As we gear up to launch our new, more ambitious pledge on 10 December, keynote speaker Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, urges local authorities to sign up to the Race to Zero campaign.
Those of us who have been working on climate change since well before the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 would never have expected that a global pandemic would be how we would start this decade of climate action.
The health, social and economic consequences of this global pandemic have moved us to an inflection point where how we choose to respond to this crisis will determine the pathway to our Net Zero future.
That’s why it is so encouraging to see that during the pandemic, Net Zero commitments have doubled with over 2,000 companies, cities, states, regions, investors and universities starting their race to Net Zero emissions.
Commitments from cities alone in the Race to Zero alliance — the largest ever Net Zero coalition, now cover 7.6% of global population and represent 7% of global CO2 emissions. But we need to go much further.
As we look to realise our carbon neutrality goals, local authorities are in a unique position to accelerate England’s pace in the race to zero carbon by 2050.
Estimates suggest that local governments can collectively influence nearly 70% of England’s carbon emissions through engaging the wider community and their deep local knowledge.
Local authorities know their communities best, so are best placed to deploy solutions that will both tackle the climate crisis and bring about a fair and just transition to a Net Zero economy.
This new, zero world that we are racing towards offers huge opportunities for local communities.
It means zero deaths from air pollution, climate change or environmental destruction.
It means reducing inequalities, and creating a fair and equal society where sustainable jobs, industries and innovation support a healthy environment.
It also means pioneering a covid recovery that puts health, resilience, and climate change front and centre as we build back from this global pandemic.
Building this zero carbon future has wide-reaching implications, and we have already seen the power of local authorities and civil society in action this year in accelerating climate ambition.
Japan and South Korea’s recent commitments to Net Zero by 2050 are a direct result of intensifying pressure from non-state actors demanding climate action. In South Korea, lawmakers, civil society and global voices have pushed institutions to announce an end for coal, compelling the world’s third biggest coal financier to take action.
2020 has shown how bottom-up pressure can really contribute to the speed and strength with which national governments act.
As part of the Race to Zero, local authorities can help advocate to the UK government for the powers and support to act on their climate commitments and accelerate climate ambition as we move towards COP26 and beyond.
Local authorities can start this crucial journey by pledging to reach Net Zero by 2050 at the latest, planning their path to carbon neutrality with an interim target of halving emissions by 2030, proceeding immediately with the steps necessary to embark on this pathway, and committing to transparency through annually publishing their progress.
The more UK local authorities that join the Race to Zero, the stronger the signal we can send that we are all united in meeting Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.
I encourage you all to join us.
Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26
Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.
The objective is to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonized economy ahead of COP26, where governments must strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement. This will send governments a resounding signal that business, cities, regions and investors are united in meeting the Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.