15 sectors of global economy shift the dial on climate

By Climate Champions | September 20, 2021

With 40 days to go before the pivotal COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this November, over half the sectors that make up the global economy are poised to contribute their fare share of halving global emissions within the next decade and achieve near-term emissions reductions targets known as the 2030 Breakthroughs.

In each of these sectors, at least 20% of the major companies by revenue are aligning around sector-specific 2030 goals — in line with delivering net zero emissions by 2050 — which include targets such as 60% renewable generation in the energy sector and 5% zero-emissions fuel in the shipping sector. The full list of sectors that have reached this level of ambition is below.

The announcement comes as part of the UN High Level Climate Action Champions’ Opening Session for Climate Week NYC on Race to Zero and Race to Resilience – ‘Delivering on the Promise of Paris: every fraction counts’.

Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Action Champion, said: “Committing to net zero emissions by 2050 is not enough on its own. We also need actors to show they are serious about winning the Race to Zero emissions by advancing critical sectoral breakthroughs  – especially in the hardest-to-abate sectors – in line with halving global emissions by 2030. We’re therefore delighted to see that actors are already shifting the dial today, but we will be looking for signs of progress in the next 2-3 years.”

The UN High Level Climate Champions issued the challenge for actors to join these ‘2030 Breakthroughs’ in January earlier this year at the Davos Agenda, calling on all leaders to commit their ‘skills, resources and ingenuity’ to delivering the breakthroughs required to address climate change.

Since then, the real economy has risen to the challenge and stakeholders across sectors are poised for systemic transformation, in the following critical sectors:

  • Clean Power: 21% of major utilities by total industry revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including Engie, Enel SpA and Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC.
  • End of the internal combustion engine: Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles: 39% of major heavy goods vehicles manufacturers by total revenue have joined the Race to Zero, and have committed to 100% zero emission sales by 2040 (via RouteZero), including Ford, Volvo, BMW and Nissan.
  • End of the internal combustion engine: Buses: 24% of major bus automakers by total by revenue have joined the Race to Zero and commit to 100% zero emission bus sales by 2030 (via RouteZero), including General Motors.
  • Nature-based-Solutions and Land Use: 28% of major food suppliers by revenue have joined the Race to Zero and commit to implement deforestation free supply chains as part of the transition to halting land conversion, as well as to fully adopt regenerative agriculture and land restoration practices by 2030.
  • Fashion: 49% of major fashion companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including Burberry and H&M.
  • Cement & Concrete: 28% of major cement / concrete producers by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including recent new joiners Cemex, Heidelberg, and ThyssenKrupp.
  • Consumer Goods: 36% of major consumer goods companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including Asahi and Unilever.
  • Retail: 23% of major retail companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including Walmart and Tesco.
  • Cooling: 24% of major residential AC manufacturers by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including Electrolux, Danfoss, Schneider Electric, Philips, Godreij and Hitachi.
  • ICT: 40% of major ICT companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including tech giants Apple, Microsoft and Google.
  • Mobile & Telco: 33% of major mobile & telco companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including America Movil and Vodafone.
  • Pharma & Medtech: 30% of major pharmaceutical and medtech companies by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, including GSK, AstraZeneca, and Philips.
  • Water: Major water & wastewater utilities responsible for 23% of global water supply have joined the Race to Zero, including Suez and Igua Saneamento.

“Climate change threatens to disrupt virtually every part of the global economy, and it’s critical that business leaders in every industry take action and join the fight,”said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Global Ambassador for the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience Campaigns. “Today’s announcement is an important signal that more and more companies recognize the need to reach net-zero emissions. Ahead of COP26 this fall, the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns are working to rally even more commitments and ambitious action — from businesses as well as cities, regions, investors, and local organizations — to achieve a clean energy future.”

As a first step towards meeting these ‘2030 Breakthroughs’, all actors are required to join the UN Race to Zero campaign. With now over 6,200 members from across 110 countries, including 4,470 companies, 799 cities, 35 regions – most recently Rhode Island and Nevada – 220 financial institutions, 731 educational institutions and 45 healthcare institutions, Race to Zero has almost doubled in size since last year’s Climate Week NYC. The campaign now represents over 11% of the global population and close to 15% of the global economy.

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said: I am encouraged to see businesses demonstrating such incredible progress on driving climate action around the globe. It is through committing to Race to Zero that companies, investors, cities and regions can move with conviction to put their commitments to tackle climate change into practice and help limit global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees.”

Paul Polman, Influencer, business leader, campaigner, Co-Author of ‘Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take’, said: “Tackling climate change is the biggest economic opportunity of our lifetime in jobs, growth and innovation. Forget incremental change and doing less harm; it’s time to go net positive, where we thrive by giving more than we take, making this a better world for all.” 

Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Science Based Targets initiative, said: “This progress is hugely impressive. Science-based targets now cover more than 20% of global market cap. But now is not the time to rest – far from it. We need urgent, robust and ambitious climate action from all organisations across sectors and the world in order to accelerate emissions reductions at the pace and scale required by science.”

Cross-society mobilisation as new Partners join Race to Resilience

In parallel to the race to halve global emission by 2030, four new initiatives join the Race to Resilience, including The International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, Resilience First, The Climate Heritage Network and The Urban Sustainability Directors Network.

These additions lift the total number of Partners to 24 representing over 2,500 non-state actors. These actors are taking global action across the campaign’s themes of urban, rural and coastal resilience.

The Race to Resilience also launched its Transformations programme for non-state actors delivering action to advance the campaign’s 2030 goal, including increasing the quantity and quality of finance and investment, capacity building, governance systems, infrastructure and technological innovations. The campaign will announce the first group of Partners delivering on Transformations at COP26.

Gonzalo Muñoz, UN High Level Climate Champion, said: “We need humanity to come together to keep alive the hope of 1.5, and know that every fraction of a degree counts to protect those most vulnerable and build resilience across the world. This is not about pointing the finger at others. This is about each taking responsibility to step up to the challenge. It’s about us all moving together, and moving now.” 

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said: “It is a responsibility – in fact, an imperative – for all of us to make COP26 a success. The impacts of climate change are becoming more frequent and more severe than had been anticipated. We can no longer postpone the actions needed to set the world on the path towards lower emissions, stronger resilience and, in a word, sustainability. Governments at all levels, businesses in all sectors and of all sizes, and non-state actors of every kind need to work closely together to accelerate the just transition that the people all around the world demand. I applaud those who are taking the lead in racing towards these targets, and urge others to follow the same path. Success in Glasgow will bring hope for the world.” 

Media contact 

Matthew Phillips: matthewphillips@climatechampions.team  / +44 7834 699991

About the UN High Level Climate Champions

The UN High Level Champions for Climate Action from Chile and UK – Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping – build on the legacy of their predecessors to engage with non-state actors and activate the ‘ambition loop’ with national governments. Their work is fundamentally designed to encourage a collaborative shift across all of society towards a decarbonised economy so that we can all thrive in a healthy, resilient, zero carbon world.

Gonzalo and Nigel have convened a team to help them deliver on this work through flagship campaigns, targeted stakeholder engagement and leadership in systems transformation.

About the 2030 Breakthroughs

The 2030 Breakthroughs articulate what key actors must do, and by when, to deliver the systems change we need to achieve a resilient, zero carbon world in the over 30 sectors of the real economy.

The 2030 Breakthroughs are derived from the Climate Action Pathways – a set of comprehensive sectoral roadmaps to achieve the Paris Agreement in line with 1.5°C, developed by the UN High Level Climate Champions and the Marrakech Partnership.

About Race to Zero

Race to Zero is the global campaign rallying non-state actors – including companies, cities, regions, financial, educational, and healthcare institutions – to take rigorous and immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030 and deliver a healthier, fairer zero carbon world in time. All members are committed to the same overarching goal: reducing emissions across all scopes swiftly and fairly in line with the Paris Agreement, with transparent action plans and robust near-term targets.

Led by the High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action – Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz – Race To Zero mobilizes actors outside of national governments to join the Climate Ambition Alliance, which was launched at the UNSG’s Climate Action Summit 2019 by the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.

About Race to Resilience

Race to Resilience is a non-state actor led global campaign to catalyse a step-change in ambition and action for climate resilience, so people and nature don’t just survive climate shocks and stresses but thrive in spite of them.

Led by the High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action – Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz – Race for Resilience catalyses actors outside of national governments to build the resilience of 4 billion people from groups and communities vulnerable to climate risk by 2030.

Through a partnership of initiatives, the campaign focuses on helping frontline communities to build resilience and adapt to impacts of climate change, such as heat, drought, flooding and sea-level rise.