Race to Zero is part of the diplomatic push UN launches for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The objective is to increase ambition in the lead up to the COP26 international climate change summit in Glasgow next November. It has urged business leaders, cities, and investors to back a UN campaign aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It is the first major event since it was confirmed the summit was being postponed due to coronavirus.
Rolls-Royce and Nestlé are among the first to endorse the campaign.
The UN estimates that around one-third of the world’s GDP is already committed to the principles of Race to Zero.
Patricia Espinosa, UN climate chief, warned that the coronavirus pandemic must not lead to committing delays to emissions cuts.
She said: “While we had little warning about Covid-19, we had years of warning about climate change.
“We must act now to avoid the tragedy that runaway climate change would cause. It is entirely within our power to do this.
“If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that society can, where necessary, pull together to address a global challenge.”
In a virtual launch, a speech by COP26 president Alok Sharma who is also the UK business secretary was cut short as that was troubled with technical problems.
For the first time, Mr Sharma was making his public appearance since taking ill at the dispatch box of the House of Commons on Wednesday.
He said: “By working together we can absolutely make progress much faster.
“I do believe that COP26 can be that moment when the world unites behind a fairer recovery from the effects of Covid-19, a recovery that ultimately delivers for both our people and of course our planet.”
Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of plane engines, has committed to the campaign.
The previous month, due to the impact of Covid-19, the company announced 9,000 job losses.
Chief executive officer Warren East told the launch: “Our business historically has all been about fossil fuels but over the last few years we have been tilting the balance towards the journey to zero carbon.
“We are probably best known in aviation and that is one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize. But that ambition is at the heart of how we make ourselves competitive in the future.”
The launch of Race to Zero comes with the estimates from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit that 53% of global GDP is produced in countries, states and regions, and cities that have committed to net-zero targets.
Senior fellow Adair Turner said: “It is technologically and economically possible for the whole world to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, and essential in order to limit global warming to well below 2C,” he said.
“So it is heartening that an ever-widening range of leading countries, companies and cities are committing to that objective. The very fact that they do so will spur the investment and innovation needed to make the goal attainable.”
Substantial Emission Cuts
This year marks the date by which it is expected that countries will come forward with stronger emissions cuts to meet the goals of the deal.
Paris Agreement commits countries to curb temperatures to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the devastating climate change impacts. However, plans submitted so far put the world on a trajectory towards more than 3C of warming.
However, governments have prioritized the immediate global health crisis as countries around the world grappling with coronavirus pandemic, with many having put their citizens in lockdown.
Since lockdowns were imposed globally due to the coronavirus crisis, they trigger a dramatic fall in global greenhouse gas emissions as industry and transport have been curtailed, but this unprecedented fall is likely only temporary and experts have warned that without climate action pollution will soon bounce back.