Race to Net Zero: Carbon Neutral Goals by Country
The time to talk about net zero goals is running out, and the time to put them into action is well underway.
At the U.S. Climate Summit in April 2021, U.S. President Biden pressured countries to either speed up carbon neutral pledges, or commit to them in the first place.
It’s a follow-up to the Paris Agreement, which keeps signatories committed to reaching carbon neutrality in emissions in the second half of the 21st century. But 2050–2100 is a wide timeframe, and climate change is becoming both increasingly present and more dire.
So when are countries committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, and how serious is their pledge? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council highlights the world’s carbon neutral pledges.
The Timeline of Carbon Neutral Targets by Country
The first question is how quickly countries are trying to get to net zero.
137 countries have committed to carbon neutrality, as tracked by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit and confirmed by pledges to the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and recent policy statements by governments.
But the earlier the pledge, the better, and most of the commitments are centered around 2050.
|Antigua and Barbuda||2050|
|Central African Republic||2050|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||2050|
|Papua New Guinea||2050|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||2050|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2050|
|Sao Tome and Principe||2050|
|Trinidad and Tobago||2050|
|Australia||2050 – 2100|
|Singapore||2050 – 2100|
As far as early achievers go, Bhutan and Suriname are the only two countries that have achieved carbon neutrality and are actually carbon negative (removing more carbon than they emit). Uruguay’s 2030 target is the earliest to try and match that feat, followed by Europe’s Finland, Austria, Iceland, Germany, and Sweden, who are all targeting 2045 or earlier.
Over 90%, or 124 of the 137 countries tracked above, set a target of 2050 for reaching carbon neutrality. This is largely due to membership in the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, which asks member states to target 2050 for their goal but leaves commitment up to them.
Only five countries have net zero pledges set for after 2050, including Australia and Singapore, which haven’t set a firm target yet. Targeting 2060, in addition to Ukraine and Kazakhstan, is the world’s largest emitter, China. The country’s recent pledge is significant, since China accounts for an estimated 25% of global emissions.
In fact, according to the Climate Action Tracker, 73% of global emissions are currently covered by net zero targets.
How Seriously Are Countries Committing to Carbon Neutrality?
Setting a goal is perhaps the easiest step towards carbon neutrality. But the real challenge is in solidifying that goal and starting to make progress towards it. That’s why it’s important to consider how deeply committed each country’s carbon neutral pledge truly is.
The most rigid commitments are enshrined in law, followed by official government policy, though the latter can change alongside governments. Likewise, proposed legislation shows forward momentum in making pledges a reality, but proposals can take a long time to become enacted (or get derailed).
As it turns out, the vast majority of carbon neutral targets are only under discussion, with no formal action being taken to act on them.
|Costa Rica||Policy Document|
|Marshall Islands||Policy Document|
|South Africa||Policy Document|
|Vatican City||Policy Document|
|European Union||Proposed Legislation|
|South Korea||Proposed Legislation|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Under Discussion|
|Burkina Faso||Under Discussion|
|Cabo Verde||Under Discussion|
|Central African Republic||Under Discussion|
|Cook Islands||Under Discussion|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||Under Discussion|
|Dominican Republic||Under Discussion|
|Papua New Guinea||Under Discussion|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Under Discussion|
|Saint Lucia||Under Discussion|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Under Discussion|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Under Discussion|
|Sierra Leone||Under Discussion|
|Solomon Islands||Under Discussion|
|South Sudan||Under Discussion|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Under Discussion|
Uruguay’s 2030 target might be the earliest, but it is not yet set in stone. The earliest commitment actually enshrined in law is Sweden’s 2045 target.
Including Sweden, only six countries have passed their carbon neutral targets into law. They include Denmark, France, Hungary, New Zealand, and the UK.
An additional five countries have proposed legislation in the works, including Canada and South Korea, as well as the entirety of the EU.
Meanwhile, 24 countries have their climate targets set as official policy. They include Brazil, China, Germany and the U.S., some of the world’s largest emitters.
99 of the 137 pledges are only under discussion at this time, or more than 72%. That means that they have no official standing as of yet, and are harder to act on. But as time starts to pass, pressure on countries to act on their carbon neutral pledges is beginning to grow.
The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.
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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage
ESG controversies can damage a company’s value, but ESG data may be able to help manage this risk. What are other reasons for using ESG data?
ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage
Data is key to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) revolution. Access to granular ESG data can help boost transparency for market participants. Unfortunately, 63% of U.S. and European asset managers say a lack of quantitative data inhibits their ESG implementation.
Being clear on the potential application of this data is equally important.
- Investors and banks can use ESG data for risk assessment, to spot opportunities, and to push companies for change.
- Companies can publish their own ESG data, quantify progress on their ESG goals, and use data to inform decisions.
- Policymakers can use ESG data to inform regulatory frameworks and measure policy effectiveness.
This graphic from ICE, the second in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores four primary motivations of ESG data users.
1. Right Thing
The objective: Having a positive social or environmental impact.
For investors, this can involve screening out companies that conflict with their values and selecting companies that align with their ESG objectives.
As another example, it can involve comparing the social impact of municipal bonds. One way investors can measure social impact is through scores that quantify the potential socioeconomic need of an area, using metrics like poverty and education levels. Here are the social impact scores for three actual municipal bonds issued in Florida.
|State||Bond Issuer||Social Impact Score
(Higher = larger potential impact)
Issuer #1’s bond is projected to have a community impact that is nearly twice as high/positive as Issuer #3’s bond.
For companies, doing the right thing can include assessing their progress on ESG goals and benchmarking themselves to peers. For example, gender and racial representation is a growing area of focus.
The objective: Managing ESG risks, such as climate and reputational risks.
For investors, this can involve back-testing or analysis around specific risk events before they materialize. Here are the risk profiles of two actual municipal bonds in California. The shown bonds are practically identical in many ways, except their wildlife score.
|Issuer #1||Issuer #2|
|Current Coupon Rate||5.0%||5.0%|
|Maturity Date||Aug 01, 2048||August 01, 2048|
|Price to Date (Call Date)||Aug 01, 2027||Aug 01, 2027|
|Wildfire Score (Higher = more risk)||3.6||2.7|
Managing ESG risk can also involve analyzing a company’s policies and governance for weaknesses. This is important as an ESG controversy can have long-lasting effects on the valuation of a company.
In one study, companies with ESG controversies dropped more than 10% in value relative to the S&P 500. They hadn’t fully recovered a year after the incident.
The objective: Targeting outperformance through ESG analysis.
Selecting companies with strong ESG data can align with long-term growth trends and may help boost performance. For heavy emitting industries, research indicates that European companies with lower emissions trade at much higher valuations. The chart below shows companies’ price-to-book ratio relative to the Stoxx 600* sector median.
|Above Median Emission Intensity (Bad)||1.9||1.1||2.0|
|Below Median Emissions Intensity (Good)||2.7||1.9||2.1|
*The Stoxx 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 17 countries of the European region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Energy companies with low emissions trade at a valuation nearly two times higher than energy companies with high emissions.
The objective: Understanding and complying with relevant ESG regulation.
The International Sustainability Standards Board has announced a global reporting proposal aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In addition, a growing number of jurisdictions will require organizational reporting that aligns with the TCFD.
- European Union
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
Not only that, a European Union regulation known as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) came into effect in 2021. It seeks greater transparency in disclosures from firms marketing investment products. Even firms located outside the EU could be impacted if they serve EU customers. In total, the market cap of these non-EU companies exposed to SFDR amounts to $3.2 trillion.
Matching ESG Data with Motivation
There will be growing demand for transparent data as ESG investing flourishes. To remain competitive, investors, policymakers, and companies need access to ESG data that meets their unique objectives.
In Part 3 of the ESG Toolkit series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at key sustainability index types.
The Hierarchy of Zero Waste
In a world that generates 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Here are some strategies to help guide zero waste policies.
The Hierarchy of Zero Waste
Many cities have set ambitious zero waste targets in the upcoming decades.
The idea is to have communities where waste generation is avoided, and products are shared, reused, or refurbished.
This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows the main strategies and hierarchy to guide zero waste policies.
What is Zero Waste?
In a world that generates approximately 2 billion tons of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Thus, countries and cities are increasing efforts to reduce or even eliminate waste when possible.
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
Becoming a zero waste community, however, is a complex task.
Currently, Sweden recycles 99% of locally-produced waste and is considered the best country in the world when it comes to recycling and reusing waste. However, such results only came after almost 40 years of recycling and reuse policies.
In line with this, here are seven commonly accepted steps you can use to achieve zero waste:
1. Rethink, Redesign Products
The global population consumes 110 billion tons of materials each year, but only 8.6% is reused or recycled. In a zero waste society, single-use products are avoided and products are designed with sustainable practices and materials.
Consumption must be planned carefully to reduce the unnecessary use of materials. Consumers must choose products that maximize the usable lifespan and opportunities for continuous reuse. Companies must minimize the quantity and toxicity of materials used.
The value of products is maintained by reusing, repairing, or refurbishing for alternative uses.
Products are diverted from waste streams and recirculated into use. Resilient local markets are developed, allowing the highest and best use of materials.
5. Material Recovery
Component materials like cement, metals, or asphalt are recovered from mixed waste and collected for other applications.
In the U.S. alone, around 12 million tons of asphalt shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap are generated from roof installation each year. Currently, more than 90% of this is discarded in landfills. This material can be repurposed to create new products like liquid asphalt, fiber, and aggregate.
6. Residuals Management
Waste is biologically stabilized and sent to responsibly managed landfills.
The production of materials that are not recoverable and can negatively impact the environment must be avoided.
Reducing our Climate Impact
Reducing, recycling, and recovering materials can be a key part of a climate change strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging.
Even though 100% zero waste may sound difficult to achieve in the near future, a zero waste approach is essential to reduce our impact on the environment.
Northstar Clean Technologies aims to become the leading recovery and reprocessing company for asphalt shingles in North America.
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