Our beloved planet is getting warmer, and CO2 emissions urgently need to be decreased. This is the Race to Zero, which we can win together. It’s a race against time and a race with ourselves, as we need to act now to reduce our carbon emissions.
So what is The Race to Zero?
Race to Zero (R2Z), launched by the United Nations in June 2020, is a global sustainability program that aims to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The UN describes it as “the largest global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive sustainable growth.”
The program’s goals are based on the Paris Agreement target, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial temperature levels.
By joining forces together, R2Z members aim to speed up the shift towards a more resilient, inclusive, and decarbonized economy. So far, R2Z has already mobilized 3067 businesses, 733 cities, 173 investors, 31 regions, 624 educational institutions, and 37 healthcare institutions and is constantly growing.
It is also part of the Climate Ambition Alliance, launched during the UNSG’s Climate Action Summit 2019, in which 120 countries participated. It is an exciting project which gives an extra boost to decarbonizing and sustainability-related initiatives while simultaneously sending a strong worldwide signal about the urgency of the climate crisis.
What’s the plan?
Reaching climate neutrality (or, even better, becoming climate positive) is an ambitious target that needs vital planning and commitment. Therefore, there is a rigorous set of criteria that needs to be met by R2Z participants and a yearly follow-up by independent experts.
The first set of criteria that needs to be fulfilled is called the Starting line and is referred to as the Four P’s:
- Pledge: Pledge at the head-of-organization level to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and by mid-century at the latest, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C.
- Plan: Within 12 months of joining, explain the actions to achieve both interim and long-term pledges, especially in the short- to medium term.
- Proceed: Take immediate action toward achieving zero, consistent with delivering interim targets specified.
- Publish: Commit to publicly reporting progress against interim and long-term targets and actions being taken, at least annually.
The remaining set of guidelines, known as Leadership Practices, shows in which areas the members need to reach current best practices and suggest further improvements.
These criteria are peer-reviewed annually and ensure the quality and credibility of the program and motivate members to push their ambitions forward continuously. They are divided as follows:
- Scope: Targets must cover all greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sink and credits: In the transition to zero, prioritize reducing emissions and limiting any residual emissions to those not feasible to eliminate. Sinks or credits need to be specified. Encourage immediate contributions to the preservation and restoration of natural sinks.
- Empowerment and Equity: Seek to enable all actors to contribute to the global transition toward net zero through engagement, information sharing, access to finance, and capacity building.
To ensure the criteria are up to date with the current challenges in our world, they updated the project guidelines and sets of criteria during spring 2021 with the help of the University of Oxford. Over 200 participants, including experts from various regions and subjects, participated in the discussion.
How’s it going?
One year since the program’s launch, R2Z has seen some exciting initiatives flourishing in diverse sectors, ranging from fashion, energy, nature, and transportation to many other industries. In addition, an exciting twin program has been running simultaneously: the Race to Resilience.
And now that COP26 in Glasgow is approaching, it’s more important than ever to speak up and raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Sustainable and decarbonizing initiatives need all the support they can get to enable a shift toward a healthier and carbon-neutral world in time.
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