Cities, regions and businesses ramp up ambition on climate change to deliver healthier economies in the wake of the pandemic

  • World Environment Day sees the launch of “Race to Zero” that will run up to COP26 — an international campaign for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery. Led by the UNFCCC Champions for Climate Action, it brings together an unprecedented coalition of net zero emissions initiatives, covering 992 businesses, 449 cities, 21 regions, 505 universities and 38 of the biggest investors.
  • These ‘real economy’ actors join 120 countries in the Climate Ambition Alliance, creating the largest ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.
  • Collectively, these real economy actors now cover just over half GDP, a quarter of global CO2 emissions and over 2.6 billion people, according to new data by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit published today, representing a 66% increase in commitments since COP25.
  • At a virtual launch event today, UK COP26 President Alok Sharma and Chile COP25 President Carolina Schmidt will call for a healthy, resilient, and inclusive recovery. UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, Mark Carney, will discuss work in the private finance agenda to help investors identify the opportunities in the transition to net zero and report the alignment of their own portfolios with net zero.
  • Listed companies setting net zero targets have combined annual revenues of $4.72 trillion. These include Adobe, Cap Gemini SE, Diageo, Inditex, Kuehne + Nagel AG, LONGi Green Energy Technology Co, and Rolls-Royce.
  • The Climate Pledge co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, which is committed to mobilizing corporate leadership to achieve net zero carbon by 2040, joins Race to Zero today.
  • In response to the growing volley of net zero commitments and ambitions, Oxford University publishes minimum criteria for initiatives and networks that join Race to Zero. This requires all participants to not only pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050, but also to submit a plan in advance of COP26 and set interim targets in the next decade.


5 June – To mark World Environment Day, a vast and unlikely alliance of investors, activists, cities and corporates will gather virtually for the launch of Race to Zero, the global campaign to mobilise leadership and support for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery which creates well-paying jobs, unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth and prevents future threats.

The campaign – under the stewardship of Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz, the UN High Level Climate Champions for the UK and Chile – will rally ‘real economy’ leaders to join the largest ever coalition of businesses, investors, cities and regions  committed to the same overarching goal: achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest, in line with the scientific consensus on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Already covering 23% CO2 emissions and 53% of GDP and sounding the drumbeat to COP26, the campaign aims to drive a new growth and innovation agenda in support of a healthier, more inclusive and resilient economy. To maintain quality control, Oxford University has set out minimum criteria for robust Race to Zero targets, published today.

Prioritising climate change in the economic recovery has the support of over two-thirds of people worldwide. Moreover, low carbon stimulus can spur economic recovery and job creation as effectively as—or better than—environmentally neutral or harmful programs, as new research by McKinsey shows. The magnitude of stimulus packages, in the region of £10-20 trillion, will shape the economy for the next decade.

The campaign is also working to define the most effective pathways to zero emission for key sectors such as energy, transport, industry, food, retail and finance – in a bid to mass mobilize the number of companies and cities committed to net zero by at least 2050 and reach key economic tipping points faster. The new pathways will drive coordinated action by investors, businesses, policymakers, and NGOs.

Big ambitions for COP26 in 2021
Days after the new date for COP26 was confirmed for 1-12 November 2021, Alok Sharma, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and COP26 President, said: “The way we rebuild our economies post Covid-19 will have a profound impact on our planet. We have the opportunity to build back better by investing in a clean, resilient recovery.

“The Race to Zero initiative will play an important part in encouraging businesses, other organisations and regional governments to increase their ambition and take action against climate change.”

COP25 President Carolina Schmidt said: “In September 2019 we launched the Climate Ambition Alliance to commit states and non-state actors to carbon neutrality by 2050 as science asks us, in order to achieve the goal of 1.5°C. Today we applaud the Race To Zero campaign, which was born from this Alliance, and which invites non-state actors to continue joining to take on this enormous challenge we have as humanity. Despite the health crisis, climate action must continue at all levels.”

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa added: “Race to Zero must help spur strong enhanced national climate action plans—or NDCs—due this year. Race to Zero is not a campaign of the future, but a campaign of today. That’s why all members are demonstrating how they’re already in the race to zero, by publishing immediate plans by COP26 and setting interim targets in 2025 and 2030.”

Climate central to a healthier recovery
With health concerns at an all time high, cities including Freetown, Bogota, and Phoenix today announce new commitments to tackle air pollution and become zero carbon by 2050. In Japan alone, local governments setting net zero targets cover 64 million people — over half Japan’s population.

Dr Maria Neira, Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization, will call on governments to put health and climate action at the centre of recovery plans. “Like never before, the world has gathered around one goal: the race to zero deaths from COVID-19. A healthy recovery from this pandemic means we need to continue and expand this race to zero deaths from climate change and environmental pollution, a race to zero people pushed into poverty because of health costs, to zero people breathing polluted air. If we want to recover from COVID-19, we all need to embark on a Race to Zero emissions.”

Net zero lens for investment and finance
Reorienting investment and finance for net zero will be a major focus for the UK COP Presidency and the Race to Zero. As UN Special Envoy for Climate & Finance and advisor to the UK Government on COP26, Mark Carney said: “The transition to net zero is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our time.  Net zero targets must be underpinned by transition plans so that investors can assess which companies will seize the opportunities in the transition and which will cease to exist. The priority of the COP 26 Private Finance work is to support investors in: assessing the credibility of company transition plans; measuring how their own portfolios are aligned to net zero; and disclosing the alignment of investment portfolios.”

Businesses stepping-up ambition on zero carbon commitments
Of the nearly 1,000 businesses that have joined the Race to Zero, there are 237 companies that are already reaching the highest standard of corporate climate ambition as part of the growing Business Ambition for 1.5C campaign by targeting net zero emissions by 2050 to align their business with a 1.5°C limit. This includes companies in some of the hardest to abate sectors and those most impacted by COVID-19, such as aviation, shipping, rail and power generation leader Rolls-Royce, retailer Inditex and food & drink company Diageo.

New signatories today include:

  • Adobe
  • Ajinomoto Co
  • Brunswick Group
  • Cap Gemini SE
  • Diageo
  • H&M
  • Husqvarna AB
  • Inditex
  • Kuehne + Nagel AG
  • JLL
  • Legrand
  • Magyar Telekom
  • Rolls-Royce
  • LONGi Green Energy Technology Co

The CEOs of two companies – Mark Schneider of Nestlé and Warren East of Rolls-Royce – will join today’s launch event to discuss why they are placing net zero at the heart of their innovation and new growth agenda. Together they are harnessing solutions both to decarbonize their power and conserve nature to deliver a healthier, more resilient and zero carbon economy.

Warren East, chief executive officer, Rolls-Royce said: “The world on the other side of this pandemic will need the power that we generate to fuel economic recovery. I absolutely believe the call for that power to be more sustainable and net zero will be stronger than ever. Few companies on the planet are better placed than Rolls-Royce to help. We will use our capabilities to play a leading role in enabling the vital sectors in which we operate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. I absolutely believe this ambition will drive our competitiveness for the future.”

Mark Schneider, chief executive, Nestlé added:””We know the challenge of climate change will not wait, so neither will we. Time is of the essence and we need quick wins in the short term, to build a better future as we recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Nestlé is committed to this cause. We will work with others and use our scale and expertise as well as the power of our brands to drive progress – fast.Building a more sustainable food system will be a core element of the solution to climate change and we intend to play our part in making this happen”

To help companies achieve net zero, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)  is today launching 1.5C SOS — a framework to guide all companies through the key steps to decarbonise in line with the 1.5°C goal. This follows  155 corporations from 33 countries, with a combined market capitalisation of more than $2.4 trillion and 5 million employees, that urged governments to make sure their COVID-19 recovery aid is designed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Universities stepping up to join campaign
Global Universities and Colleges for the Climate has joined the Race to Zero campaign. Since 2019, has rallied 500 higher education institutions and networks, representing more than 17,000 colleges and universities and 4.6 million students committed to be net zero by 2050 at the latest.

Millions of SMEs to be given the tools to achieve net zero emissions
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, with the support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have announced a new partnership to develop a global platform – SME Exponential Race to Zero – providing ICC’s network of 45 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with concrete climate action tools and the financial resources necessary to set and achieve climate targets aligned with the ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.


About Race to Zero
Race to Zero is the international campaign for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery. Led by the UNFCCC Champions for Climate Action, it aims to bring together net zero commitments from cities, businesses and investors across the climate action community in the run up to COP26. Race to Zero collaborates with the following international networks and initiatives, which have independently been mobilizing net zero commitments. All of them have require their participants to meet the Race to Zero’s minimum criteria:

Full list of companies committing to set targets in line with reaching net zero emissions by 2050, as part of the Science Based Targets initiative and its Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign today – taking the total to 237 companies:

  • Adobe
  • Ajinomoto Co
  • Brunswick Group
  • Cap Gemini SE
  • Diageo
  • H&M
  • Husqvarna AB
  • Inditex
  • Kuehne + Nagel AG
  • JLL
  • Legrand
  • Magyar Telekom
  • Rolls-Royce
  • LONGi Green Energy Technology Co

Since the start of 2020 and throughout the pandemic, there has been marked increase in major companies setting groundbreaking, 1.5C aligned climate commitments, including:

  • Askul Corp
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • EDF Group
  • Kesco Corp
  • Klöckner & Co
  • Microsoft
  • Moody’s
  • News Corp
  • Nomura Research Institute
  • PepsiCo
  • Refinitiv
  • Sky Group
  • Symrise


SPECIAL EVENT: Race to Zero launch

World Environment Day sees the official launch of Race to Zero, the global COP26 campaign to mobilize leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a Healthy, Resilient, Zero Carbon recovery, which creates jobs, unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth and reduces the risk of future shocks.

More details:

Join live: No registration required

The campaign – under the stewardship of the UN High Level Climate Champions for the UK and Chile – will rally ‘real economy’ leaders to join the largest ever coalition of leaders – from countries, businesses, cities, regions, investors, and civil society – all committed to the same overarching goal: achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.

Already covering about a third of GDP and sounding the drumbeat to COP26, the campaign aims to reframe the innovation and growth agenda in support of a healthier, more inclusive and resilient economy – and what that will take.

Alongside the UK COP26 Presidency, the Chile COP25 Presidency, and UN Climate Change, the UN High-Level Climate Champions for UK & Chile – Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Munoz will give a platform to private sector leaders to make a range of announcements.

At this launch event we will discuss:

  • Ambitions and latest plans for COP26
  • COVID-19 & climate – the public health case for a resilient, inclusive, zero carbon economy
  • The Race to Zero campaign: major new announcements, data, and plans to drive sector-level transformation
  • Zero carbon as the new growth & leadership agenda – cities, finance & real economy pioneers


5 June, 12.00-13.30 BST | 07.00-08.30 ET

Nigel Topping (HL Climate Champion for UK) and Gonzalo Munoz (HL Climate Champion for Chile) will convene the event with the following participants (TBC):

  • Minister Alok Sharma, COP26 President
  • Minister Carolina Schmidt, COP25 President
  • Minister Sergio Costa (Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection)
  • Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary
  • Mark Carney, Finance Adviser for COP26
  • Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Public Health, WHO
  • Warren East, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce
  • Mark Schneider, Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé