When the British government announced its ambitions to reach net zero carbon by 2050 last year, it gave itself a get out clause. “It is imperative that other major economies follow suit” they specified. “The UK will conduct a further assessment within 5 years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.”
As I’ve reported before, that five year review will indeed find that others are moving, although that will be open to political interpretation. Since Britain’s announcement, dozens of countries have confirmed zero carbon targets, including a fellow member of the G7 in France. You can see the full list and where countries are up to on ECIU’s tracker.
I argue that a 2050 target isn’t actually radical, and should be considered entirely normal. And so it shouldn’t really surprise us that people are falling in line. That’s not just governments, but organisations and institutions and businesses.
Among the corporations that are on board are Nestle, BT, Sony and Safaricom. Some are doing better than 2050, such as Mars at 2040, Unilever, Siemens and Ikea at 2030, or Bosch at 2020.
Several airlines have declared, including Etihad, British Airways, Lufthansa and Easyjet. The latter are headquartered in Luton, and I’m told that the threat of local Extinction Rebellion action on their doorstep was a factor in their decision.
Perhaps the most surprising declarations have come from oil companies, such as BP, Shell and Total, or the mining company Rio Tinto. These are worth examining in detail and that’s for another time. The point is that carbon neutrality is increasingly considered feasible and necessary. With each new declaration, pressure increases on those who are silent on the subject. When there is a choice between a company taking the climate crisis seriously, and those that aren’t, consumers can make an active decision to support good practice.
The more companies and regions declare their targets, the more learning there is to draw on as people look at their own targets. It becomes easier to convince board members or shareholders or voters that its important. While net zero is never going to be easy in practice, it is getting politically easier with each passing day.
Of course, we need to keep watching to make sure that plans are followed up with real action. But for today, let’s acknowledge the snowball effect of net zero targets, and the good news that it represents.