Decarbonisation falling far short of Paris climate goal, says report

Achieving agreed objectives will require fivefold improvement in reducing emissions

Achieving the objective of the Paris climate agreement will now require an annual decarbonisation rate of 12.9 per cent – more than five times greater than that achieved over the past year – according to the latest analysis from the PwC Net Zero Economy Index.

Globally the rate of decarbonisation required to achieve the key temperature target to avoid catastrophic climate change is a multiple of the Covid-19-related decline experienced last year, it concludes. In Ireland, overall emissions only fell by 3.6 per cent last year, the Environmental Protection Agency reported recently

The 2021 index, which tracks the decarbonisation of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide, finds a decarbonisation rate of 12.9 per cent – compared to last year’s average of 2.5 per cent – is required to halve global emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by mid-century.

The reduction rate is eight times faster than the global average over the course of the 21st century.


Even with the economic slowdown in 2020 no G20 country was able to achieve the 12.9 per cent rate of decarbonisation.

“Only a handful of countries have ever successfully achieved double-digit rates of decarbonisation. Although the majority of the G20 have set ambitious climate targets, these have yet to translate into clear policy actions that will deliver the changes needed,” it says.

“Delivering net zero by mid-century will require collaboration between sectors and across industry. However, businesses can’t go it alone,” the PwC analysis finds. It says the private sector needs clear and consistent signals from government that incentivise corporate climate action.

Bold action

Kim McClenaghan, of PwC Ireland’s advisory, energy and utility practice, said sustaining Ireland’s 2020 rate of decarbonisation required significant investment and bold action.

“Many of Ireland’s largest companies are making significant progress in committing to science-based targets, which is a very important step towards the highest ambition levels. However, there is more to do...[and] a disconnect between the importance many CEOs place on climate change and how much they are prepared to invest towards a sustainable environment,” he added.

Ireland’s climate ambition sets out an objective to achieve a climate-neutral economy no later than 2050 in line with the Paris agreement.

“Ambitious carbon budgets will now be approved, indicating a range of targets for each sector as binding goals. The importance of the nearer term targets are also essential if we are to halve emissions this decade,” he noted.

The scale and pace of the economic and societal change and investment needed to achieve these targets was significant, Mr McClenaghan said, “but they will be necessary to reduce our emissions consistently and achieve the 1.5 degree [limit above pre-industrial levels] goal. All sectors of the economy will need to transform to deliver net zero”.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times