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Decarbonization

Race to Net Zero: Carbon Neutral Goals by Country

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The following content is sponsored by the National Public Utilities Council

Race to Net Zero Carbon Neutral Goals By Country

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Race to Net Zero: Carbon Neutral Goals by Country

This was originally posted on July 8, 2021, on Visual Capitalist.

The time to talk about net zero goals is running out, and the time to put them into action is well underway.

At the U.S. Climate Summit in April 2021, U.S. President Biden pressured countries to either speed up carbon neutral pledges, or commit to them in the first place.

It’s a follow-up to the Paris Agreement, which keeps signatories committed to reaching carbon neutrality in emissions in the second half of the 21st century. But 2050–2100 is a wide timeframe, and climate change is becoming both increasingly present and more dire.

So when are countries committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, and how serious is their pledge? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council highlights the world’s carbon neutral pledges.

The Timeline of Carbon Neutral Targets by Country

The first question is how quickly countries are trying to get to net zero.

137 countries have committed to carbon neutrality, as tracked by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit and confirmed by pledges to the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and recent policy statements by governments.

But the earlier the pledge, the better, and most of the commitments are centered around 2050.

CountryTarget Year
BhutanAchieved
SurinameAchieved
Uruguay2030
Finland2035
Austria2040
Iceland2040
Germany2045
Sweden2045
Afghanistan2050
Andorra2050
Angola2050
Antigua and Barbuda2050
Argentina2050
Armenia2050
Bahamas2050
Bangladesh2050
Barbados2050
Belgium2050
Belize2050
Benin2050
Brazil2050
Bulgaria2050
Burkina Faso2050
Burundi2050
Cabo Verde2050
Cambodia2050
Canada2050
Central African Republic2050
Chad2050
Chile2050
Colombia2050
Comoros2050
Cook Islands2050
Costa Rica2050
Croatia2050
Cyprus2050
Czechia2050
Democratic Republic of Congo2050
Denmark2050
Djibouti2050
Dominica2050
Dominican Republic2050
Ecuador2050
Eritrea2050
Estonia2050
Ethiopia2050
European Union2050
Fiji2050
France2050
Gambia2050
Greece2050
Grenada2050
Guinea2050
Guinea-Bissau2050
Guyana2050
Haiti2050
Hungary2050
Ireland2050
Italy2050
Jamaica2050
Japan2050
Kiribati2050
Laos2050
Latvia2050
Lebanon2050
Lesotho2050
Liberia2050
Lithuania2050
Luxembourg2050
Madagascar2050
Malawi2050
Maldives2050
Mali2050
Malta2050
Marshall Islands2050
Mauritania2050
Mauritius2050
Mexico2050
Micronesia2050
Monaco2050
Mozambique2050
Myanmar2050
Namibia2050
Nauru2050
Nepal2050
Netherlands2050
New Zealand2050
Nicaragua2050
Niger2050
Niue2050
Norway2050
Pakistan2050
Palau2050
Panama2050
Papua New Guinea2050
Paraguay2050
Peru2050
Portugal2050
Romania2050
Rwanda2050
Saint Kitts and Nevis2050
Saint Lucia2050
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines2050
Samoa2050
Sao Tome and Principe2050
Senegal2050
Seychelles2050
Sierra Leone2050
Slovakia2050
Slovenia2050
Solomon Islands2050
Somalia2050
South Africa2050
South Korea2050
South Sudan2050
Spain2050
Sudan2050
Switzerland2050
Tanzania2050
Timor-Leste2050
Togo2050
Tonga2050
Trinidad and Tobago2050
Tuvalu2050
U.S.2050
Uganda2050
United Kingdom2050
Uzbekistan2050
Vanuatu2050
Vatican City2050
Yemen2050
Zambia2050
China2060
Kazakhstan2060
Ukraine2060
Australia2050 – 2100
Singapore2050 – 2100

As far as early achievers go, Bhutan and Suriname are the only two countries that have achieved carbon neutrality and are actually carbon negative (removing more carbon than they emit). Uruguay’s 2030 target is the earliest to try and match that feat, followed by Europe’s Finland, Austria, Iceland, Germany, and Sweden, who are all targeting 2045 or earlier.

Over 90%, or 124 of the 137 countries tracked above, set a target of 2050 for reaching carbon neutrality. This is largely due to membership in the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, which asks member states to target 2050 for their goal but leaves commitment up to them.

Only five countries have net zero pledges set for after 2050, including Australia and Singapore, which haven’t set a firm target yet. Targeting 2060, in addition to Ukraine and Kazakhstan, is the world’s largest emitter, China. The country’s recent pledge is significant, since China accounts for an estimated 25% of global emissions.

In fact, according to the Climate Action Tracker, 73% of global emissions are currently covered by net zero targets.

How Seriously Are Countries Committing to Carbon Neutrality?

Setting a goal is perhaps the easiest step towards carbon neutrality. But the real challenge is in solidifying that goal and starting to make progress towards it. That’s why it’s important to consider how deeply committed each country’s carbon neutral pledge truly is.

The most rigid commitments are enshrined in law, followed by official government policy, though the latter can change alongside governments. Likewise, proposed legislation shows forward momentum in making pledges a reality, but proposals can take a long time to become enacted (or get derailed).

As it turns out, the vast majority of carbon neutral targets are only under discussion, with no formal action being taken to act on them.

CountryTarget Status
BhutanAchieved
SurinameAchieved
DenmarkLaw
FranceLaw
HungaryLaw
New ZealandLaw
SwedenLaw
United KingdomLaw
AndorraPolicy Document
AustraliaPolicy Document
AustriaPolicy Document
BrazilPolicy Document
ChinaPolicy Document
Costa RicaPolicy Document
FinlandPolicy Document
GermanyPolicy Document
IcelandPolicy Document
IrelandPolicy Document
JapanPolicy Document
KazakhstanPolicy Document
Marshall IslandsPolicy Document
NorwayPolicy Document
PanamaPolicy Document
ParaguayPolicy Document
PortugalPolicy Document
SloveniaPolicy Document
South AfricaPolicy Document
SwitzerlandPolicy Document
U.S.Policy Document
UkrainePolicy Document
UzbekistanPolicy Document
Vatican CityPolicy Document
CanadaProposed Legislation
ChileProposed Legislation
European UnionProposed Legislation
FijiProposed Legislation
South KoreaProposed Legislation
SpainProposed Legislation
AfghanistanUnder Discussion
AngolaUnder Discussion
Antigua and BarbudaUnder Discussion
ArgentinaUnder Discussion
ArmeniaUnder Discussion
BahamasUnder Discussion
BangladeshUnder Discussion
BarbadosUnder Discussion
BelgiumUnder Discussion
BelizeUnder Discussion
BeninUnder Discussion
BulgariaUnder Discussion
Burkina FasoUnder Discussion
BurundiUnder Discussion
Cabo VerdeUnder Discussion
CambodiaUnder Discussion
Central African RepublicUnder Discussion
ChadUnder Discussion
ColombiaUnder Discussion
ComorosUnder Discussion
Cook IslandsUnder Discussion
CroatiaUnder Discussion
CyprusUnder Discussion
CzechiaUnder Discussion
Democratic Republic of CongoUnder Discussion
DjiboutiUnder Discussion
DominicaUnder Discussion
Dominican RepublicUnder Discussion
EcuadorUnder Discussion
EritreaUnder Discussion
EstoniaUnder Discussion
EthiopiaUnder Discussion
GambiaUnder Discussion
GreeceUnder Discussion
GrenadaUnder Discussion
GuineaUnder Discussion
Guinea-BissauUnder Discussion
GuyanaUnder Discussion
HaitiUnder Discussion
ItalyUnder Discussion
JamaicaUnder Discussion
KiribatiUnder Discussion
LaosUnder Discussion
LatviaUnder Discussion
LebanonUnder Discussion
LesothoUnder Discussion
LiberiaUnder Discussion
LithuaniaUnder Discussion
LuxembourgUnder Discussion
MadagascarUnder Discussion
MalawiUnder Discussion
MaldivesUnder Discussion
MaliUnder Discussion
MaltaUnder Discussion
MauritaniaUnder Discussion
MauritiusUnder Discussion
MexicoUnder Discussion
MicronesiaUnder Discussion
MonacoUnder Discussion
MozambiqueUnder Discussion
MyanmarUnder Discussion
NamibiaUnder Discussion
NauruUnder Discussion
NepalUnder Discussion
NetherlandsUnder Discussion
NicaraguaUnder Discussion
NigerUnder Discussion
NiueUnder Discussion
PakistanUnder Discussion
PalauUnder Discussion
Papua New GuineaUnder Discussion
PeruUnder Discussion
RomaniaUnder Discussion
RwandaUnder Discussion
Saint Kitts and NevisUnder Discussion
Saint LuciaUnder Discussion
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUnder Discussion
SamoaUnder Discussion
Sao Tome and PrincipeUnder Discussion
SenegalUnder Discussion
SeychellesUnder Discussion
Sierra LeoneUnder Discussion
SingaporeUnder Discussion
SlovakiaUnder Discussion
Solomon IslandsUnder Discussion
SomaliaUnder Discussion
South SudanUnder Discussion
SudanUnder Discussion
TanzaniaUnder Discussion
Timor-LesteUnder Discussion
TogoUnder Discussion
TongaUnder Discussion
Trinidad and TobagoUnder Discussion
TuvaluUnder Discussion
UgandaUnder Discussion
UruguayUnder Discussion
VanuatuUnder Discussion
YemenUnder Discussion
ZambiaUnder Discussion

Uruguay’s 2030 target might be the earliest, but it is not yet set in stone. The earliest commitment actually enshrined in law is Sweden’s 2045 target.

Including Sweden, only six countries have passed their carbon neutral targets into law. They include Denmark, France, Hungary, New Zealand, and the UK.

An additional five countries have proposed legislation in the works, including Canada and South Korea, as well as the entirety of the EU.

Meanwhile, 24 countries have their climate targets set as official policy. They include Brazil, China, Germany and the U.S., some of the world’s largest emitters.

99 of the 137 pledges are only under discussion at this time, or more than 72%. That means that they have no official standing as of yet, and are harder to act on. But as time starts to pass, pressure on countries to act on their carbon neutral pledges is beginning to grow.

The National Public Utilities Council is a collaborative body of industry experts coming together to solve decarbonization challenges in the power sector and the proud sponsor of the Decarbonization Channel.

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Decarbonization

The U.S. Utilities Decarbonization Index

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The U.S. Utilities Decarbonization Index

With the Biden administration targeting a zero-emissions power sector for the U.S. by 2035, how are the nation’s largest electric power providers faring in terms of decarbonization? 

Together, Visual Capitalist and our sponsor National Public Utilities Council have developed the Annual Utility Decarbonization Index. The index quantifies and compares the status of decarbonization among the 30 largest investor-owned utilities in the United States.

Decarbonization is quantified by scoring companies on six emissions-related metrics based on publicly available data from 2020 (the latest available).

Why the 30 Largest IOUs?

Why does the Decarbonization Index specifically look at the 30 largest IOUs by electricity generation? 

Well, these 30 utilities collectively generated around 2.3 billion megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity (including purchased power), making up over half of U.S. net electricity generation in 2020. Moreover, they also served over 90 million customers, accounting for roughly 56% of all electric customers in the country.

30 largest utilities in the U.S.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the 30 largest IOUs have an important role in decarbonizing both the power sector and the U.S. economy. Since the residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors all use electricity, the decarbonization of utilities—the providers of electric power—can enable emissions reduction throughout the economy.

Decarbonization Index Methodology

For each of the six metrics used in the Decarbonization Index, utilities are scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), indicating whether they are trailing or leading, respectively. Scores for each metric are based on the range of figures for each metric divided into five equal buckets that the utilities fall into. 

For simplicity, let’s suppose that the lowest reported total emissions figure is zero metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the highest is 100 metric tons. In that case, companies that emit fewer than 20 metric tons of CO2 will receive the highest score of 5. Those that emit between 20 and 40 metric tons of CO2 will receive a 4, and so on.

A utility’s overall decarbonization score is an average of their scores across the six metrics, summarized below:

  1. Fuel Mix: The share of low-carbon sources (renewables, nuclear, and fuel cells) in the utility’s owned net electricity generation. We’ve assumed that the share of low-carbon sources can range from 0% to 100%, and scores are assigned based on that range.
  2. CO2 Emissions Intensity: The amount of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour of owned and purchased electricity generation.
  3. Total CO2 Emissions: The sum of absolute CO2 emissions from owned and purchased electricity generation. While this overlooks the differing sizes of utilities, the rationale is that smaller unconsolidated utilities may find it easier to decarbonize than larger peers.
  4. CO2 Emissions per Capita: The amount of CO2 emitted from owned and purchased electricity generation per retail customer served in 2020.
  5. Decarbonization Goals: An evaluation of the utility’s interim greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals and net-zero targets. The baseline for this is 50% GHG emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 (utilities with baseline targets get a score of 2.5/5).
  6. Low-Carbon Investment: The share of planned capital expenditure (CAPEX) for electricity generation that is allocated to low-carbon sources. We’ve assumed that the share of CAPEX for low-carbon sources can range from 0% to 100%, and scores are assigned based on that range.

The data for these metrics comes from various sources including company sustainability reports, quantitative reporting templates from the Edison Electric Institute, and the Climate Disclosure Project’s Climate Change Questionnaire filings.

Explore all six metrics of the U.S. Utility Decarbonization Index

NPUC Annual Utility Decarbonization Report

Download The NPUC Annual Utility Decarbonization Report for free.

The Annual Utility Decarbonization Index 2022

Before looking at numbers, it’s important to note that the Decarbonization Index is relative and compares the 30 largest IOUs to each other. Therefore, a score of 5 does not indicate full decarbonization or net-zero emissions. Instead, it suggests that the utility is doing particularly well relative to its peers. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the Annual Utility Decarbonization Index 2022: 

Rank
CompanyDecarbonization Score
#1Public Service Enterprise Group4.7
#2NextEra Energy Resources4.7
#3Pacific Gas and Electric4.5
#4Avangrid4.2
#5Exelon4.1
#6Portland General Electric3.7
#7Dominion Energy3.6
#8Florida Power and Light3.6
#9PNM Resources3.5
#10Alliant Energy3.4
#11Consolidated Edison3.4
#12Fortis Inc.3.4
#13American Electric Power3.3
#14Consumers Energy3.3
#15Evergy3.0
#16NRG Energy3.0
#17AES Corporation2.9
#18Xcel Energy2.9
#19WEC Energy2.9
#20DTE Energy2.8
#21Duke Energy2.8
#22Entergy2.8
#23TransAlta2.8
#24Emera2.7
#25Ameren2.6
#26Berkshire Hathaway Energy2.5
#27Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company2.4
#28Southern Company2.3
#29PPL Corporation2.2
#30Vistra Corp.2.0

A small number of companies did not report data on certain metrics and have been excluded from scoring for those metrics (denoted as N/A). In such cases, the decarbonization score is an average of five metrics instead of six.

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), headquartered in New Jersey, tops this year’s rankings thanks to its low-emissions profile and ambitious climate goals. The company is aiming to achieve net-zero emissions from operations by 2030—five years ahead of the Biden Administration’s target and faster than any other utility on the list.

Tied with PSEG is NextEra Energy Resources, the clean energy-focused subsidiary of NextEra Energy. The company is the world’s largest producer of solar and wind power and generated 97% of its net electricity from low-carbon sources in 2020.

In third place is California’s largest utility, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). PG&E had the lowest emissions per capita of the 30 largest IOUs at 0.5 metric tons of CO2 per retail customer in 2020. That figure is significantly lower than the average of 11.5 metric tons across the 30 IOUs. 

Rounding out the top five are Avangrid, a renewables-focused U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish Iberdrola Group, and Exelon, the nation’s largest utility by number of retail customers. Avangrid had one of the cleanest fuel mixes with 87% of its owned net electricity coming from low-carbon sources. Exelon is the nation’s largest provider of emissions-free electricity, generating around 157 million MWh or 86% of its owned net electricity from nuclear power.

Download the Full Utility Decarbonization Report

While the Decarbonization Index provides a look at the current status of utility decarbonization, there’s much more to uncover in the full report, including:

  • The obstacles that utilities face on the path to decarbonization
  • The detailed data behind the six individual metrics
  • The U.S. utilities ESG report card
  • The solutions and strategies that can help accelerate decarbonization

Download the full report and find out everything you need to know about utility decarbonization.

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Climate

Mapped: 30 Years of Deforestation and Forest Growth, by Country

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Global Deforestation and Forest Growth over 30 Years

This was originally published on December 29, 2021, on Visual Capitalist.

Forests are the great carbon capturers of our planet, and they are a key source of wildlife habitats and vital resources for people around the world.

But deforestation is threatening this natural infrastructure, releasing carbon into the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing wildlife diversity and making our environment more susceptible to environmental disasters.

This graphic looks at global deforestation and forest growth over the past 30 years, mapping out the net forest change by country and region using data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The State of Deforestation by Region

Today, forests make up around 31% of the Earth’s total land area, spanning 15.68 million square miles (40.6 million km²). Over the past three decades, the world lost a bit more than 4% (685,300 square miles) of its forests, which equates to an area about half the size of India.

Europe and Asia were the only two regions which had significant overall forest growth during this time period, while Oceania saw no significant change and North and Central America saw a slight reduction.

RegionForest area change (1990-2020)Percentage change in forest area
Asia+146,718 sq mi+6.64%
Europe+88,803 sq mi+2.34%
Oceania+1,057 sq mi+0.0015%
North America and Central America-7,722 sq mi-0.34%
South America and the Caribbean-501,932 sq mi-13.30%
Africa-409,268 sq mi-14.29%
Global total-685,401 sq mi-4.19%

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Africa along with South America and the Caribbean were the regions with the greatest amount of net forest loss, both losing more than 13% of their forests over the past 30 years. This is largely because these two regions have large amounts of forest area available, with the underlying land in high demand for agriculture and cattle-raising.

Although the overall forest loss around the world is massive, the rate of forest loss has slowed down over the past three decades. While an average of 30,116 square miles were lost each year between 1990 to 2000, between 2010 to 2020 that number has dropped to 18,146 square miles, showing that the rate of overall loss has fallen by almost 40%.

The Countries and Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Growth

Despite an overall slowing down of forest loss, certain countries in South America along with the entirety of Africa are still showing an increase in the rate of forest loss. It’s in these regions where most of the countries with the largest reduction in forest area are located:

CountryNet change in forest area (1990-2020)Percentage change in forest area
Brazil-356,287 sq mi-15.67%
Indonesia-101,977 sq mi-22.28%
Democratic Republic of the Congo-94,495 sq mi-16.25%
Angola-48,865 sq mi-15.97%
Tanzania-44,962 sq mi-20.29%
Myanmar-41,213 sq mi-27.22%
Paraguay-36,463 sq mi-36.97%
Bolivia-26,915 sq mi-12.06%
Mozambique-25,614 sq mi-15.29%
Argentina-25,602 sq mi-18.84%

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest, saw 356,287 square miles of net forest loss, largely fueled by farmers using the land to raise cattle for beef. It’s estimated that 80% of the deforested land area of the Amazon has been replaced with pastures, with the resulting beef production known to be among the worst meats for the environment in terms of carbon emissions.

The other great driver of deforestation is seed and palm oil agriculture. These oils account for about 20% of the world’s deforestation carbon emissions, and their production concentrated in Indonesia and Malaysia is now expanding to other Asian countries along with Africa.

While the demand for beef and palm oils drives deforestation, initiatives like the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) are providing incentives to protect forest land.

Select countries in the European Union along with the United Kingdom and South Korea have committed $494.7 million to six central African nations (Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo) for them to preserve their forests and pursue low emission pathways for sustainable development. The initiative has seen $202 million transferred thus far and an anticipated reduction of 75 million tons of CO2 emissions.

Forests and the Climate Crisis

It’s estimated that forests absorb around 30% of the world’s carbon emissions each year, making them the greatest and most important carbon sinks we have on land. When you pair this with the fact that deforestation contributes around 12% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, the importance of forest preservation becomes even more clear.

But we often forget how much forests protect our environment by acting as natural buffers against extreme weather. Forests increase and ensure rainfall security, making nearby land areas significantly less susceptible to wildfires and natural droughts in hot and dry seasons along with flooding and landslides in wet seasons.

With every dollar invested in landscape restoration yielding up to $30 in benefits, reducing deforestation and investing in reforestation is considered an effective way to reduce the difficulty and costs of meeting climate and environmental protection goals. This is without even considering the benefits of maintaining the world’s largest wildlife habitat and source of species diversity, the home of the nearly 70 million indigenous people who live in forests, and the livelihood of 1.6 billion people who rely on forests every day.

Preserving and Regrowing Forests for the Future

Despite the short-term acceleration in forest loss seen in 2020, there have been positive signs about forest regrowth coming to light. A recent study found that previously deforested land can recuperate its soil fertility in about a decade, and layered plants, trees, and species diversity can recover in around 25-60 years.

Along with this, in some instances these regrowing “secondary forests” can absorb more carbon dioxide than “primary forests”, giving hope that a global reforestation effort can absorb more emissions than previously thought possible.

From better financial incentives for local farmers and ranchers to preserve forest area to larger scale policies and initiatives like CAFI, curbing deforestation and promoting reforestation requires a global effort. Reversing forest loss in the coming decades is a daunting but necessary step towards stabilizing the climate and preserving the environment that billions of animals and people rely on.

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