‘Global Synthesis Report on Climate Action by Sector 2021’

Source: press release, 8 November 2021

illustration: Climate Chance
illustration: Climate Chance

At a press conference held at COP26 in Glasgow, Climate Chance presented 10 key takeaways from the Climate Chance Observatory’s Global Synthesis Report on Climate Action by Sector 2021. Six years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, this publication provides a unique synthesis of global climate action in the major emission sectors: energy, transport, buildings, industry, waste and land use. At a time when states are due to increase their commitments at Glasgow, Climate Chance is continuing its mission of following the implementation of the actions announced, monitoring the evolution of emissions and analysing the strategies of the actors in relation to the international climate objectives.

The global emissions upswing masks some very distinct regional profiles
The dependence on coal draws a very clear line between those regions moving away from it (United States, Europe), where the rise in emissions has not eclipsed the decrease resulting from the pandemic, and those regions where coal still has the support of public authorities (Asia-Pacific), to the point that it is the main reason behind a spike in emissions to levels higher than 2019.

The adoption of renewable energy and low-carbon mobility is accelerating in major economies
Despite the hopes kindled by the pandemic for a low-carbon recovery, a real global-scale transition is still not observable. Rather than net substitution of high-carbon means with low-carbon means of production and consumption, the trend over the period is one of accumulation: fossil and low-carbon fuels, combustion engine and electric vehicle fleets, new constructions complying with standards and old buildings to renovate, etc.

The electrification of end-uses and the decarbonisation of the electricity mix are currently out-of-sync
An “all-electric” solution will only prove effective for the climate if the electricity mix is dominated by low-carbon energy. Yet, while production from renewable sources was at its highest level in 2020, the mix in major markets like China, India, the United States and to a lesser extent Europe, remains mostly dependent on coal and gas.

Demand for low-carbon goods and services outstrips the adaptation capacity of of the global economy’s supply chains
Too slow to benefit the climate, regional transitions are moving too quickly for global supply chains. We are in fact witnessing a critical point in the vigorous adaptation of the globalised economy to meet the new requirements of a low-carbon world, in a context of restrictions and shortages provoked by the pandemic and its consequences.

A barometer of commitment since the Paris Agreement, ‘carbon neutrality’ is now part of large companies’ recovery and growth strategies
Large private groups are setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increasingly coupled with detailed action plans. Now part of companies’ growth strategies, the alignment of targets and action to reduce emissions with the trajectories required to limit warming to 2° C or 1.5° C is the object of close attention by specialised NGOs. Yet, it has to be ensured that this 30-year commitment do not delay short-term action, as rapid action forms the basis of all scenarios stabilising warming under 2° C.

Supply disruption and carbon neutrality commitments are driving companies towards concentration and vertical integration
The way that actors are adapting to multiple shortages and the low-carbon economy can also be seen in the progressive concentration of some markets around a few key players, and the vertical integration of industries between raw materials suppliers and manufacturers of finished products. The end of public support measures to produce energy and the surge in power purchase agreements are boosting the emergence of a major players’ market that benefits large energy providers more than municipal companies and citizens’ cooperatives.

Breakthrough technologies gain credibility in sectors struggling to decarbonise
Boosted by the economic upturn and recovery plans, low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture (CCUS) received massive investment commitments and increased political interest in 2020. For the moment, though, their use for decarbonisation purposes remains marginal, and their development is still highly dependent on fossil fuels.

With a mix of green and brown investments, the recovery is taking an ambiguous turn in several nations
Faced with pressure on supply chains of goods and raw materials strategic to the transition, Western nations are attempting to constitute regional industrial ecosystems directed towards low-carbon technologies. Alongside occasional rescue plans for emitting industries, often with no climate compensation, some of the recovery plans implemented by G20 nations are attempting to direct the economic rebound towards the transition.

Often drivers of action, local governments adapt the pace of the transition to match the needs and capacities of their communities
Acting in areas like renewable energy supply, the transformation of urban mobility, waste management, and control of building construction and energy supply, local governments can accelerate the creation of an environment that boosts the transition. However, the opposite is also true : the reticence of some US states to phase out fossil fuels in buildings or mobility shows that local governments can also hold back the transition when it threatens the economic interests of their communities.

With shareholder activism, civil society extends its scope of action
Following walks and strikes for climate, and the emergence of a non-violent climate activist culture, shareholder activism has now entered the climate struggle at the heart of major companies’ general assemblies. In another vein, the continued work of Indonesian NGOs is starting to bear fruit, installing a real normative practice in the palm oil industry.

The Summary for Decision-makers of the Global Synthesis Report on Climate Action by Sector 2021 is available in English here.