Global rate of decarbonisation must increase 5x to meet Paris Agreement climate goal – PwC Net Zero Economy Index


A decarbonisation rate of 12.9% is now required to achieve the 1.5ºC objective - more than five times greater than what was achieved over the last year.

London, 20 October 2021 – The rate of decarbonisation required to achieve the 1.5°C objective set out in the Paris Agreement is five times as challenging, following a short-lived COVID-19 related decline in global emissions.

The “PwC Net Zero Economy Index 2021” finds that a decarbonisation rate of 12.9% - more than five times greater than what was achieved over the last year (2.5%) and eight times faster than the global average over the course of the 21st century - is required to halve global emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by mid-century. This is the trajectory needed to meet the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C and avoid catastrophic climate change.

Global energy demand fell by 4.3% in 2020, leading to a reduction in energy related emissions of 5.6% (from 2019 levels) as well as a decline in total global emissions.  As a result, the rate of global decarbonisation (reduction in carbon intensity: energy-related CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP) reached 2.5%, but this was just a slight increase from the 2019 rate of 2.4%.  However, the emission reduction resulting from this energy demand anomaly still falls way short of the progress needed to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C. 

Emma Cox, Global Climate Leader, PwC UK said: "Over the past year, business and government have significantly stepped up their ambition to act on climate change.  But despite the ambition, the emissions gap continues to widen. Very simply, the action taken to date has not been enough to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis facing the world.  All sectors of the economy will need to transform to deliver net zero."

Even with the global economic slowdown in 2020, no country in the Group of 20 (G20) was able to achieve the 12.9% rate of decarbonisation required to limit warming to 1.5°C.  Only a handful of countries have ever successfully achieved double-digit rates of decarbonisation.  Although the majority of the G20 have set ambitious climate targets, these have yet to translate into clear policy actions that will deliver the changes needed.

Ian Milborrow, Sustainability and Climate Change Partner, PwC UK commented:  "The private sector has a vital role to play in delivering positive climate action. Delivering net zero by mid-century will require collaboration between sectors and across industry, however businesses can’t go it alone. To deliver climate action at the scale required, the private sector needs clear and consistent signals from government that incentivise corporate climate action. Government and business leaders must heed what the climate science is telling us - we need higher ambition and an acceleration of action to keep 1.5°C in striking distance. The window of opportunity is narrow so it’s imperative we take more decisive action now."


Notes to editors

About the Net Zero Economy Index: The Net Zero Economy Index tracks the decarbonisation of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide. The analysis is underpinned by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which reflects carbon emissions based on the consumption of oil, gas and coal for combustion related activities. The analysis does not consider emissions from other sectors (e.g. AFOLU) or from any other greenhouse gases, and does not allow for any carbon that is sequestered. As a result, this data cannot be compared directly with national emissions inventories.


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