Target net zero: A journey to decarbonizing the public sector

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McKinsey & Company



Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 192 countries adopted a bold goal: to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions enough to limit the rise of global temperatures in the 21st century to “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels” while working to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to the agreement, based on the best available science, the world must reach net-zero GHG emissions early in the second half of the present century. That will require the transformation of economies and societies alike.1

To date, 136 of the signatory countries, responsible for 83 percent of global emissions, have made net-zero pledges.2 However, the latest Emissions gap report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that new and updated nationally determined contributions fall far short of the reductions required to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. In fact, the UNEP found that current climate commitments would put the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius during this century.3

As the world wrangles with how to amplify global decarbonization efforts, public-sector entities will play an increasingly critical role not only in setting but also in realizing bolder agendas. Public-sector spending accounts for 47 percent of GDP in the European Union, 44 percent in the United States, 39 percent in Japan, and 18 percent in India. Reducing public-sector emissions could be a vital component of most national decarbonization strategies.4

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