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All states and regions must commit to net zero emissions now to fight climate change

26 April 2021, 23:01 UTC 4 min read

Tuesday 27 April, London: Today the leaders of major states and regions, including California, Chungnam Province and Catalonia, are calling on their counterparts worldwide to adopt net zero emissions targets now to tackle the effects of climate change. So far only 9% of states and regions in the largest emitting countries have made such commitments [1] and much more is needed to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. 

Following major climate announcements from national governments at President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit last week, attention is shifting to the role of state and regional governments, which control many of the policies critical to tackling global climate change. Now the Under2 Coalition of states and regions, through its members across the world, is calling for action.

Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, said: "State and regional governments are punching above their weight in the fight against climate change, showing the world what it will take to tackle this existential crisis head-on. With all that is at stake, California, as co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, is inviting fellow states and regions to meet this moment and commit to setting net zero emissions targets and making bold commitments to meet those targets as soon as possible. 

"With catastrophic climate impacts already being felt around the globe, now is not the time to let up on our ambitious efforts to transform the way we produce and consume energy. We welcome all partners that will step up and join us in shaping our collective future."

Governor Yang Seung-Jo of Chungnam Province, South Korea, said: “Net zero is no longer an option but a necessity for the future of the Earth in face of dismal climate challenges. Chungnam will lead the way in our joint efforts to revitalise the Earth as we together build a global coalition to accelerate decarbonisation.” 

Damià Calvet, Minister of Territory and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia said: “The government and around 100 businesses in Catalonia have committed to net zero emissions by 2050. We encourage others to follow suit since the decarbonisation of our economy and activities are the backbone of the future of our societies.”  

Ms. Arantxa Tapia, Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment of the Basque Country, said: "To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and ensure the resilience of the territory, in the Basque Country we have three essential conditions: firm political commitment, regulatory and planning instruments with realistic but ambitious objectives, and the necessary resources to take action. We have launched our 'Basque Green Deal', a model of fair and sustainable growth that leaves no one behind and responds to the global challenge of the energy-climate transition, hand in hand with the technological-digital shift, and the promotion of a healthy planet and people".  

Philippe Henry, Vice-President and Minister for Climate, Energy and Mobility of Wallonia, said: “Wallonia’s commitment is to reduce its GHG emissions by 55% in 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Three actions will start soon, the implementation of a citizen panel, work on just transition and promoting the participation of youth.”

Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under2 Coalition Secretariat at the Climate Group, said: “If all states and regions, everywhere, target net zero emissions, this will put the world in a much stronger position on climate. Urgent action is needed at all levels to avoid damaging temperature rises. States and regions have the tools at their disposal to do this – they must all step up and act.

“There is also an economic risk to being left behind. The green global recovery is a huge investment opportunity, and regional leaders will be best placed to secure the huge dividend in jobs that is now set to come from transitioning our transport and energy systems.”

Without the concerted efforts of state and regional governments, including at international climate talks such as COP26 this November, moves to limit global temperature rises will not be complete. As well as understanding local needs and priorities, they set policies on transport, energy and land use. Together they can have a significant effect on whether climate targets succeed or fail. 

Setting a path to net zero

Under2 Coalition states and regions have on average reduced their emissions by 16% from their respective base years whilst global emissions rose by approximately 42%. Equally, more than half (55%) of states and regions with a 2030 emissions reduction target are showing greater ambition than their national counterparts. They are providing a clear path for national governments to follow.

The most ambitious states and regions have joined the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign, the largest global alliance of companies, cities, investors, regions and universities credibly committed to halving global emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest. 24 regions have joined Race to Zero through the Under2 Coalition - a campaign partner - joining 2,162 businesses, 708 cities, 127 investors and 571 investors with credible net zero commitments, rigorous interim targets and transparent reporting processes. The Under2 Coalition has also recently launched Net Zero Futures to support subnational governments in setting and reaching net zero targets.

Last week’s international climate talks, hosted by President Biden, saw the US announce a new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of 50-52% emissions reduction by 2030. This was met by a raft of new commitments from other countries, including South Korea, Japan and South Africa. The Climate Group’s wider US Climate Action Week, held around the Summit, also emphasised the voices of non-state actors and the importance of these being recognised at national government level: including in the high-level decisions made at COP26 this November.

[1] Taking Stock: A Global Assessment of Net Zero Targets


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