The world entered the 2020s with greater commitment, potential and public support for climate action than ever before – the challenge this decade is to rapidly harness that promise into a sustained descent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report by the not-for-profit research network Climate Strategies. 

The report, Critical Junctions on the Journey to 1.5°C: The Decisive Decade, examines and distils the key findings in 10 influential reports released over the past year – providing a valuable one-stop resource highlighting the most effective, science-backed approaches to reducing emissions.  

The climate action needed to halve emissions this decade, and get on a safe track to net zero emissions by 2050, calls for $1 trillion per year in investment, the report estimates. While the amount is significant, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that countries can take swift political action and quickly mobilise resources in the face of a global crisis. Political leaders should seize the opportunity to place climate action at the heart of their recovery plans, the report recommends. 

Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism, said: “Delivering the necessary transformative action this decade to safeguard our climate is going to take real guts. This report makes clear – once again – how, where and how quickly we must direct our minds, our technology and policy, our capital and creativity to succeed. We know it’s possible. All we need now is the courage to get on and do it.”

The key pathways for fulfilling the Paris Agreement’s goals, safeguarding the climate and enabling humanity to thrive now and into the decades ahead include:

  • Ending the construction of new coal power plants now and closing one existing coal power plant every day between now and 2040 at least. 
  • Facilitating a wholesale shift to electric or other non-polluting mobility on land along with a switch to cleaner fuels in shipping and aviation. 
  • Ensuring all new cities and towns consist of zero-emissions buildings and infrastructure, while decarbonising existing building stocks by at least 3 percent annually starting now.
  • The cement, iron and steel industries must commit to reaching net zero emissions through technological innovations such as electrification, green hydrogen and carbon removal.
  • Actively restoring nature: in this decade, forests and agriculture must be converted from net sources of greenhouse gases to net sinks.
  • Ending deforestation and moving to large-scale land restoration. At least 150 million hectares of degraded land, equivalent to more than twice the size of France, need to be restored and conserved to enhance biodiversity and build ecosystem resilience.

The most effective changes that can take place in 2020s can come from implementing and scaling up available and proven solutions , the report finds. Political will and finance – in short supply until now – will be crucial in driving fast systemic change, along with global partnerships. The report also highlights the need for an exponential rise in participation by countries, regions, cities, villages, small and multinational businesses, investors, civil society and people around the world to create the unstoppable momentum so urgently needed. 

Joyashree Roy, the report’s lead author and professor at the Asian Institute of Technology’s Sustainable Energy Programme and Jadavpur University’s Department of Economics, said: “It is a matter of choice in this decisive decade of 2021-2030 to initiate actions in all six sensitive sectors across all countries. Finance, policy and global partnerships are the key levers. Only if we do so, we can trigger the fundamental and exponential change needed to preserve our own lives and livelihoods – and those of future generations.”

Critical Junctions on the Journey to 1.5°C in the Decisive Decade, commissioned by the Mission 2020 campaign, is one of a series of reports on the changes needed to make the 2020s the decisive decade in which emissions are halved, nature is radically regenerated and the world gets on track to a 1.5°C limit. The first in the series, Prelude to a Great Regeneration, was published by Mission 2020 in December 2020 and shines a light on the characteristics we’ll need to embody to ensure success. The third Decisive Decade initiative report, due out this spring, is an Inquiry into the Future of Climate Action. 

Download the report directly.

About Climate Strategies

Climate Strategies is an international, not-for-profit research network. It works at the science-policy interface, advancing climate policy through meaningful interactions between decision-makers and researchers across Europe and internationally. 

About Mission 2020

Mission 2020 was a five-year campaign that wrapped up in December 2020. Convened by Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism and the former executive secretary of UN Climate Change, Mission 2020 worked to accelerate climate action towards a turning point by 2020. The Decisive Decade Initiative led by Rajiv Joshi with support from the Mission 2020 community has also launched a platform for individuals around the world to: ImagineTheFuture which will host associated communications.