Race to Zero: On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

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Climate change is, arguably, the greatest challenge facing the global community. There is increasing rhetoric around achieving our climate goals, though charting a path to net-zero emissions is daunting.

The “Race to Zero” is a global campaign designed to accelerate action towards the goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement. It was launched on 5 June 2020, coinciding with World Environment Day, and aims to reframe the innovation and growth agenda in the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. The campaign is a rallying cry to businesses, cities, regions, governments, and investors for a healthy, resilient zero-carbon recovery that unlocks sustainable growth. The ultimate goal of the campaign is net zero emissions by 2050.

Make no mistake, the Race to Zero is exactly that — a race. Achieving net carbon emissions and restricting temperature rises to below two degrees Celsius requires speed. Yet, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

As with any marathon, some competitors are out in front, and others are languishing behind. In the Race to Zero, passenger cars are the early leaders, making solid progress in the transition to a low carbon alternative. Maintaining the marathon analogy, passenger vehicles are the Eliud Kipchoge of the Race to Zero. Kipchoge, a sub-2-hour marathoner from Kenya, is pushing the limits of human efficiency, alongside technological advances.

Global sales of electric cars are increasing faster than anticipated. Overall, passenger car sales were sluggish in 2019, yet electric cars had another banner year, surpassing 2.1 million units. China has long been a proponent of alternative energy vehicles, and European carmakers are now embracing electrification, leaving behind the technology-neutral approach of the past. The United States has lagged behind the leading nations in terms of public and private sector investment in electric vehicles. However, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has outlined plans to target 100% zero-emission vehicle sales.