Who’s promised net-zero, and who looks likely to get there?


(Andrea Boldizsar, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • The Net Zero Challenge report calls for more action to limit global warming.
  • Just 67 countries and eight US states have a net-zero ambition.
  • Even fewer have sufficient policies and legislation in place.
  • Some trends show progress, but there’s still a long way to go.
  • Calls on individuals to put pressure on companies and governments.

Finland, Denmark and Sweden are among the best performers when it comes to achieving carbon neutrality.

They each have strong ambitions that are translated into targets and supported by an effective policy framework, according to The Net Zero Challenge, a new report from the World Economic Forum and BCG.


The report looks at the world’s progression to net-zero emissions – when the amount of carbon dioxide released by a country or region on an annual basis is zero or negative. It focuses on the current state of play in countries and companies around the world and calls for more immediate action, both collectively and singularly. It also assesses progress made on the Paris Agreement, under which many governments pledged to attempt to keep a lid on global warming.

Net Zero Challenge Report
CO2 emissions look set to rise if more countries don’t commit to net zero emissions.
Image: The Net Zero Challenge Report – World Economic Forum and BCG

“Commitments made by governments so far are far from sufficient,” the report says. “Only 67 countries – among them none of the top five emitters – have committed to a net-zero goal. And even most countries with this commitment have not enacted robust-enough policies to achieve the emissions reductions required.”

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

The report shows that while much action is going in the right direction, more still needs to be done. Sixty-seven countries assessed have a carbon-neutrality ambition, 16 have translated that into a sector roadmap with targets, while just eight have strong targets supported by an effective policy framework.

Net Zero Challenge Report
Only 16% of respondents put climate change in their top 3 concerns.
Image: The Net Zero Challenge Report – World Economic Forum and BCG

Many of the leading countries have enshrined their policies in law or formed cross-party coalitions to tackle the issues and set plans in motion.

Finland plans to be carbon neutral by 2035, in an agreement between five parties that took more than a month to negotiate. The government is set to review the target in 2025.

Sweden’s Climate Act entered into force in January 2018, enacting a strict roadmap for the government to follow. While the long-term target is net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest, the plan sets out lots of concrete steps along the way.

In Denmark, new climate laws target carbon neutrality by 2050 with a robust monitoring system. It also sets out new legally binding targets that will be set every five years.

Net Zero Challenge Report
Governments and corporates still have a long way to go to show real progress in tackling emissions.
Image: The Net Zero Challenge Report – World Economic Forum and BCG

The report calls on other governments to unilaterally enact national regulation for reducing emissions with “ambitious policy frameworks that include a meaningful price on greenhouse gas emissions, but also sector-specific regulations and incentives promoting remedies such as a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies, electric mobility, efficiency, green building standards – supported by accelerated innovation.”

It says that while the world as a whole is moving slowly, leaders at a national and corporate level could make quicker inroads. Ultimately, one of the biggest responsibilities lies with individuals, who can put pressure on governments and businesses to take action.

“We have seen a surge in public pressure and global activism in recent years, especially among the youth and in Western countries,” the report says. “Much more – and geographically broader – citizen and consumer awareness is needed, however, to trigger a turnaround in public perception on a global scale.”

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