Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of important global economies made progress on their emissions goals and some announced new ambitious commitments on climate change. These countries demonstrate that there is a way forward for climate action even in difficult contexts.

The Challenge

In 2020, countries faced multiple crises: the global pandemic and an economic crisis. At the same time, countries need to take meaningful action on the existential threat of climate change.

As part of the international Paris Agreement on climate change, countries were expected to come forward with more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2020. Action from major emitters is especially important, given the outsized role they can play in controlling global temperature rise, and regional leaders are important to inspire other nations.

WRI’s Role

WRI worked alongside many organizations to analyze and mobilize partners to encourage leaders to take more ambitious climate action at the national and global levels. In the United Sates, WRI provided timely research, analysis and expert testimony, and leveraged close relationships with partners to encourage members of Congress to embrace climate solutions, such as efforts to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – potent greenhouse gases. In China, WRI shared insights to encourage the government to set ambitious climate targets through stakeholder engagement initiatives like “Vision 2050,” and other long-standing, targeted efforts. WRI-led research, roadmaps and high-level dialogues over several years to help make the case for the government to create a long-term deep decarbonization strategy, demonstrated how this could be realized technically, and how smart climate action could lead to stronger and better growth.

In Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia, WRI and its partners in the New Climate Economy (NCE) initiative developed innovative modeling to assess the true costs of climate change and the benefits of inclusive green growth. This cutting-edge analysis accentuated the opportunities these countries have to grow their economies and protect vulnerable populations by pursuing strong climate action. This would lead to faster poverty alleviation and more jobs, as well as better health and GDP outcomes than business-as-usual paths. WRI and NCE also supported tailored engagement campaigns, which armed decisionmakers with compelling evidence on the opportunities for climate action and inclusive growth. 

The Outcome

Despite the pandemic, countries’ plans and policies demonstrated that climate action remains a global priority. The United States enacted legislation to phase down the use of super-pollutant HFCs, with enormous bipartisan support, putting the country on a path to compliance with the international Kigali Amendment. In China, President Xi announced that the China will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, along with peaking its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.

Both Colombia and Ethiopia submitted updated NDCs. Colombia committed to a significant 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030—one of the most ambitious plans released so far. Ethiopia developed a more robust target aligned with its 10-year development plan to build a climate-resilient, green economy, and new plans to enact a “triple-zero” framework of achieving zero hunger, zero poverty and zero emissions by 2050. In Brazil, the idea of a green recovery has begun to take root in newspapers and on social media, as well as in certain financial sectors.