• Decarbonization
  • Net Zero Energy Consumption
  • Carbon Intensity
  • Sustainability
  • Climate Targets

Commitments to Reach Net Zero by 2050 Require Action

Pritil Gunjan
Jun 07, 2021

Guidehouse Insights

According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a UK-based nonprofit, and Oxford Net Zero at the University of Oxford, at least one-fifth (21%) of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies have committed to meet net zero targets and “61% of countries, 9% of states and regions in the largest emitting countries, and 13% of cities over 500,000 in population have now committed to net zero.” Many smaller municipalities and businesses also have carbon reduction and other sustainability goals. 

However, prices for carbon-intensive commodities, products, and services do not reflect the true social costs that society will have to bear for their use. The market is probably not valuing the impacts or costs of carbon emissions correctly. Likewise, the valuation of publicly traded companies that rely heavily on fossil fuels might not presently include the true costs associated with the greenhouse gas emissions incurred. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and other impacts that arise from altering the composition of the atmosphere will cost untold millions of dollars in damages to homes, businesses, forests, and human health.

Global Collaboration Is Necessary

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6% in 2021…Almost 70% of the projected increase in global energy demand is in emerging markets and developing economies.” The fuel for this insatiable growth primarily has been fossil hydrocarbons. The burning of fossil hydrocarbons by humans at this unprecedented rate has rapidly and substantially altered the atmospheric composition. In turn, the dramatic change in concentration of carbon in the form of CO2 in the atmosphere is disrupting numerous natural systems. These carbon impacts have economic consequences, although this fact is not reflected in the cost of carbon-intensive goods and services. As the IEA states

This gap between rhetoric and action needs to close if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching net zero by 2050 and limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 °C. Doing so requires nothing short of a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies. We are in a critical year at the start of a critical decade for these efforts.

Addressing this problem in a meaningful way will require unprecedented global collaboration. To achieve global-scale goals, the largest emitting sectors, processes, and businesses around the world must acknowledge the situation and take swift and meaningful action across each of the four largest emitting economic sectors: power production, transportation, industry and manufacturing, and buildings. Energy stakeholders are all engaging in planning to meet aggressive emission reduction goals as organizations’ carbon footprints become a boardroom issue while customers and shareholders are demanding sustainable products and services. Climate change and carbon reduction efforts are driving purchasing decisions now, creating opportunities for greater decarbonization efforts.