March 17, 2022

USA | EU | UK

Top Countries in the Race to Net Zero Emissions

Top Countries in the Race to Net Zero Emissions
Contents

By 2020 more than 110 countries committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050, and China, the largest emitter by 2060. Carbon neutrality means some emissions are still being generated but will be offset somewhere else, concluding in net zero emissions. What the Paris Agreement attempts to uphold is making sure global temperatures stay within 2C by 2100, but preferably closer to 1.5C. However, according to the UN Emissions Gap Report 2020,

"...despite a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C."
Climate analytics for warming projections
Image source: The Conversation

This also means countries committed must be striving for net zero energy buildings (nZEBs) by 2050 meaning the amount of energy used by a building annually is equal to the amount of renewable energy that is created on-site.

With so many countries recently committing to net zero targets in the future, it is easier to let go of some of the uncertainty of where the planet's resources and environment are going. Global warming is a personal and collective problem. The main goal is to limit global warming and governments, businesses and individuals should all be involved.

When it comes to countries specifically, both top carbon emitters in the world as well as countries with the lowest carbon footprint should be involved in decarbonisation of the world economy.

The energy innovations of the past two decades have given us a chance to preserve the world and offset the harm that would be done by continuing to use fossil fuels, which National Geographic says supplies 80% of the world's energy. By understanding our carbon footprints, we can start reducing emissions. Monitoring your carbon dioxide emissions in real-time and accurately offsetting remaining emissions is key. Given that an increasing number of nations have committed to net zero targets, it's anticipated that demand for carbon accounting software will grow exponentially. Carbon management software provides companies with the ability to monitor their emissions, helps with reducing emissions in real-time and offers to offset remaining emissions. Such tools are essential for businesses to fight climate change.

Some of the world's most renowned nations have laws and policies in place to help tackle climate change. Many nations and regions are enthusiastic and willing to invest billions of dollars, time, and infrastructure in the race to net zero. See how your region is taking action and how you can be part of the solution.

International measures targetted to achieve net zero emissions

Globally, C40 cities have set net zero targets and signed to reduce GHG emissions while constructing buildings that are net zero rated. They run off from renewables and don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. The objective by 2030 is for every newly constructed building to be green and by 2050, this goal expands to cover all buildings in line with the Paris Agreement. Out of all the initiatives we could choose to focus on, this one is the most important. After all, buildings are responsible for approximately half of emissions and power consumption. While it's true that many factors contribute to these numbers, we can chip away at them little by little.

The World Green Building Council is also a global project working towards net zero 2050 in the entire building industry and achieving net zero targets in all new buildings by 2030. Many countries are involved in the project including the Green Building Councils for the following nations so far: Brazil, Canada, Australia, Columbia, Croatia, The Netherlands, The UAE, Spain, Finland, South Africa, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Jordan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, The UK, The US, Indonesia, Italy, The Philippines, Chile, China, Alliance France, and The German Sustainable Building Council.

Over 110 countries have pledged to reach net zero emissions in compliance with The Paris Agreement, but they are yet to set adequate policies and laws to battle climate change. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit offers a Net Zero Tracker to list countries in the "Net Zero Emissions Race". So far only two countries, Bhutan and Suriname, have achieved negative carbon dioxide emissions status while still few other countries have made legally binding agreements, and proposals, or have only discussed action plans to take. The countries with legally binding agreements so far are Sweden, the UK, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and Hungary. Countries with proposed legalisation include Canada, South Korea, Spain, Chile, Fiji and the EU Member States. There are many countries with in-policy documents including but not limited to: the United States, China, Japan, and Germany.

Net zero emissions tracker list of countries pledged
Image source: Net Zero Emissions Tracker

Countries with negative greenhouse gas emissions today

Bhutan

Bhutan receives more greenhouse gases from the world than it emits. Since it is a country that is mostly forested with 750,000 people, they mostly work in agriculture and forestry. Because they are largely Buddhist and prioritiсe health and happiness, they have done their best to protect the environment and have been effective at tackling climate change. Although they work in forestry they had banned logging exports in 1999. Legally, Bhutan must stay 60% covered in the forest at all times making it more eco-friendly for the world. They also use hydropower as their electricity source.

CNN says, "[this export] offsets another 4.4 million tons of annual CO2 emissions."

By 2025, Bhutan's hydroelectric exports are projected to offset CO2 emissions by 22.4 million tons. With the melting Himalayas and landslides due to global warming, however, their hydropower could be badly affected.

Suriname 

The United Nations reports Suriname is 93% covered in the forest so it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits. They are also the second country to have made updated plans to fight climate change. The Marshall Islands was the first. Despite they are a small country, they are committed and enthusiastic about global warming prevention and doing their part. Countries like this are also susceptible to climate change worse than most although they are the least contributing. This will cost Suriname $969 million USD to keep greenhouse gas emissions down. Their plan is to commit to 93% forest cover in their country and keep renewable energy sources over 35% by 2030. Agriculture contributes to 40% of their emissions so they are dedicated to climate-smart farming like converting biomass into energy, promoting sustainable land management, and water resource management. Furthermore, public transportation will become more sustainable too.

Countries with legally binding agreements

Sweden

According to Sweden’s Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework, in 2017, Sweden set itself up for carbon neutrality by 2045 so the amount of greenhouse gases they emit will be “reduced by the natural ecocycle” and projects being done by Sweden abroad. They also plan on receiving negative emissions ratings thereafter, by producing zero emissions and improving the environment elsewhere. Every fourth year Sweden will draw up new policy and budget goals that work coherently. One of their goals is to reach emission reductions by 70% (from 2010) in the area of ground transportation by 2030.

The UK

In 2019 Theresa May set a net zero target and put in place a goal for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 for the UK. The UK was the first G7 country to have aimed for this goal. They had cut emissions by 29% between 2010 and 2019. There are strong doubts that they will keep up their goals as it will be very expensive but they are making as much effort as possible to reduce their carbon footprint in the world and have many reasons to be optimistic they will achieve their net zero target by 2050, as they have reduced oil and gas usage as well in an economy that has grown by a fifth. In 2019 alone they had cut GHG emissions by 2.9%, reducing them every year for seven years which is a record. These low-level emissions in the UK haven’t been achieved since 1888.

Additionally, green jobs are expected to crop up as a result of this new goal according to the UK government:

“The UK has already reduced emissions by 42% while growing the economy by 72% and has put clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy. This could see the number of “green collar jobs” grow to 2 million and the value of exports from the low carbon economy grow to £170 billion a year by 2030.” 

France

France has established a net zero target and a plan with many steps to phase out greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come. By 2022 they will no longer have coal-fired power plants. By 2030 the law has decided to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 30-40%. NS Business Energy also states,

“Measures are being taken to improve about 7.2 million poorly insulated households in the country, as the housing sector makes up about 45% of its power consumption and 25% of the carbon emissions produced.”

Denmark

In 2019 Denmark legally established a net zero target to reach carbon neutral emissions by 2050. They are bound to have a fossil fuel-free electricity sector by 2030, focusing on renewable energy at the core of their strategy.

Energinet, “an independent public enterprise owned by the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities,” operates as much as possible off of wind power. The Energy Islands in Denmark will be able to generate enough wind power (5 GW) to supply 5 million homes with average energy consumption, and is the first establishment of its kind, due to be finished by 2030. Denmark is planning on 2 islands: one man-made island in the North Sea that will eventually be able to generate up to 10 GW of wind power and one on Bornholm in the Baltic Sea that will generate 2 GW.

According to this NS Business Energy article, they have already achieved so much before the islands have been established,

“Denmark broke the world record for proportion of electricity produced from wind power with 47% generation in 2019.” 
Windmills at Avedore power station in Denmark
Avedøre Power Station, Ørsted, offshore wind turbines. Image source: Renewables Now

New Zealand

New Zealand also passed a law in 2019 to get to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. However, they are only claiming between 24-47% reduction of methane emissions by then, because of their animal agriculture which traps more heat in the atmosphere.

The upside is that New Zealand had created almost 11,000 new green jobs in 2018 along with investing in the goal of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030, and decarbonising all public transport buses by 2035 according to this Labour article. These are just a few of the plans they have put in place for multiple improvements in what they have stated as a climate emergency.

Hungary

According to the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary,

"Hungary can gradually become a climate-neutral country by the middle of the century without the transition jeopardising economic growth and social welfare."

Minister of State for Energy and Climate Policy Peter Kaderjak says energy generated in Hungary will be 90% carbon-free by 2030. Their plan includes

"...the launch of the Climate and Nature Protection Plan that set out inter alia a support system for the renewable energy production of small and medium-sized enterprises, a six-fold increase of installed solar capacity in the next ten years and new incentives for the procurement of low- and zero-emission vehicles."

They also plan on certain sectors reducing carbon significantly even before 2030 such as transportation, agriculture, building, and waste management.

Nations with proposed legalisation to reduce greenhouse gases

South Korea

The declining cost of green hydrogen has made it attractive for South Korea to convert to renewable energy completely by 2050. They are the fourth biggest coal importer because of their domestic lack. They are also the world’s ninth largest energy consumer. Although coal and natural gas accounted for 43% of their energy source in 2019, their usage has been declining since the 90s.

Canada

Canada has made 5-year milestone targets to combat global warming and it also plans to exceed their lower emissions objective by 2030. Along with over 110 other countries they have a net zero emissions goal for 2050 with the help of an advisory board on the matter. Even more, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s “strengthened climate plan” to grow the middle class with more affordable living and green jobs with 15 billion in investments. They will do this through less energy waste, better public transportation, cuts on pollution, and natural solutions such as planting two billion trees and supporting sustainable farming.

“This is a plan that will help achieve both Canadians’ environmental goals and our economic hopes: clean air, clean water and long-term secure jobs. It means we will exceed Canada’s 2030 climate target while positioning Canadians to thrive in an increasingly low-carbon economy. It contains 64 strengthened and new federal policies, programs and investments to cut pollution and build a stronger, cleaner, more resilient and inclusive economy.” The Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Sustainability green building

The European Union

Although comprised of various countries that have their own set and proposed goals in place, the European Union as a whole has many notable plans for doing its part. The EU Effort Sharing Regulation applies to sectors in the EU economy that are outside of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) which is the largest trading system in the world and applies to factories, power stations, airlines within the region, and various installations, accounting for 40% of the greenhouse emissions there. The EU Effort Sharing Regulation, on the other hand, makes up for approximately 60% of emissions in the EU, between agriculture, business, transport, non-ETS industries, and waste.

The ETS proposes,

“To achieve a climate-neutral EU by 2050 and the intermediate target of an at least 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030…”

They also may expand the scope of the ETS in years to come. This is a clearly achievable goal as they have already reduced emissions by 35% in the installations sector alone since its establishment in 2005.

What the EU Effort Sharing Regulation aims to achieve is reducing emissions by 30% by 2030. Together with the ETS, the EU has a target of 40% by 2030 to achieve net zero in 2050.

“The Effort Sharing Regulation translates this commitment into binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021–2030, based on the principles of fairness, cost-effectiveness and environmental integrity.”

Spain

Spain committed to some ambitious goals in 2020 and has begun putting together laws that will make them carbon neutral by 2050. Notably, in July of 2020, 7 of Spain's 15 coal plants even stopped production. REN21 reports Spain's strategy:

"Under a recent draft law, the Spanish government commits to make Spain’s electricity system 100% renewable by the middle of the century, ban all new coal, oil and gas extraction projects with immediate effect, end direct fossil fuel subsidies and make all new vehicles emission-free by 2040, reported Climate Home News."

To achieve the EU bloc target of reducing 50-55% of emissions by 2030, Spain will have to use 70% of clean energy sources in their mix by 2030. This will also require 200 million euros of investments by 2030 and create 350,000 jobs every year. They have also begun to promote various energy sources such as reversible hydroelectric power plants, wind, and solar energy. They also plan on repurposing any existing mines into generating geothermal energy and immediately ban research permits for hydrocarbons. Another price-falling sector is gas-fired electricity which is competing with coal.

Chile

Chile's Zero Carbon Energy plan will be difficult for this developing country to achieve. They rely much on forests absorbing carbon emissions to offset greenhouse gases. Climate Action Tracker states,

"According to our assessment, after COVID-19 impacts, Chile’s currently implemented policies would reach levels of between 108 and 122 MtCO2e excl. LULUCF by 2030 (3% below to 9% above 2016 levels)."

By 2040 they plan on eliminating all coal plants in the country but this could be too late. They heavily rely on thermoelectric plants and have an insufficient economy to invest in more infrastructure. Seche Group, a Chilean company working in industrial hazardous and non-hazardous waste management, claims that remediating the sites could create jobs and boost their eco-friendly intentions.

Chile Mountains and City

Fiji

Global Citizen reports Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama saying,

"...despite [the fact that] Fiji accounts for less than 1% of global carbon emissions, the Pacific country is among the most vulnerable in the world to coastal erosion, rising sea levels and intense climate-related weather events." 

Prime Minister Bainimarama and his government have released an impressive 118-page "living document" called the Fiji Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS). They want to focus on "cultivating the blue sectors first-hand" and preserving mangrove ecosystems. In addition, they seek to decarbonise land and maritime transport. Another emphasis will be to implement a mix of energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, and waste-to-energy. They have created a comprehensive index that explains how they plan to manage waste, aviation fuel, and other details with an eco-friendly approach. Fiji has done everything it can to preserve the environment and plans on taking immediate steps to reach net zero emissions.

Recommended articles:

• Article: Top Five Carbon Emitters by Country
• Article: Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States
• Article: COP26: How It Will Affect Businesses
• Article: Spotlight on Davos: Climate Action

Countries with in-policy documents to prevent global warming

The United States

The White House put out a statement that climate change is a matter of national security and is at the forefront of United States Foreign Policy. Along with most countries, the United States aims to achieve net zero status by 2050.

In terms of renewable energy, Bloomberg reports that Morgan Stanley predicts a carbon-free electric system by 2033 and the eradication of coal-powered plants by 2030.

Regarding buildings and construction, The US Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED green building rating system in the 90s to share ideas and metrics for green and healthy buildings that would support health and the environment as well as the economy, and now LEED has become a world-recognised certification system. Rating systems and Green Building Councils all over the world had begun years ago to implement the transition into nZEBs and will achieve it by 2050. 29% of greenhouse gas emissions produced are by residential and commercial buildings, according to the USGBC.

“LEED has provided a framework for high performing buildings and spaces to reduce greenhouse emissions.”

The US aims toward generating carbon balance in buildings through renewable energies like solar and wind power that can be done on-site or through communities.

China

In September of 2020, China made a deal to become carbon neutral by 2060. They are the largest carbon-emitting country in the world, however, they build the most renewables that aren’t always used in their country, and are the biggest investor in clean energy.  

The Atlantic Council claims, "Zhang Xiliang, the director of the Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy at China’s Tsinghua University, expects his country’s carbon emissions to peak around 2025, followed by a plateau and then a sharp decline. By 2035, he predicted, China will see a 20 percent decline in CO2 emissions relative to that peak. By 2050, it could witness more than a 70 percent decline, leading to carbon neutrality by 2060.”
Carbon emissions from cars in traffic

Japan

Japan ranks as the fifth most carbon-emitting country, responsible for 3% of the world’s emissions. Previously they had promised a reduction of 80% of greenhouse emissions by 2050 and to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century, but in October 2020 they reached an agreement to complete carbon neutrality by 2050. Since oil, coal, and gas are staples in Japan, it is going to require quite a bit of investment in renewable energy to push towards the net zero targets.

Right now some sources say they are also committed to reducing GHG emissions by 30% and some say 26% by 2030.

EU Japan Center reports that some other objectives in the fifth edition of Japan’s Basic Energy Plan are:

  • “Greenhouse gas reduction of 26%
  • Reliable energy mix

As main policies to achieve these objectives, the government is planning to:

  • Generate 22-24% of its energy needs from renewable sources (10% before Fukushima)
  • Decrease dependence on Nuclear energy from 25% before 2011 to 22-20% in 2030
  • Decrease energy generated from fossil fuel from 65% before 2011 to 56% in 2030
  • Take further energy saving measures to decrease the actual energy efficiency by 35%
  • Promote hydrogen/energy storage and decentralised energy systems”

Germany

The German Sustainable Business Council (DNGB) was founded in 2007 and is “one of the fastest-growing organisations with a civic and social impact in Germany.” They have one of the biggest networks in Europe with 1200 members, 3500 professionals, hundreds of volunteers, and many stakeholders, to build sustainable properties. There are 29 countries that DNGB certified projects. Their framework, created in 2018, features this climate action roadmap:

Decarbonisation path

As for fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas), this makes up 78% of Germany’s energy mix which is lower than the G20 average of 81%, however, they haven’t had a drastic decline in the past two decades. They have increased the use of renewables steadily in the past year and in buildings, it's now standard to install solar panels.

Notable net zero targets under discussion

United Arab Emirates

The UAE has partnered with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) which is a principal player in the net zero emissions plan to build greener buildings and sustainable environments. 28% of the 39% of GHG emissions by commercial buildings are caused by heating, cooling, and lighting. The UAE’s 2018 commitment in cooperation with the Emirates Green Building Council and the ILFI is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and all new buildings by 2030. Many enthusiastic real estate developers and engineers have already complied globally, including from the UAE. They are motivated to construct an nZEB strategy that will propel their company forwards and help them reach net zero emissions.

Net zero target-setting processes on the country level

Many countries are setting net zero commitments to reduce their carbon footprint, contribute to global emissions reductions and help mitigate climate change. Countries that are committed to meeting their net zero targets will need to make significant changes to do so. As citizens, you can help by engaging with your local government and finding out what initiatives they are taking to reduce emissions. With the right planning and execution of emission reduction strategies, every country can reach net zero by reducing their overall emissions as well as cutting capita emissions.

It's time to act

Net0 emission management platform helps businesses and governments measure their carbon footprint accurately to enable them to reach their emission reduction goals.

Book a demo today and discover how you can fight against climate change.

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This article has been brought to you by Sofia Fominova, a co-founder of Net0. For daily updates, news and industry insights, please follow Net0's business page on LinkedIn.

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