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Black Soil

October 2023 StartNOW Challenge: Week 2

Welcome to week 2 of our October 2023 StartNOW challenge, aiming to equip you with tools and knowledge to take impactful actions towards sustainability. 

In the pursuit of a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future, the "Race to Zero" emerges as a global campaign with a mission. This campaign seeks to unite businesses, cities, regions, investors, and a wide array of non-State actors in a collective effort to create a world that is zero carbon, resilient, and healthy. It aims to prevent future climate-related threats, foster job creation, and encourage inclusive and sustainable growth.


At the heart of the Race to Zero initiative lies a diverse coalition, comprised of over 11,000 non-State actors, including major companies, financial institutions, cities, regions, educational institutions, and healthcare providers. These stakeholders have pledged their commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Led by High-Level Champions, this campaign acts as a significant force, galvanizing non-governmental actors to support the overarching goals of the Paris Agreement.


To embark on this journey towards a zero-carbon future, the Race to Zero campaign defines a critical "Starting Line." This line is marked by a set of procedural criteria encapsulated in the Five 'P's: Pledge, Plan, Proceed, Publish, and Persuade. These criteria ensure that commitments are not merely symbolic but are rooted in a scientific consensus for limiting global warming to 1.5°C.


This week’s content will delve deeper into the Race to Zero campaign, offering insights into its fundamental criteria and the transformative changes it seeks to drive. Additionally, we will explore the broader context of the climate emergency, the strategies needed to meet science-based targets, and the importance of credible net-zero commitments. As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, the Race to Zero serves as a beacon of hope and action for a more sustainable and resilient future.


What is Race to Zero?

“Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.


It mobilizes a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives, representing 11,309 non-State actors including 8,307 companies, 595 financial institutions, 1,136 cities, 52 states and regions, 1,125 educational institutions and 65 healthcare institutions (as of September 2022). These ‘real economy’ actors join the largest-ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.


Led by the High-Level Champions, Race to Zero mobilizes actors outside of national governments to join the Climate Ambition Alliance, which was launched at the UNSG’s Climate Action Summit 2019 by the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.


The objective is to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonized economy, where governments must strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement. This will send governments a resounding signal that business, cities, regions and investors are united in meeting the Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.” (1)

Defining the "Starting Line"


"The High-level Climate Champions require that the commitments brought forward by networks and initiatives recognized in the Race to Zero campaign meet a minimum set of procedural criteria.


These process criteria represent the “Starting Line” for the race, so meeting them does not necessarily imply that an actor is on track to net zero, only that they have begun the process.


It mobilizes a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives, representing 11,309 non-State actors including 8,307 companies, 595 financial institutions, 1,136 cities, 52 states and regions, 1,125 educational institutions and 65 healthcare institutions (as of September 2022). These ‘real economy’ actors join the largest-ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. These ‘meta-criteria’ are known as the Five ’P’s:

1. Pledge: Pledge at the head-of- organization level to reach (net) zero GHGs as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest, in line with the scientific consensus on the global effort needed to limit warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot, recognising that this requires phasing down and out all unabated fossil fuels as part of a global, just transition. Set an interim target to achieve in the next decade, which reflects maximum effort toward or beyond a fair share of the 50% global reduction in CO2 by 2030.


Targets must cover all greenhouse gas emissions:

1) Including scopes 1, 2 and 3 for businesses and other organizations;

2) Including all territorial emissions for cities and regions;

3) For financial entities, including all portfolio/financed/facilitated/insured emissions;

4) Including land-based emissions.

2. Plan: Within 12 months of joining, publicly disclose a Transition Plan, City/Region Plan, or equivalent which outlines how all other Race to Zero criteria will be met, including what actions will be taken within the next 12 months, within 2-3 years, and by 2030.

3. Proceed: Take immediate action through all available pathways toward achieving (net) zero, consistent with delivering your interim targets. Where relevant, contribute to sectoral breakthroughs.

4. Publish: Report publicly progress against both interim and longer-term targets, as well as the actions being taken, at least annually. Report in a standardized, open format, and via platforms that feed into the UNFCCC Global Climate Action Portal.


5. Persuade: Within 12 months of joining, align external policy and engagement, including membership in associations, to the goal of halving emissions by 2030 and reaching global (net) zero by 2050." (2)

Large Audience

Listen to the UN Climate Change Podcast: Unpacking the Climate Emergency

Johan Rockström, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Rachel Kyte, Dean, The Fletcher School at Tufts University

“The first half of the podcast explores the latest science and explains why the world is in a climate emergency. The second half of the podcast focuses on what needs to happen to avert this crisis and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”(3)

The Path Ahead

The Path Ahead “By the end of 2021, global emissions bounced back as the economy began to return to ‘business as usual’ following COVID-19. The world is currently not on track to halve emissions by 2030. If we are to stand a fighting chance of keeping 1.5°C alive, all companies around the world, across all industries, must now set near- and long term science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C trajectory.” (4)


"Define, target, implement, track: A 4-step program to net-zero

The percentage of companies declaring a net-zero target nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. Yet, as of July 2021, just 10% of the world’s publicly listed companies have aligned with global temperature goals. To improve progress, companies and investors can take four steps to move toward their environmental goals. They are: define targets; set strategy; implement; and publish and track progress.” (5)


A Net-Zero Revolution

“Preventing the worst effects of climate change will demand the largest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Companies, investors and other capital-market participants can drive this change.” (6)

"Here are three approaches companies should take to demonstrate that their net-zero targets are

credible and will accelerate climate action:

Set Near-Term Science-based Targets

Set Long Term Science-based Net-Zero Targets

Invest in Cutting Emissions Beyond the Value Chain

It is critical that businesses set net-zero targets and for everyone to be confident about how they will be achieved. The lack of a standardized approach has meant companies have been devising their net- zero strategies with little transparency on the scope and boundary of the targets and the plans for reaching them.


This has led to skepticism about these corporate targets and concerns that they are a new form of greenwashing. Critics have been especially concerned about corporate net-zero targets depending heavily on carbon offsets, rather than a business taking rapid action to decarbonize its own value chain where accountability and influence are highest. 


10 Key Solutions Needed to Mitigate Climate Change (7)

Carbon offset projects often generate a greenhouse gas (GHG) credit, a unit of carbon dioxide that is reduced, avoided or sequestered. And companies typically use investments in offsets to enable claims of climate neutral, carbon neutral, or climate positive — such as building wind farms, planting trees, and energy efficiency projects." (7)

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