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The Climate Breakthrough

In the years since the international community signed on to the Paris climate accord, evidence of the threat posed by rising temperatures and extreme weather has continued to mount. With governments and businesses alike recognizing the urgent need for decarbonization, now is the time to commit to a target of global net-zero emissions.

CAMBRIDGE – Many milestones have come and gone since the threat of accumulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) first entered the scientific, political, and – finally – public discourse. Some have been positive, but most have marked another breach of what is safe or normal, such as a record-breaking tally of species in decline or an unprecedented extreme weather event. One hopes that 2019 will be remembered among the positive milestones, when policymakers, progressive businesses, and civil-society groups came together to make real progress in the fight against climate change.

This year, the United Kingdom became the first major economy to enshrine in law a national target of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. And to put its money where its mouth is, the UK government has already released a credible Green Finance Strategy for implementing the changes needed to reach that goal. Germany, France, Japan, major US states, and others, meanwhile, are in the process of committing to carbon neutrality within the next 20 to 30 years; and, despite an early summer delay, the European Union is expected to set its own net-zero target before the year is out.

Climate awareness has swept up not just governments, but also a wide array of businesses and other organizations. Through the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s (CISL) network of nearly 9,000 decision-makers, we know that more and more companies are seeking to get ahead of the coming economic transformation by committing to science-based decarbonization targets. At the same time, industry-leading collaborations, such as the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, are lending momentum to the push for net-zero targets in the UK, the EU, and elsewhere.

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