Launch of the UN Race to Zero emissions Breakthroughs

COP26 President’s challenge to every sector of the global economy to reach critical net zero tipping points By Climate Champions | January 28, 2021

The Race to Zero Breakthroughs have since been updated as the 2030 Breakthroughs, with even greater clarity of a path to halving emissions by 2030 across the global economy. Read the latest version of the paper here

The UN High-Level Climate Champions, COP26 President Alok Sharma, COP25 President Carolina Schmidt, together with the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, today launch the Race to Zero Breakthroughs at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda.

The Race to Zero Breakthroughs have been published in a special paper, which sets out the specific, near-term tipping points for more than 20 sectors that make up the global economy, forming a master plan around which business, governments, and civil society can unite ahead of COP26. Collectively, they articulate what key actors must do, and by when, to deliver the sectoral changes needed to achieve a resilient, zero carbon future by 2050 at the latest.

COP26 President Designate Alok Sharma said: “It is vital that businesses go net zero, as part of our fight against climate change. Which is why we look to all sectors to reach a point at which a clean way of operating becomes the norm. Because if every sector plays its part, we will see the global economy on the right path to achieving net zero by 2050.”

To meet this challenge, actors covering 20% of their sector are being asked to commit to each breakthrough. By the time governments convene in Glasgow in November for the UN climate negotiations, the UN High-Level Champions — Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz — are now calling on local governments, businesses and investors to achieve breakthroughs in at least 10 sectors of the economy.

The Race to Zero Breakthroughs have been drawn from the Climate Action Pathways, a set of comprehensive roadmaps to achieve the Paris Agreement in line with 1.5°C across all sectors, which were developed by the Marrakech Partnership — a vast coalition from across the climate action ecosystem — all of whom will need to play their part to transform their sector to deliver the Breakthroughs.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said: “The Race to Zero Breakthroughs set out the specific tipping points that every sector in the global economy must reach in order to create a resilient, zero carbon world. We now know what key actors must do, and by when, to deliver the sectoral changes needed. I call on leaders across all sectors of the global economy to work together to deliver the Race to Zero Breakthroughs.”

One key member of this coalition is the Mission Possible Partnership, which only yesterday unveiled a new major multi-stakeholder platform – leveraging the power of World Economic Forum, the Energy Transitions Commission, the Rocky Mountain Institute and We Mean Business – to help deliver the Race to Zero Breakthroughs in seven of the most energy-intensive industries, including steel and shipping.

To achieve whole-economy transformation cities, regions and private sector leaders will need to work in partnership and commit their skills, ingenuity and resources to achieving these breakthroughs. As Gonzalo Muñoz, COP25 Climate Champion, said: “We cannot win the Race to Zero by racing alone. Only by collaborating in wholesale systems transformation can we upgrade the sectors of our global economy to deliver a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon future. These sectoral breakthroughs will allow us to go further and faster in our race to zero emissions.”

Industry leaders rise to the challenge

Leaders in climate and industry across the sectors of the global economy welcome the launch of the Race to Zero Breakthroughs.

Anthony Hobley, Executive Director of Mission Possible Partnership, said: “The Mission Possible Partnership is delighted to act as a key delivery mechanism for Race to Zero Breakthroughs to tackle emissions in the so called harder to abate sectors. Beginning with seven of the most energy-intensive industries, the partnership’s work will build on growing momentum, investor pressure, consumer expectations, and analytical tools to design and execute net zero pathways for those industries, their customers, their suppliers, and their capital providers to consign the term harder-to-abate to the dustbin of history.”

Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability Officer and Member of Executive Committee, LafargeHolcim said: “LafargeHolcim welcomes the Race to Zero Breakthroughs initiative. As a signatory to the UN Global Compact “Climate Ambition for 1.5°”, LafargeHolcim is committed to build a net zero future and accelerate the introduction of EcopactZero, our carbon neutral concrete, to our customers worldwide.”

Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce, said: “We welcome the Race to Zero Breakthroughs as raising a rallying cry for others to join companies and organisations such as Rolls-Royce in the UN Race to Zero. We play a key role in some of the hardest areas to abate, like aviation and shipping, which form part of the economically crucial systems – including transport, the built environment, and other mission critical power – that will require dramatic transformation to secure a net zero future. We absolutely believe there are technological solutions to this vital challenge and we are determined to use our innovation and ingenuity to pioneer a resilient, inclusive, net zero carbon future.”

Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, said: “The race to a zero emissions future can only be won if we catalyze action around specific tipping points for each sector. At RMI through the Global Cooling Prize we are demonstrating that an affordable residential AC unit that has 5X lower climate impact is already within reach and are asking global manufacturers to join the race and commit to bringing these breakthrough technologies to market by 2025.”

Christiana Figueres, Co-Founder of Global Optimism and former Executive Secretary of UNFCCC said: “The Race to Zero emissions can only be won well before 2050 if all leaders come together in radical collaboration, to deliver Breakthroughs in every sector. Now is your moment to choose to commit yourselves. We have the tools, technologies and resources at our disposal. All that matters now is deploying them as rapidly as possible.”

Günther Thallinger, Chair Asset Owner Alliance and Member of the Board of Management Allianz SE said: “The Race to Zero calls on us to take action. The UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance strives to catalyze real world impact: to define targets; to change decision-making and to enhance efforts with partners. We invite all asset owners to join us as unprecedented transformation can only be achieved in collaboration.”

Fiona Reynolds, CEO of Principles for Responsible Investment, said: “Investors can and must play a critical role in achieving financial sector breakthroughs to accelerate progress towards net-zero. Ambition, engagement and commitment from institutional investors – alongside leaders, policymakers, regulators, companies and other stakeholders – will help us achieve a healthy economy and planet.”

Paul Polman, Co-founder and Chair IMAGINE, said: “If there is one learning coming out of Covid-19, it is that we cannot have healthy people on an unhealthy planet. Clear climate commitments for 2030 and firm actions to back them up now will be key. History shows that with 20%+ of companies committed by sector we can drive the needed tipping points. The laggards have to seriously worry about their long term competitiveness. If they don’t, the financial market will do it for them.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO of SSE, said: “SSE has already committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions from all our business operations by 2050, but we cannot win the Race to Zero alone. Only by collaborating across the sector can we upgrade the energy systems of our global economy to deliver a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon future. I urge leaders across all sectors to work in partnership to help achieve the sectoral breakthroughs we need to win this race.”

Mads Nipper, CEO of Ørsted, said: “Ørsted welcomes the Race to Zero breakthroughs, as it is clear that our energy system needs to undergo a renewables transformation. We are proud of our vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy and our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025. We encourage others around the world to join us in delivering the breakthroughs we need for success in the race to a healthy, resilient, zero carbon future.”

Christine McGourty, CEO of Water UK, said: “The Race to Zero is one that will require commitment, collaboration, and innovation. We’re incredibly proud to be the first water industry to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2030, and call on colleagues around the world to join us in delivering the breakthroughs we need to achieve in our race to a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon future.”

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, said: “As part of the Race to Zero, mobile industry leaders have committed to carbon reduction targets aligned to the most ambitious 1.5C global warming scenario. The group, representing 26% of global revenue, commit to delivering a healthy, resilient, low carbon future. We believe digitalization is an essential enabler for a decarbonized world and encourage all members to set ambitious net-zero targets. In fact, we invite all sectors, leaders, and governments to join the Race to Zero.”

Ignacio S. Galán, Chairman & CEO, Iberdrola, said: “The “Race to Zero Breakthroughs” initiative is a great example of the power of collective action against climate change. By joining efforts, agents from all geographies and sectors can multiply the effectiveness of our individual commitment and find new collaborative solutions. The electricity industry has a key role to play if we want to accelerate the path to a more sustainable, secure and competitive energy supply, and Iberdrola has recently presented a 75 billion euro investment plan fully directed to speed up the energy transition. For this reason, we support this ambitious initiative and stand ready to work alongside UNFCCC, COP26 and WEF in its implementation.”

To find out more about the Race to Zero Breakthroughs (now 2030 Breakthroughs), you can read the latest version of the paper here.

This paper has been kindly translated to Chinese by the China CDM Fund, a climate fund managed by the Ministry of Finance PRC.