Recent cataclysmic climate change events serve as a bellwether for the impending climate crises and underlines the urgency to reduce greenhouse gases. There is no dispute that global emissions must be reduced drastically and become net zero by 2050 in order to keep the global temperature rise within 1.5 degree celsius.

A recent World Resources Institute working paper ‘Realising Net-Zero Emissions: Good Practices in Countries’ co-authored by Cynthia Elliott, Clea Schumer, Rebecca Gasper, Katie Ross and Neelam Singh discusses case studies, that if replicated, show potential to decarbonise the global economy and reach UNEP 2022 targets.

For this, major changes need to be undertaken in producing energy, growing food and land use in a just transition that improves the lives and livelihoods of those impacted.

Proactive leadership

Change is possible only with proactive leadership from successive governments as illustrated by five case studies presented in the study. In Costa Rica, the plan for just transition continued even after a major political shift. The new government built upon progress in several areas including electric vehicle deployment, reducing agricultural emissions and the use of composting.

In Chile, recently elected President Gabriel Boric pledged to make climate a top priority of his administration and legally enshrined climate action through the Climate Change Framework Law (2022). The Climate Act decentralised and mainstreamed net-zero implementation, assigning responsibilities to 17 government ministries, with indicators to track progress.

In 2020, South Africa’s president established a unique Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), comprising commissioners from all major stakeholder groups to support its approach of building consensus to advance the transition.

Denmark’s approach

Denmark’s power sector underwent a transformational shift in the past 30 years from coal-dominated power generation to renewable sources leading to a 76 per cent decline in CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2020. Building a strong industry for renewables has been central to Denmark’s approach, paired with a robust social safety. This was achieved through dialogue with unions and employers for fair sharing of costs and benefits and support for workers in fossil fuel industries.

Over the last decade, France has developed and deployed innovative green finance and investment tools and incorporated climate considerations into its annual budgetary process.

Although no country has fully decarbonised its economy, the working paper presents examples of concrete action. India can learn from them to achieve its target of turning net zero by 2070.