Five years of data shows climate progress in states and regions

Authors: Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under2 Coalition Secretariat, The Climate Group and Kyra Appleby, Global Director, Cities, States and Regions, CDP
Reading time: 6 minutes
11 September 2019

This September, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene global leaders at the UN Climate Summit taking place in New York during Climate Week NYC.

Ahead of the 2020 deadline for national governments to uplift their climate commitments, the Secretary-General is calling on all leaders to come to New York with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net-zero by 2050.

Five years ago, at the last UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, state and regional governments from around the world joined forces in New York to launch the Compact of States and Regions, now known as Global States and Regions Annual Disclosure.

Led by The Climate Group and CDP, the Compact was the first dedicated reporting mechanism for states and regions to disclose their emissions and showcase their climate actions. Every year since 2014, a growing number of leading state and regional governments have made ambitious climate commitments and transparently reported on their progress through the initiative.

124 states and regions have already disclosed this year and 28 of these governments have made the commitment to publicly disclose every year, leading the way to make transparency the norm. Now, disclosure of climate targets, action and progress must be the first thing on your list to be considered a credible climate actor.

Two thirds of disclosing governments are from the Under2 Coalition of states and regions committed to keeping global temperature rise to well below 2°C. These governments have shown the way, and we now need the rest of the world’s states and regions to join them in disclosing.  

Increasing ambition through transparency

Over the past five years, reporting has shown that transparency of climate action can support states and regions to increase their ambition and reduce emissions.

Firstly, disclosing helps governments to discover opportunities for more effective emissions reduction strategies. Secondly, it enables governments to benchmark their climate action against their peers, encouraging them to do more and be accountable for their targets.

As the UN Secretary-General calls on national governments to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and develop long term strategies for getting there, state and regional governments are leading the way. States and regions have committed to decarbonize at a rate of 6.2% a year to 2050 which is 3.2% faster than G20 governments.

Back in 2015, one government declared a target for net-zero emissions by 2030, by 2018 a further five states and regions made net-zero commitments. This year we are expecting a significant increase in states and regions disclosing net-zero emissions targets by 2050 or earlier.

Last year, seven states and regions1 had already matched the UN’s call and disclosed targets in line with a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.

In 2018, 70% of states and regions that reported a greenhouse gas emissions inventory had lowered their emissions (by an average of 9%) compared to their base years. An impressive fact considering that, on average, global emissions have continued to rise during this period.

Economic growth while reducing emissions

One of the most compelling trends that we have seen from the disclosure over the past five years is that some of the states who are achieving the most significant emissions reductions are also experiencing the strongest economic growth.

Next year and beyond

Five years ago, the disclosure of state and regional climate data was a new concept. Thanks to the commitment of the states and regions disclosing their data each year, the measurement, reporting and verification of climate data is now the norm for all credible climate actors.

Now we need all state and regional governments to disclose, to enable them to manage their climate action better and for the global climate community to measure progress to tackle climate change.

As global leaders meet in New York, we can be proud of the achievements made by states and regions over the past five years but also recognize that the scale and urgency of the climate crisis means that the immediate uplift in ambition and action at all levels of government is crucial. States and regions can, and must, play a strong role in supporting national governments to meet the UN SG’s call.

We are therefore calling on governments, at all levels, to develop long-term decarbonization strategies to and commit to the annual disclosure of their actions and progress.

Watch this space

This year’s Global States and Regions Annual Disclosure report will be launched at the end of November ahead of COP25.

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[1] Australian Capital Territory, Connecticut, Catalonia, Jämtland, Navarra, Thuringia and Queensland.

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