New Report | Getting Asia to Net Zero: Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action
WASHINGTON, DC; September 18, 2023 – As the source of more than half of annual global emissions, Asia plays a key role in whether the world can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. With the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit fast approaching on September 20 and the outcomes of the first Global Stocktake due at COP28 in December, this year offers critical leadership opportunities for accelerating Asia’s climate action.
Ahead of these meetings, a new report on behalf of the Asia Society Policy Institute’s High-Level Policy Commission on Getting Asia to Net Zero provides the first benchmarking of Asia’s progress towards the UN Secretary-General’s most recent climate targets.
“Getting Asia to Net Zero: Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action” outlines how Asian economies stack up against the targets set forth in March 2023 by the UN Secretary-General’s Acceleration Agenda, which spells out actions needed to hasten progress toward limiting global warming to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target. This includes bringing forward net zero targets as close as possible to 2040 for developed economies and 2050 for emerging economies.
The report finds that 16 Asian economies already have net zero targets in law or policy documents that align with the Acceleration Agenda. This group encompasses some notable emitters, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates, the host of this year’s COP28 climate talks. Over three-quarters of Asia’s emissions are now covered by net zero targets enshrined in official Long-Term Strategies under the Paris Agreement.
However, no developed economies in Asia have moved their net zero targets earlier than midcentury to align with the Acceleration Agenda. Eight economies’ targets still lag behind midcentury, including six that are aiming for 2060 (China, Bahrain, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia), Thailand (2065), and India (2070). A further 13 economies have yet to propose a net zero target, including Iran, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Yet analysis shows that making more ambitious climate action sooner could enhance Asia’s economic and social development. Modeling previously commissioned by the High-level Policy Commission on Getting Asia to Net Zero determined that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 could boost GDP in the Asia-Pacific region by as much as 6.3% above the predicted levels under a baseline scenario, while creating up to 36.5 million additional jobs by the 2030s.
“Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action” also highlights areas of progress and critical gaps in a number of Acceleration Agenda priorities apart from net zero, including emissions reduction targets, expanding clean energy, and phasing out fossil fuels.
Amongst a group of Asian G20 members and other key emitters that together account for almost half of global emissions, the vast majority of emissions are not yet covered by absolute emissions reductions targets in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. This means that even if countries’ targets are achieved, these emissions – over 40% of the global total – could still continue increasing between now and 2030.
The UN’s climate science body finds that global GHG emissions must peak by 2025 in order to achieve both the 1.5°C and 2°C goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
A summary of key findings from “Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action” is included below. This report supplements the Commission’s earlier paper, “Getting Asia to Net Zero,” which presented new modeling showing that more ambitious climate action taken sooner could enhance the region’s economic and social development. These analyses also complement the Commission’s country-specific reports, “Getting India to Net Zero” (August 2022) and “Getting Indonesia to Net Zero” (February 2022).
About the High-level Policy Commission on Getting Asia to Net Zero
Launched in May 2022, the High-Level Policy Commission on Getting Asia to Net Zero convenes a diverse set of Asian and global leaders to urgently accelerate Asia’s transition to net zero emissions through research, analysis and engagement. It includes former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Marshall Islands president Hilda Heine, among others. The Asia Society Policy Institute serves as the Commission’s secretariat. https://asiasociety.org/netzero
Media Contact: Rebecca Davis | +1 212-288-6400 # 1371 | RLDavis@asiasociety.org
Commission Contact: Kate Logan | +1 215-962-8677 | KLogan@asiasociety.org
“Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action” – Key Findings
“Getting Asia to Net Zero: Benchmarking Asia’s Climate Action” outlines how Asian economies stack up on climate action against the targets set forth in the Acceleration Agenda launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in March 2023.
This analysis focuses primarily on actions that national-level governments in Asia can take to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including to achieve net zero GHG emissions and mitigate emissions in the near term. Notable findings include the following:
Net Zero Targets:
- 16 Asian economies – but no developed economies in the region – have net zero targets in law or policy documents that align with those of the Acceleration Agenda. Emerging economies with significant emissions that have aligned their targets include Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates (the host of this year’s COP28 climate talks), and Vietnam.
- 44 economies in Asia have at least proposed some sort of net zero target. However, only seven of these economies (Australia, Fiji, Japan, Maldives, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan) have signed their targets into law, while another 19 economies have enshrined their targets in policy documents.
- 13 economies in Asia have yet to take action toward adopting a net zero target. This category includes some significant emitters, including Iran, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
- The targets adopted by Asian emitters span from 2030 to 2070. While most targets aim to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier, eight economies have targets that do not yet accord with a midcentury timeline, including six that are aiming for 2060 (China, Bahrain, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia), one for 2065 (Thailand), and one for 2070 (India).
- The 18 countries that have submitted a Long-Term Strategy (LTS) account for the vast majority of Asia’s annual emissions (77.6%), GDP (85.3%), and population (75.2%).
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) & Emissions Reduction Targets:
- 11 Asian economies that are either G20 members or whose annual emissions rank among the top 20 emitters globally were analyzed as “significant emitters.” Their emissions account for 85.6% of Asia’s emissions, which equate to just under half (46.5%) of global emissions. They also make up 87.8% of Asia’s GDP and 83.1% of the region’s total population.
- Three developed countries within this “significant emitters” group – Australia, Japan, and South Korea – meet the Acceleration Agenda’s criteria for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to be economy-wide, have absolute targets, and cover all GHGs.
- Developing economies in the “significant emitters” group generally do not meet any of the Acceleration Agenda’s three criteria for NDCs. This means there are critical gaps in emissions control among a group of economies with an outsized impact on global emissions.
- Addressing a range of challenges faced by developing economies – such as a lack of capacity to monitor non-CO2 gases – may help these economies upgrade their targets and plug critical gaps in global emissions control.
- 33 economies in Asia have included quantitative renewable energy generation targets in the most recent updates to their NDCs. Another 20 economies have pursued renewable energy generation targets but do not yet include them in their NDCs.
- Only ten economies have put forth net zero targets for electricity generation. This group is led by Samoa, which identified a goal to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2025 in its updated NDC, as well as Fiji, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, all of which included similar targets for 2030 in their NDC updates.
- New Zealand is the only developed country in Asia to put forth a net zero electricity generation target that aligns with the Acceleration Agenda, with a target aiming for 2035.
- Only one country – New Zealand – has aligned its commitment to phase out coal power by 2030 with the dates set forth in the Acceleration Agenda. However, a number of subnational jurisdictions have done so, including local regions in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan.
- Over ten economies have taken some action to halt new coal projects and/or phase out coal, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. However, many of these commitments still lack clarity or are incomplete, such as by allowing planned coal plants already in the pipeline to go ahead with construction.
- Six countries have supported a call for governments to negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, led by Vanuatu and Tuvalu. These two countries have also joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance as core members, with New Zealand and Fiji both joining in a partial capacity.
- Iran leads the region in fossil fuel subsidies, shelling out over more than twice as much as the third-ranking country, China. Saudi Arabia ranks second, and the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia round out the top five.