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Planning regional pathways to net zero emissions in Brazil and Mexico

13 March 2020, 15:22 UTC 3 min read

At least 73 countries, 14 regions, almost 400 cities and over 780 businesses have already signalled their commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The European Commission recently announced a newly proposed legislation that will, by law, commit member countries to reaching the same target. During this critical year for climate action, there is rising global expectation that more and more governments and businesses will follow suit.

The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C states that global CO2 emissions must reach net-zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5⁰C above preindustrial levels, and all further greenhouse gases must reach net-zero by 2070. These targets are global averages, and equity approaches usually require economically developed regions to achieve net-zero much earlier, allowing for developing economies to reach the target later. For example, a 2019 paper published by NewClimate Institute argues that the European Union has already spent its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions and needs to reach net-zero by 2030-2040, and even net-negative by 2050, to allow the remaining carbon budget of 340 GTCO2 as of the beginning of 2020, according to the IPCC, to be spent by countries with lower historical emissions.

Rather than setting net-zero targets strictly for 2050, these figures instead indicate the need for jurisdictions to set long-term targets that reflect their highest possible ambition within the limits of what is technically and economically feasible. At a recent workshop carried out as part of the Climate Pathway Project, the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico did just that. After assessing their baseline emissions – an analysis which projects business-as-usual emissions in the region to 2050 based on current trends – an economy-wide target of 63% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2010 levels was approved by a group of key stakeholders from the public, private, and academic sectors, and from indigenous communities. This was the most ambitious target the state could have selected. Following this trajectory, Quintana Roo would be expected to achieve net-zero emissions by around 2067.

These long-term commitments set the vision for systemic decarbonization; however, it is equally critical that intermediate targets lay out a feasible pathway to achieve them. Quintana Roo has subsequently set a 2030 target of 21% emissions reductions from 2010 levels. The participating stakeholders identified key economic sectors to focus on in order to achieve these targets using the results of the baseline analysis. Agriculture, forestry, and land use (AFOLU) and tourism contribute significantly to Quintana Roo’s emissions. Thus, the AFOLU sector will be a key focus for emissions reduction efforts, as well as the energy, transport, and waste sectors, where the state’s tourism industry acts as a significant source of emissions.

In the next phase of the project, the state, with support from the project team, will collect inputs from stakeholders across these sectors about potential mitigation actions that could be instated to help reach the 2030 and 2050 targets. These inputs will be used to generate a catalogue of policy options, which the government will prioritize according to emissions reductions potential, socioeconomic benefits and alignment with other state priorities. Ultimately, this will produce a comprehensive pathway to achieving their 2050 goal. 

Two Brazilian states, Mato Grosso and Amazonas, are currently undertaking the same efforts to create their own 2050 pathways. They have both proposed 2050 targets of 66% emissions reductions from 2010 levels, which would set them on track for net-zero emissions and zero gross emissions by 2065, respectively. Baseline analysis of their emissions determined that the vast majority of emissions in both states come from forestry and land use, and additionally from agriculture in Mato Grosso. Amazonas will therefore focus its emissions reductions efforts through the project on the forestry and land use sub-sectors entirely, while Mato Grosso will address AFOLU as a whole as well as the energy sector. 

By determining the priority sectors for emissions reduction and working to put long-term as well as intermediary targets in place, these three states are on their way to developing highly ambitious emissions reductions pathways to 2050 and outlining the key transformational activities that will be required to achieve this.

The Climate Pathway Project and its consortium of partners supports project states in the development of successful pathways, as well as equipping them with the tools to monitor and maintain progress.