Which countries have a net zero carbon goal?

A growing number of governments are setting targets to end their contribution to global warming. Bookmark this page to stay up to date

Zero, nil, nada: the ultimate emissions goal (Photo: Pixabay)

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To end dangerous overheating of the planet, humans need to stop putting more greenhouse gases into the air than we take out.

The 2015 Paris Agreement set a global goal (couched in legalese) to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

An increasing number of governments are translating that into national strategy, setting out visions of a carbon-free future. Is it enough? Of course not. But it is becoming the benchmark for leadership on the world stage.

Here is a handy guide to who is promising what.

This article was last updated on 29 June 2020. If we have missed something, let us know by emailing [email protected]

For more on the origins of the net zero target, read our deep dive


Austria

Target date: 2040

Status: Policy position

Notes: A coalition government sworn in January 2020 promised to pursue climate neutrality by 2040 and 100% clean electricity by 2030, underpinned by binding carbon targets. The right wing People’s Party agreed to the goals in partnership with the Green Party.


Bhutan

Target date: Currently carbon negative and aiming for carbon neutrality as it develops

Status: Pledged towards the Paris Agreement

Notes: With a population of less than a million, on low incomes, surrounded by forests and hydropower resources, Bhutan has an easier task balancing the carbon accounts than most. It has some green policies, but economic growth and rising demand for cars is putting upward pressure on emissions.

A temple on one of Bhutan’s many mountainsides (Photo: Sanath Adiga)


California

Target date: 2045

Status: Executive order

Notes: Okay so it’s not a country, but if it were, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world – worth paying attention to. Former governor Jerry Brown signed the carbon neutral order in September 2018, catching a lot of people by surprise. While the state passed a law around the same time to make electricity 100% renewable by 2045, policies to green other sectors are less mature. Vox had a decent explainer at the time.

In the absence of federal ambition, a handful of other US cities and states are pursuing net zero goals, including New York City and Hawaii.


Canada

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: Justin Trudeau narrowly scraped a second term as president in October 2019, on a platform that centred climate action. He promised to set a net zero emissions goal, with legally binding five-yearly carbon budgets. His Liberal Party falling short of a majority in parliament, Trudeau will need to broker deals with smaller parties to pass that law. Trudeau walked a tightrope on climate and energy policy in his first term, pushing through a carbon tax while defending controversial oil pipelines. He continues to face pressure from leftist and green parties to block the pipelines and from oil-producing provinces to water down climate policy.

Tar sands in Alberta, Canada (Photo: Kris Krüg/Flickr)


Chile

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: President Sebastian Piñera announced the country’s intention to go carbon neutral in June 2019. Santiago was due to host UN climate talks later that year, but cancelled at the last minute due to civil unrest. In April 2020 the government reiterated its long term goal as it submitted a strengthened medium term pledge to the UN. For starters, the country will close eight of its 28 coal power plants by 2024 and phase out the fuel by 2040.


Costa Rica

Target date: 2050

Status: Submission to UN

Notes: Previous administrations said Costa Rica would be carbon neutral by 2021, which is… not happening. In February 2019, president Carlos Alvarado Quesada set out a climate policy package. A long term strategy submitted to the UN in December confirmed net zero emissions as the 2050 goal. The country is routinely celebrated for getting nearly all its electricity from renewables – primarily hydropower – but citizens still rely on petrol and diesel to get around. An e-mobility decree adopted in 2018 aims to change that.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada on the campaign trail for the Costa Rican presidency (Photo: Facebook/Carlos Alvarado Quesada)


Denmark

Target date: 2050

Status: In law

Notes: The government set out plans in 2018 to build a “climate-neutral society” by 2050. Its package included a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 and support for electric vehicles. Climate change was a major theme in June 2019 parliamentary elections and the victorious “red bloc” parties enshrined tougher emissions targets in legislation passed six months later.


European Union

Target date: 2050

Status: Submission to UN

Notes: The European Commission is working towards a bloc-wide 2050 net zero emissions target, under a “Green Deal” published in December 2019. It was endorsed by the European Council of national leaders the same month, with Poland the only dissenting voice, refusing to commit to its implementation. The long term strategy was presented to the UN in March 2030.


Fiji

Target date: 2050

Status: Submission to UN

Notes: As president of Cop23, the UN climate summit in 2017, Fiji made an extra effort to show leadership. In 2018, the Pacific island state submitted a plan to the UN with the goal of net zero carbon emissions across all sectors of the economy. Its “very high ambition” scenario even goes carbon negative, but this is contingent on new technologies and international support.

A Fijian welcome ceremony at the 2017 UN climate talks (Photo: UNFCCC)


Finland

Target date: 2035

Status: Coalition agreement

Notes: Five political parties agreed in June 2019 to strengthen the country’s climate law, as part of negotiations to form a government. The target is expected to require curbs on industrial logging and a phaseout of peat burning for power generation.


France

Target date: 2050

Status: In law

Notes: French lawmakers voted a net zero target into law on 27 June 2019, the same day as the UK. Other parts of the government’s proposed climate and energy package remained to be agreed. Controversially, it proposed postponing nuclear power plant closures. In its first report in June, the newly established High Council for the Climate advised France must triple the pace of emissions reductions to meet the carbon neutrality goal.


Germany

Target date: 2050

Status: In law (sort of)

Notes: Germany’s first major climate law entered into force in December 2019, detailing sector-specific annual emissions budgets for the next decade and establishing an expert commission. It was backed by a policy package including carbon pricing for transport and buildings, a controversial coal phaseout and support for electric vehicles. The introduction to the law says Germany will “pursue” greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.


Hungary

Target date: 2050

Status: In law

Notes: Hungary committed to climate neutrality by 2050 in a 3-page climate law passed in June 2020. That was not backed up by a strengthened 2030 emissions-cutting target, however, putting off the heavy lifting to next decade. The country is set to close its last coal power plant by 2025 and build new nuclear capacity, with Russia’s help.


Iceland

Target date: 2040

Status: Policy position

Notes: The strategy unveiled in 2018 focuses on phasing fossil fuels out of the transport sector, tree-planting and restoring wetlands. Iceland already has virtually carbon-free electricity and heating from geothermal and hydroelectric sources.

Krafla geothermal power plant in Iceland (Photo: Ásgeir Eggertsson)


Ireland

Target date: 2050

Status: Coalition agreement

Notes: In a coalition deal finalised in June 2020, three political parties agreed to set a 2050 net zero emissions target in law, with annual reductions of 7% in the coming decade. It reinforces the long-term target of the previous government’s climate strategy published in June 2019, while promising more action in the short term. The incoming government scrapped plans for an LNG import terminal and backed an expansion of offshore wind. Critics said more measures were needed to tackle farming emissions.


Japan

Target date: “The earliest possible time in the latter half of this century”

Status: Policy position

Notes: Japan’s cabinet approved a climate strategy in June 2019, ahead of hosting the G20 leaders’ summit. It majored on carbon capture, utilization and storage, and the development of hydrogen as a clean fuel source. Notably absent was a phaseout plan for coal, which is still expected to supply a quarter of the country’s electricity in 2030.


Marshall Islands

Target date: 2050

Status: Pledged towards the Paris Agreement

Notes: The low-lying island nation is acutely vulnerable to sea level rise and keen to set an example on decarbonisation. Its updated submission to the UN in September 2018 set out an aspiration to reach net zero emissions by 2050, albeit without concrete policies to get all the way. Depending on the availability of international support, the plan identified measures to cut emissions 56-87% from 2010 levels.


New Zealand

Target date: 2050

Status: In law

Notes: Unusually for a developed country, New Zealand’s biggest source of emissions is farming. A law passed in November 2019 sets a net zero goal for all greenhouse gases except biogenic methane (mostly from sheep and cattle), which is to be cut 24-47% from 2017 levels by 2050. It remains contentious with the meat lobby, which argues New Zealand will lose market share to countries with less stringent sustainability standards.


Norway

Target date: 2030/2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: Norway was among the first parliaments in the world to discuss climate neutrality, with lawmakers agreeing to aim for 2050 domestically and 2030 with international offsets. This was just a signal of intent, not a binding climate law. The country benefits from abundant hydropower resources and has aggressive policies to electrify road transport, yet the government continues to back controversial Arctic oil drilling.


Portugal

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: Portugal launched a roadmap in December 2018 for getting to net zero, outlining strategies for energy, transport, waste, farming and forests. It is one of the member states calling for the EU to adopt a 2050 net zero target.


Singapore

Target date: “As soon as viable in the second half of the century”

Status: Submission to UN

Notes: Like Japan, Singapore has avoided committing to a firm date for decarbonisation, but cited it as the ultimate goal of a long term strategy submitted to the UN in March 2020. Internal combustion engine vehicles are to be phased out by 2040, in favour of electric vehicles, but the island state said its clean energy potential was limited by a lack of space for solar panels.


Slovakia

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: One of the first EU member states to formally submit a long term strategy to the UN, Slovakia said it was aiming for “climate neutrality” in 2050. However the document focused on policies out to 2030 and noted further measures would need to be developed to meet the target.


South Korea

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: The ruling Democratic Party was returned to power by a landslide in the April 2020 election. Voters endorsed its “Green New Deal” to decarbonise the economy by 2050 and end coal financing, as well as showing approval of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first commitment of its kind in East Asia and a big deal for the 7th highest national CO2 emitter. South Korea gets around 40% of its electricity from coal and has been a major financer of coal plants abroad.


Spain

Target date: 2050

Status: Draft law

Notes: The government presented its draft climate framework bill to parliament in May 2020, as the country started to loosen restrictions on movement to halt the spread of coronavirus. Originally intended to create a long term framework for cutting emissions, the law doubles as a blueprint for economic recovery from Covid-19, said vice president Teresa Ribera. It sets interim targets for 2030, establishes a commission to monitor progress and bans new coal, oil and gas exploration licences with immediate effect.


Sweden

Target date: 2045

Status: In law

Notes: Sweden legislated its net zero target in 2017, bringing forward its timeline for carbon neutrality by five years in response to the Paris Agreement. It got extra attention in contrast with Donald Trump’s move to withdraw the US from the pact. At least 85% of the emissions cuts are to be achieved through domestic policies, leaving the door open for international credits to make up the rest.

Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lovin referring the climate law to parliament in February 2017 (Photo: Facebook/Isabella Lovin)


Switzerland

Target date: 2050

Status: Policy position

Notes: The Federal Council announced on 28 August 2019 its intention to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, deepening its target under the Paris Agreement of a 70-85% emission reduction. Parliament is in the process of revising its climate legislation. The strategy includes developing technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the air – the mountainous country hosts one of the most advanced pilot projects in this field – as well as slashing emissions.


United Kingdom

Target date: 2050

Status: In law

Notes: The UK already passed a framework law for cutting emissions in 2008, so setting a net zero target is as simple as replacing 80% with 100%. Parliament passed the amendment on 27 June 2019. Meeting the goal is tougher and the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has emphasised more policies will be needed across sectors to give it life.

Scotland’s devolved parliament is working on a bill to reach net zero in 2045, based on its strong renewable energy resources and capacity to store CO2 in depleted North Sea oilfields. It is expected to pass into law by autumn 2019.

The CCC advised Wales would have a harder job and 95% emissions cuts by 2050 was feasible. The Welsh government accepted the recommendation and expressed an ambition to go further to net zero.


Uruguay

Target date: 2030

Status: Contribution to the Paris Agreement

Notes: This is more of a forecast than a commitment, based on Uruguay’s anomalous trend of increasing forest cover. Combined with policies to reduce emissions from beef farming, waste and energy, this is expected to make the country a net carbon sink by 2030, according to its national submission to the UN pact.

Read more on: Climate Politics | Paris Agreement