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Net zero carbon goal enshrined in regions representing nearly half of global GDP

Around 49 per cent of the world’s GDP is generated in areas that have committed to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, a new analysis has found.

London-based think tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said that just over $39tr (£30tr) of the world’s annual GDP derives from 121 nations, as well as other regions and cities with an actual or intended net zero target.

The data comes from the ECIU’s net zero online tracker which has found a tripling in net zero ambition in the eight months since it launched.

Suriname and Bhutan top the tracker as they are said to have already reached the goal, the latter has long based its political decisions on a Gross National Happiness index rather than indefinite economic growth.

Sweden, the UK, France, Denmark and New Zealand are next as they are the only countries that have made the net zero target a legal obligation.

The rest of the countries on the list have said they will aim for the goal but they haven’t yet got to the stage of making it a legal necessity, although some are undergoing that process.

The tracker notably doesn’t include the world’s most populous countries India and China as they have not made the commitment yet. While both have been expanding their renewable electricity capacity and focus on electric vehicles in recent years, they have also been constructing coal-powered plants which are some of the most carbon-intensive facilities per watt of electricity produced.

ECIU director Richard Black said: “It’s extraordinary that just 18 months on from the IPCC report that showed the scientific case for reaching global net zero emissions by 2050, nations, regions and cities representing virtually half of global GDP have set compatible goals.

“The majority of these targets are just targets - but still, it shows how quickly policymakers are grasping the science, and - in the case of cities and regions - deciding to act themselves when their national governments will not.”

The ECIU’s net zero online tracker shows that the amount of GDP covered by net zero ambitions has trebled in the eight months since the tracker was launched, while the number of countries with a target on the table has risen from just 15.

In October 2018, an assessment by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that to have a 50 per cent chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°C, global carbon emissions need to reach net zero by 2050.

It warned that going beyond 1.5°C would expose the world to worsening drought, weather extremes, disease spread, sea level rises, harm to crop yields and damage to wildlife.

The UK is hosting the key UN climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow in November, which aims to drive more ambitious action on global warming.

Black said that if it gets its own carbon-cutting in order, the UK will be in a position to launch a “net zero club” of nations seriously embarking on a zero carbon transformation, to help drive action at the summit.

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