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Is the world making progress in the fight against climate change?

Speed & Scale tracker | Posted on 2022-08-17 10:14
  • The Speed & Scale Tracker is a new climate action tool to track progress on global targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It covers goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in areas like transport, heating, food and industry.

  • Electric vehicles are a top performing area, but we are still eating too much beef and dairy.

  • The World Economic Forum is also launching a new tracking tool to help industries get to net zero.

Is the world making progress on tackling climate change? Or is it stalling?

A new climate action tracker tool hopes to answer this question. The Speed & Scale Tracker shows achievements and setbacks on global goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – and get halfway there by 2030.

It includes how we’re doing – or not – on cutting emissions in areas like transport, heating, food and industry.

The Speed & Scale Tracker is based on the 2021 book, Speed & Scale by John Doerr, an engineer and chair of American venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and Ryan Panchadsaram, a former technology adviser to President Obama.

Here are three achievements and five setbacks they’ve identified on the road to net-zero, by the Speed & Scale Tracker

Strong momentum in electric vehicles

Electric cars are a big area of progress. Sales of electric vehicles more than doubled from 4% of global auto sales in 2020 to nearly 9% in 2021. To be on track for net-zero, this share must reach 50% by 2030. This will need an “immediate and ambitious leap” in manufacturing, the authors say, from four million electric vehicles a year now to tens of millions.

Soaring sales make electric vehicles one of the top performing areas in the Speed & Scale Tracker. Image: Speed & Scale Tracker.

Electricity generation is on track

By 2025, half of the electricity globally must come from zero-emissions sources, rising to 90% by 2035. The world is making strong progress on this goal, with 39% of our electricity in 2020 coming from zero-emissions sources. To keep moving forward, more solar and wind installations, battery storage and nuclear, hydro and geothermal power plants will be needed.

Venture capital goal already reached

Only one goal in the Speed & Scale Tracker has already been achieved. This is to grow investment into climate technology start-up companies in the United States to $50 billion a year. This was achieved in 2021, when investment levels reached $53.7 billion, up from $17 billion in 2020. More than half of this funding went to transport solutions. “More investment is sorely needed in other areas, including zero-emissions buildings,” the authors say.

Increasing VCPE funding and deals for climate-tech is the only goal that has already been achieved as per the Speed & Scale Tracker. Image: Speed & Scale Tracker.

Limited progress on oceans

By 2030, at least 30% of the world’s oceans must be protected, and 50% by 2050. ‘Limited progress has been made on this goal, the Speed & Scale Tracker shows, with 8% of Earth’s coastal oceans currently protected. To get to net-zero, the practice of deep-sea bottom trawling in the commercial fishing industry needs to end, the authors say. This involves dragging heavily weighted nets across the sea floor – which releases CO2 into the seawater and ultimately into the atmosphere.

Code red for coal and gas

To get to net-zero, the world needs to stop building new coal and gas plants immediately. Existing coal and gas plants must have no emissions – or be closed – by 2025 and 2035 respectively. This is a ‘code red’ for the Speed & Scale Tracker because 345 new coal plants and 438 new gas plants are currently under construction globally. An “immediate halt” is needed to new-build fossil fuel plants, followed by the closure of existing coal plants and phasing out of natural gas as fast as possible, the authors say.

Food consumption is well behind

To cut emissions from livestock, the world needs to eat a quarter less beef and dairy by 2030, and 50% less by 2050. This goal is currently off track and is classified as ‘code red’ in the Speed & Scale Tracker. Weekly consumption in the US is currently 1.1lbs of beef and 3.8lbs of dairy. Plant-based alternatives to beef and cheese need to be “improved and scaled” to shift demand away from high-emissions proteins, the authors say.

The world needs to eat a quarter less beef by 2030. (Speed & Scale Tracker) Image: Speed & Scale Tracker.

Forest protection is failing

Every six seconds, forest areas the size of football fields are lost. In 2021, this totalled 3.75m hectares of forest lost because of human action. This is another code red area for the climate tracker. By 2030, the world must stop destroying forests and plant more trees than we log or burn. A commitment to end deforestation by 2030 was made by 141 countries at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021. All nations need to enforce and incentivize “robust forest protections,” the authors say.

Steel is off the rails

Steel makers need to halve emissions from the steel-making process by 2030, rising to a 90% cut in emissions by 2040. This 2040 goal is equivalent to 0.2 metric tons of emissions generated per 1 metric ton of steel produced. The steel industry currently generates 1.9 metric tons of CO2 per one metric ton of steel produced, so this is another code red area. Steel is the single biggest industrial source of emissions, at 4 gigatons.

Help for heavy industry

To help the steel industry and six other heavy industries cut emissions, the World Economic Forum and its partners launched the First Movers Coalition at the COP26 climate summit. This is focused on seven heavy industries that account for a third of global emissions – but which face the toughest challenges to cut emissions. These industries are aluminium, aviation, chemicals, concrete, shipping, steel and trucking.

The aim of the coalition, which is a partnership with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, is to accelerate the development and deployment of new decarbonizing technologies. The First Movers Coalition is also working with an eighth industry – direct air capture – to speed up the development of technologies that can help the world reach net-zero by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Industrial sectors are big emitters of greenhouse gases. Image: World Economic Forum.

The Forum has also launched a new tracking initiative to help industrial sectors reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Net-Zero Industry Tracker establishes a new framework to monitor and support the progress of heavy industries towards net zero. It includes a set of standard metrics to measure how industries are reducing their emissions and improving energy efficiency. The Net-Zero Industry Tracker also proposes a “new level of ambition” in multi-partner collaborations – to help address common goals that are beyond the control of any single industry.

“Breakthrough solutions are seldom found within a single firm or even industry,” the Forum says. “That’s why industrial ecosystems need to join forces beyond traditional partnerships.”

Author :

Victoria Masterson - Senior Writer, Formative Content

- World Economic Forum

Posted on 2022-08-17 10:14

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