If governments set even higher targets and take bold policy decisions, the world could reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the early 2040s, well ahead of mid-century climate targets. UK climate business expert says.
Nigel Topping has been a high-level champion for two years as Britain’s presidency of the United Nations Cop26 climate summit, handing over the role to Egypt’s Mahmoud Mohilddin at the Cop27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh late last year. rice field.
In his role, he forged partnerships between companies to lead the ‘race to zero’, setting goals for companies to achieve net zero emissions and laying out the steps they would take to reach them. . Today, more than 8,300 companies worldwide are members of the United Nations’ Race to Zero initiative, along with his more than 3,000 other organizations, including cities and local governments.
Topping said his experience in business has shown that governments can act much faster without compromising their country’s competitiveness and without alarming the business community.
“Governments can set bolder goals and support scientists, engineers, businesses, banks and cities to come up with solutions,” he said. “The moonshot analogy is not inappropriate.”
In the UK, the Climate Change Commission has developed a plausible scenario that the UK could reach net zero by 2042, he said. “Given the state of California and Germany targeting his 2045, we strongly believe that the world could be net zero in the early 2040s, and zero in many areas in the late 2030s. I think you can argue that,” he said. .
He added that the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic had shown what governments could do when they tried. [from the pandemic] What I think we haven’t learned enough about yet is that we can do incredible things, that governments can pay for what they need, and that the relationship between government and the private sector Being able to transform and deliver solutions faster. We are in a real emergency. ” .
He said the need for such urgent change is becoming more evident in the form of extreme weather events around the world.
“I think the pressure is coming because it’s the pressure between the growing awareness of how bad the damage is. [from the climate crisis], and confidence boost – this is the real lesson we want to learn from Covid. We need to back ourselves up more,” he said.
He pointed out that many governments are now aiming to phase out fossil fuel vehicles, followed by the phenomenal adoption of electric vehicles. “When you specify an end date, that’s a very strong signal. Not all markets have agreed, but once agreement is reached [a large proportion], can go much faster,” he said. “The rate of change in Europe, America, and the Chinese and Indians is all over.”
But some sectors continue to hamper progress, he said. Oil, gas and coal companies have posted big profits over the past year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent record-high fossil fuel prices.
The jackpot was built on faulty assumptions, says Topping. “U.S. oil companies live in a fantasy land,” he said. “There are still some pretty big heads in the sand. But they will die. They won’t survive. Their Kodak moment is near.”
Topping said fossil fuel companies would do better to shift their engineering skills to renewable energy. “We are probably in the last big jackpot of oil and gas profits. [to clean energy] We just have to return the money to the shareholders to distribute it,” he said.
Businesses were transforming faster than many governments realized, Topping said. “There is much more momentum in the system than most analyzes suggest,” he said. Growth forecasts for renewable energy and technologies such as electric vehicles and batteries in recent years have proven too conservative, he said, as sales have surged and technology has advanced rapidly.
“A lot of this is growing exponentially,” he said. “Looking at where we are now, [in terms of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions], it never looks good enough.But looking at the trajectory [for low-carbon technologies] It can be much more encouraging. ”
Rich countries should view rapidly growing developing countries as competitors in the clean-tech race, rather than focusing on their high emissions, he added.
“China is very happy that the West sees this as a coal issue, but China is demonstrating competitive leadership in the world. [clean] sector by sector. And India is now on the same path. But you tell me how many times Western commentators point to India and China as competitors rather than polluters. increase. [countries such as China and India] See this as the future. ”