To keep the window open to limit global warming to 1.5 C, countries need to accelerate transformation towards a net-zero emissions future across all sectors at a far faster pace than recent trends, according to this report from World Resources Institute and ClimateWorks Foundation, with input from Climate Action Tracker.

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 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.

Key Findings

  • The world is already being ravaged by the impacts of a changing climate—from the spread of fires to more intense storms, heat waves, the breakup of ice sheets, and disappearing glaciers.
  • Commitments and action by countries, cities, and companies, as well as levels of climate finance, still fall woefully short of the ambition necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals.
  • This report assesses progress toward 2030 and 2050 emissions-reduction targets in the power, buildings, industry, and transport sectors, based on indicators and targets designed by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) consortium, and in the forests and agriculture sectors, based on indicators and targets designed by World Resources Institute (WRI).
  • Of the 21 indicators assessed, 2 show a historical rate of change that is sufficient to meet both 2030 and 2050 targets, 13 indicators show change headed in the right direction but too slowly, and 2 show change headed in the wrong direction altogether. Data are insufficient to assess progress in 4 indicators.
  • This coming year, leading up to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), is critical to commit to transformative action to limit warming to 1.5°C. Countries will update their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and submit long-term strategies, at the same time that trillions of dollars will be mobilized for COVID-19 recovery.

Executive Summary

Full executive summary available in the paper.