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Joint report from World Resources Institute and ClimateWorks finds nations must accelerate climate action at orders of magnitude faster than recent trends

Washington, DC – To keep the window open to limit global warming to 1.5 C, countries need to accelerate transformation toward a net-zero emissions future across all sectors at a far faster pace than recent trends, according to a new report from World Resources Institute and ClimateWorks Foundation.

The State of Climate Action report, released at the close of the Race-to-Zero Climate Dialogues and shortly ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement’s adoption, assessed global and country-level progress across six key sectors toward achieving 2030 and 2050 benchmarks to keep global warming in check. It found that while progress is being made across many sectors, for a large majority of them the rate of change is much too slow for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century, which is necessary to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

“This report makes clear that we need to dramatically step up action across all economic sectors globally, if we want a stable climate future. Even though we’re making gradual progress, time is running short,” said Surabi Menon, Vice President of Global Intelligence at ClimateWorks Foundation. “Thankfully the report also lays out some of the solutions that the public and private sectors, as well as philanthropy, can pursue to accelerate our progress toward a healthy planet with a prosperous future.”

Benchmarks for four sectors (power, buildings, industry and transport) were developed by the Climate Action Tracker consortium; World Resources Institute developed benchmarks for forests and agriculture.

For the large majority of the 21 indicators assessed, maintaining historical rates of progress would be highly insufficient. For example, the report finds that to get on track for the emission cuts required by 2030, the world needs to:

  • Accelerate the increased share of renewables in electricity generation five times faster;  
  • Phase out coal in electricity generation five times faster;
  • Reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation three times faster;
  • Accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles 22 times faster than the significant rates of adoption in recent years;
  • Accelerate the increase in the share of low-carbon fuels by eight times faster; and
  • Accelerate the increase in annual tree cover gain five times faster.


“The decisions countries make in the lead up to the COP26 UN climate negotiations next year could either steer us to a safer and more resilient future or greatly increase the likelihood of deadly and costly climate impacts such as heat waves, drought, storms and other extreme weather events,” said Helen Mountford, Vice President, Climate and Economics, World Resources Institute. “This analysis shows that our efforts to tackle climate change need to greatly accelerate if we are going to get on track for a safer, brighter future.” 

Two areas where the world is doing especially poorly is halting deforestation and curbing emissions from agricultural production. Despite broad commitment across governments, civil society and companies to protect forests, they continue to be cut down or degraded in nearly all countries assessed. To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement we need to not only halt deforestation but also add more trees back to the landscape. Meanwhile emissions from agricultural production grew 3% between 2012 and 2017. Agricultural emissions are projected to grow by 27% between 2017 and 2050, whereas to keep global temperatures below 1.5 C these emissions need to fall 22% by 2030 and 39% by 2050 compared to 2017 levels.  

In contrast to other indicators, two measures are on track to reach levels needed by 2030 if their historical rate of progress is maintained: increasing crop yields and holding steady per capita consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb and goat). Between 2012 and 2017 global crop yields grew an average of 0.11 tonnes per hectare annually. If this rate continues, yields should be able to meet the heightened demand for crops as the global population increases. Globally per capita ruminant meat consumption decreased 3% between 2012 and 2017. However, these global trends mask important regional variations. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, crop yield growth would need to be 12 times faster between 2017 and 2030 to meet growing food demand without further pressures on land or reliance on imports. And in the Americas and Europe, ruminant meat consumption would need to decline three times faster to allow consumption to increase somewhat in developing countries as incomes rise.

The rapid transformation needed to halve emissions by 2030 will require significant financial investments, technology transfer and capacity-building for developing countries. While climate finance has increased significantly in recent years across the public, private and philanthropic sectors, it is still not at the scale needed to revolutionize our energy and transportation systems, accelerate energy efficiency and protect forests. Estimates indicate that between $1.6 and $3.8 trillion per year will be needed through 2050 to transform the energy system alone. 

Experience has shown that transformative change can happen at an exponential, non-linear rate. Systemic changes that once seemed impossible have ultimately been achieved, such as technological advances with cars, phones and computers. A rapid transition to a zero-carbon future offers the same opportunity — but only with smart and proactive investments in key sectors. 

The report outlines opportunities within all six sectors to align emissions trajectories with what the science suggests is necessary to avoid the worst climate impacts. Countries, businesses, philanthropy and others must urgently put in place policies, incentives and financial investments to accelerate us toward that safer, prosperous and more equitable future.  

The State of Climate Action report can be downloaded here.


About the World Resources Institute
World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with offices in Africa, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States. Its more than 1,000 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. More information on WRI can be found at or on Twitter @WorldResources.

About ClimateWorks Foundation
ClimateWorks Foundation is a global platform for philanthropy to innovate and accelerate climate solutions that scale. We deliver global programs and services that equip philanthropy with the knowledge, networks, and solutions to drive climate progress. Since 2008, ClimateWorks has granted over $1 billion to more than 500 grantees in over 40 countries.