Race to Zero at COP27

By Climate Champions | November 23, 2022
  • Race to Zero’s criteria, and the work of its 26 Partners, is significantly aligned with the net zero recommendations from the United Nations’ High-Level Expert Group (HLEG)
  • At COP27, Race to Zero Finance Partners (NZAM, NZAOA, and NZBA) released progress reports, demonstrating an increase in decarbonisation targets.
  • Progress is happening on Race to Zero’s 5th P (‘Persuade’) e.g., Corporate Knights’ Action Declaration, We Mean Business’ work on Responsible Policy Engagement and Exponential Roadmap Initiative’s ‘We Can Do It’ campaign.
  • Race to Zero’s Partners and Accelerators ran a number of impactful COP27 events – ranging from decarbonising the fashion industry, to turning net zero targets into action, to non-state sector action in Japan.
  • Nature-based solutions were front and centre at COP27, with Race to Zero’s support. Pivoting to nature positive land-use, food and agriculture provides one third of the mitigation solution for a 1.5C aligned pathway.
  • Race to Zero used COP27 as an opportunity to plan ahead for 2023: to accelerate delivery, transparently track progress, regionalise the campaign, and urge non-state actors to activate policy. Over the next weeks, we are consulting further on our 2023 Strategy – with Partners and Accelerators.
  • Race to Zero’s Futures Lab, ‘Reconfiguring the Law for a Net Zero Future’, was a huge success – with around 50+ attendees and an inspiring line-up of speakers, who spoke of the need for legal systems to level the playing field, and protect the environment. 
  • COP27 marked the end of UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, Nigel Topping’s, three-year tenure. Race to Zero will continue to build on this legacy, through the 5-year Improved Marrakech Partnership agreement, and with the support from High-Level Champion Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, our incoming Champion, and you all.


  1. HLEG recommendations significantly aligned with Race to Zero 

The UN Secretary General’s High Level Expert Group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments (HLEG) published on Tuesday 8 November their 10 recommendations for net zero integrity across non-state actor commitments in the report, ‘Integrity Matters’.

We are pleased to see significant alignment between Race to Zero’s criteria and the HLEG recommendations. The report itself states that these recommendations “build on credible existing initiatives like Race to Zero and the Science Based Targets initiative” (p.7). The work of Race to Zero Partners has informed this “universal definition for net zero” (p.2), endorsed by the Secretary General of the United Nations. We welcome the focus on a pivot to regulation, which is well aligned with Race to Zero’s 5th P (‘Persuade’), and ideas in the Pivot Point Report.


  1. Race to Zero Finance Partners ramp up interim net zero targets

Trillions of dollars worth of investments are needed each year to create a net-zero emissions world and build resilience for the most vulnerable. To that end, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions published on Wednesday 9 November a new report, ’Assets to Flows’, that summarises key insights on what it will take to convert financial assets into flows. The report is derived from a series of regional forums co-hosted by the COP27 Presidency, the UN Regional Economic Commissions, and The High-Level Champions for COP26 & COP27, that took place this year with the objective to connect investors with the trillion dollar opportunity to finance climate action.   The report was accompanied by a compendium of 128 projects focused on climate and the SDGS, identified through the regional forums to help build the project pipeline.  https://climatechampions.unfccc.int/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/1-Compendium-of-Climate-Related-Initiatives-1.pdf.  This effort was recognised in the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan.

Net zero alliances from the finance sector are collaborating on a pan-finance sector level through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).  Publications released included pan-financial sector net-zero transition planning tools and guidance, as well as actions to mobilise capital to emerging markets and developing economies. The GFANZ Africa Advisory Board and Network, launched in September in Egypt, released its priorities and strategy for 2023.  These include project pipeline development, reducing the cost of climate finance and de-risking, maximising carbon currency benefits to Africa, and incorporating African insights into GFANZ outputs.

On Finance Day, three of Race to Zero’s Finance Partners released their progress reports with over 300 interim net zero targets now set by finance sector participants (see our LinkedIn post here):

  • Net Zero Asset Managers initiative (NZAM) announced initial targets for 86 investors, bringing the total number of asset managers that have set initial targets to 169. 21 managers had joined the initiative since the previous target disclosures update in May 2022, bringing the total number of signatories to 291, representing more than USD 66 trillion in AUM.
  • Towards COP27, the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance (NZAOA) released its second progress report.  The Alliance has grown to 74 members with US$10.6 trillion in assets under management.  Two thirds of that AUM – US$7.1 trillion is held by members who have set intermediate net zero targets.
  • The UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) launched its first Progress Report, which captured the intermediate decarbonization targets of over 60 members. The NZBA has nearly tripled in size in just 18 months: from launching in April 2021 with 43 founding members, the Alliance is now comprised of 122 members in 41 countries, representing about 40% of global banking assets.


  1. Progressing the 5th P – climate policy engagement

Race to Zero Campaign Manager, Fi Macklin, was a keynote speaker for Corporate Knight’s ‘Action Declaration on Climate Policy Engagement’, launched on Tuesday 8 November.

Fi Macklin and Climate Champions’ Senior Policy Advisor, Tessa Ferry, also took part in a We Mean Business Roundtable on Responsible Policy Engagement on Thursday 8 November.

On Thursday 17 November, Exponential Roadmap Initiative and partners announced their international call to action ‘We Can Do It’, calling on people to change the narrative from one of doom and gloom – to positive action (watch from 5:37).

All of this work will inform Race to Zero’s engagement in 2023 with cities/ regions, businesses, finance and others, to create a ‘Handbook’ on the 5th P – ‘Persuade’. That handbook will sign-post resources and case studies for non-state actors to align their policy engagement with net zero goals.


  1. Racing with our Partners & Accelerators

On Thursday 10 November, we sat down for dinner with members of Race to Zero’s Expert Peer Review Group, to discuss an improved annual review process for 2023, and a potential Research Agenda – particularly for fair share and equity. On Friday 11 November, we were pleased to attend two Partner events. First, Planet Mark hosted a session ‘Turning Net Zero Target into Action: The Practical Implementation of the Race to Zero’. We discussed the challenges SMEs face in implementing net zero – and the need to spotlight the ‘rockstars’ of the Race to Zero campaign.

Second, we tuned in to the UNFCCC Fashion Charter Event (a Race to Zero Partner), where brands in the fashion industry shared their decarbonisation journeys, and were challenged by a youth representative to address the links between fast fashion and the oil and gas industry. We were pleased to see Ms Syeda Faiza Jamil (from our Race to Zero Accelerator Net Zero Pakistan), take the stage during this event – an example of Partner-Accelerator collaboration in action! On the same day, we shared our new Race to Zero video, and refreshed Race to Zero website. You can share the post here.

Net Zero Pakistan & UNFCCC Fashion Charter

Tessa Vincent, RTZ & Andrew Griffiths, Planet Mark

  1. Nature-based solutions front and centre

Nature-based solutions took the stage on Saturday 12 November at COP27. Race to Zero acknowledges the importance of nature in its criteria: encouraging members to halt deforestation, protect biodiversity and integrate nature-based solutions in transition plans (see ‘Pledge’ and ‘Plan’ leadership practices).

Pivoting to nature positive Land-use, Food and Agriculture is also part of the systems change Race to Zero wants to drive forward. Climate Champions and 20 Partners support a 2030 Nature Breakthrough: where >10Gt CO2 emissions is mitigated per year through nature-based solutions, achieving net zero (in land-use) by 2030.

You can watch Race to Zero Engagement Lead, Tessa Vincent, talk about nature-based solutions in the Exponential Race to Zero Event here (watch from 5:04 onwards).


  1. Race to Zero’s 2023 Strategy 

On Monday 14 November, we had an excellent in-person session with our Race to Zero Partners and Accelerators, to plan for 2023 across four pillars: (1) Accelerating Delivery (2) Transparently Tracking Progress (3) Regionalisation and (4) Activating Policy. It was fantastic to hear from members of the Campaigns Team, the Expert Peer Review Group, Partners and Accelerators. Over the next month, we will engage further with our Race to Zero community – as well as the new Climate Champions from UAE – to inform our strategy for next year. We are already excited for the year ahead!

During COP27 Week 2, we also took part in a number of Partner and Accelerator Events, such as (1)  Japan Climate Initiative’s Non-State Actor Event – showcasing action across youth, finance, Tokyo, business and faith-based groups; (2) Alliances for Climate Action’s (ACA’s) Strategy Day; and (3) the Exponential Solutions in the Race to Zero event, where Fi Macklin speaks about the progress of Race to Zero since its launch in June 2020. Fi notes we have built “a groundswell of voluntary momentum” (watch from 6:03 here).

Fiona Macklin, Race to Zero Campaign Manager

7. Reconfiguring the Law for a Net Zero Future 

On Wednesday 16 November, we hosted a ‘Futures Lab’ on Reconfiguring the Law for a Net Zero Future’, with around 50+ attendees. The event was opened by Alexia Leclercq, a Climate Activist from Texas, who has taken part in writing the Environmental Justice for All Act, and told us to design laws by talking first with those who are most impacted.

Alexia was joined by fantastic speakers from DLA Piper, Stop Ecocide International, Delphis Eco, We Mean Business, Sistema B, Climate Litigation Network, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and more. They discussed how the law needs to level the playing field, and create enabling conditions to protect the environment. 

The final ‘Call to Action’ came from our Accelerator, Net Zero Lawyers Alliance (Georgina Beasley), who encouraged lawyers to intimately know their area of law (their “card” in a deck of legal cards) – and how it intersects with climate change. Every area of law needs to evolve to achieve a net zero future. You can watch the full recording here (from 1:11:00).


  1. Celebrating the Global Campaigns – and Nigel Topping

Following the High-Level Closing Event on Thursday 17 November, Race to Zero and Race to Resilience hosted a Campaigns Reception. Bringing together those racing in our community, the reception was a chance to reflect on the success of both campaigns. For Race to Zero, we reflected on:

  • 26 Partners, 20 Accelerators and over 11,000 members from across 116 countries;
  • Race to Zero membership almost doubling over the past year (and growing tenfold since June 2020);
  • Raising the bar on net zero delivery, through updated criteria in June 2022,  informed by 200+ experts;
  • Progress across all actor-types and sectors → see our proof-points here and in our Progress Report.

The reception also provided the opportunity to farewell our optimistic, action-oriented and visionary UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, Nigel Topping. We will continue to build the momentum and legacy that Nigel has instilled in the Race to Zero campaign, with our mandate in the 5-year Improved Marrakech Partnership, and with the support from High-Level Champion Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, our incoming Champion, and you all.

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