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Revealed: Only five G20 countries have clear plans for reaching net zero by 2050

Dozens of countries have set net zero targets – but only a handful have clear plans for meeting them, new research has found.

Ahead of COP26, scientists and experts have warned that stopping runaway climate change will be impossible without the world’s richest countries dramatically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet with just days to go until the critical climate conference, a new “net zero tracker” has revealed just five of the G20 nations – representing over 80 per cent of global GDP – have clear plans and commitments for reaching net zero emissions by 2050. 

Experts say that while net zero has now gone “fully mainstream”, the tracker shows that “not all net zero pledges are created equal.”

The G20 represents the 20 most advanced global economies, which are responsible for 76 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It includes the UK, China, Russia and the USA.

Net zero targets have been encouraged by scientists and experts as a way to eliminate these emissions, yet while 18 members of the G20 have set targets, only Canada, France, The UK, Italy and South Korea have said how they’re going to do it.

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Led by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, EnviroLab, NewClimate Institute and Oxford Net Zero, the net zero tracker analyses countries’, cities and companies’ net zero pledges in real-time to assess how “robust” they are. 

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The tool has shown a huge increase in target-setting, with almost 80 per cent of global GDP and 77 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions now covered by some form of net zero target. 

However, when only including countries with “strong commitments” and “clear plans” for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, just 10 per cent of global GDP and five per cent of global emissions are covered. 

The experts who created the tracker said it shows “further steps [are needed] to clarify and strengthen net zero targets, including matching them with immediate action”.

G20 countries without “strong commitments” and “clear plans” for reaching net zero include Australia, Japan and the USA. 

Net zero pledges of “all key actors” are being analysed by the tool, including national governments, regional governments with large carbon footprints and city governments over 500k in population. It also tracks the 2,000 largest publicly traded businesses around the world.

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It’s hoped the tracker will create greater transparency around net zero targets, and allow members of the public to hold governments and companies accountable for their impact on the planet. 

Professor Thomas Hale, Global Public Policy, the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, said: 

“Remarkably, net zero has now gone fully mainstream, but not all net zero pledges are created equal. As targets and pledges proliferate, this Tracker will shine a light on which ones are genuinely ambitious, comprehensive, transparent and accountable.  

“The Tracker is a major step forward for radical transparency, but clear standards are also vital to ensure that net zero targets are delivered.”

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