The outgoing UN High-Level Climate Action champion, Nigel Topping, has stated that the world could reach Net Zero by the early 2040s, reiterating what other bodies, including Citizens’ Climate International, have been saying. During the two years he was in office he working on encouraging businesses to join the UN Race to Zero initiative which has been joined by over 8,300 businesses and 3,000 organisations including cities and local government districts.

Governments, he argued,  are failing to comprehend the willingness of business to act fast on climate change…“Governments could be way bolder in setting targets, and back their scientists, engineers, businesses, banks, cities to come up with solutions,” …. “The moonshot analogy is not inappropriate.” The UK Climate Change Committee, he says, has shown how the UK could reach NZ by 2042,….“Given that we’ve now got California and Germany saying 2045 is their target, I think you can argue quite strongly that the whole world could get to net zero in the early 2040s, and in many sectors in the late 2030s,”…“The lesson [from the pandemic] that I still don’t think we’ve learnt enough is that we can do unbelievable things, governments can turn on a dime if they need do, and the government/private sector relationship can be transformed to deliver solutions way, way faster, if we really put ourselves on an emergency footing.” “I think that squeeze is coming, because it’s a squeeze between the growing realisation of just how bad the damages are [from the climate crisis], and growing confidence – which is the real lesson I’d like us to take from Covid, which is that we’re amazing. We should back ourselves more,”

Topping cites the upsurge in EV production and take up as an example of what happens when goals are set….“Once you’ve named an end date, it’s a really powerful signal. Not all markets have agreed, but once you’ve reached [a large proportion], you can go much faster,” he said. “Europe, and the US, and the rate that the Chinese and Indians are changing – it’s all over.” … “There’s much more momentum in the system than most of the analysis suggests,” he said. Predictions of the growth of renewable energy and technologies such as electric vehicles and batteries had proved too conservative in recent years, as sales have surged and technology has improved rapidly.

The current resurgence of support for fossil fuels, he argues is temporary – “We’re maybe in the last huge bonanza of oil and gas profits. Maybe there’ll be another one, but shareholders will demand that those who can’t invest in the transition [to clean energy] will just have to give their money back to shareholders to allocate it,”

A lot of this grows exponentially, if you look at where we’re at now [in terms of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions], it never looks good enough. But if you look at the trajectory [for low-carbon technologies] it can be much more encouraging.” “China is quite happy for the west to label it as a coal problem while it develops a global competitive leadership in [clean] sector after sector. And India is on the same track now. But you show me how many times western commentators point at India or China as competitors rather than polluters,” he said. “I think it’s a huge strategic mistake to underestimate how clearly [countries such as China and India] see this as the future.”

This analysis offers hope and suggests that many businesses have the will to innovate but need the support of governments, including the implementation of progressive carbon pricing to ‘level the playing field’ with fossil fuelled manufacturing, as endorsed by bodies like the IMF and ICC