on environmental awareness: fossil fuels are the new tobacco. The language is different too, communicating imminent danger rather than climatic warming.
So what needs to be done?
We must achieve net zero emissions by mid-century and prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5°C by 2100. In December 2015, 196 countries adopted the legally binding international Paris Climate Agreement to do just that and decarbonize the world by 2050.
Where do we really stand?
We have just seen the warmest decade on record. And the reality is we are still a long way from net zero in 2050 but there are some encouraging signs. In 2020, the world focused on the pandemic but the global economy continued to decarbonize. As of December 2020, 110 countries have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, China by 2060 and New Zealand by 2025! This means that 50% of the world’s GDP, and about 50% of global CO2 emissions, are covered by a net zero commitment.
Businesses are getting involved: More than 1,500 companies with combined revenues of $12.5 trillion have set their net zero targets between 2025 and 2050.
The finance sector is investing in all things green: Many of the world’s largest insurers, pension funds and asset owners, with over $5 trillion, have committed to be at net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Tech is leading by example: Vitally important technological advances (AI, smart meters, weather modelling supercomputers, etc.) could deliver up to a third of CO2 emission reductions by 2030. Google has committed to operate using carbon-free energy by 2030, Amazon has targeted 2040 for carbon neutrality, Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030.
Even the energy sector is decarbonizing: Renewables offer a direct route to a decarbonized world. Including hydropower, renewables captured three quarters of new power capacity and in just five years, solar and wind have transformed from expensive power sources to the cheapest form of new power generation.
Caring about the environment is in fashion: Thirty-two fashion brands have signed the Fashion Pact, committing to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. Brands are reviewing their outlook on profit and sustainability and balancing profit with people and planet.
So although sectors are moving at different speeds, all lanes are heading in the same direction: towards decarbonization.