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Blog Post 2 November 2021

Climate commitments from around the world

On day one of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, several world leaders including US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged their ambitions and actions towards securing net zero and keeping global temperature rises within 1.5°C.

The headline story from Monday, however, was from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to cut his nation’s emissions to net zero by 2070 – two decades behind the COP26 summit target.

As we wait for other countries to announce their ambitions today, we’ve summarised existing commitments from eight nations across the world – including three of the most polluting – to find out who’s leading the way and who needs to do more. 


With just one week to go before COP26, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison published his government’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Supported by a total investment of $20 billion, the plan is bolstered by an updated ‘technology roadmap’ that will prioritise clean hydrogen, energy storage, low emissions steel and aluminium, and carbon capture and storage.

Australia’s electricity sector is expected to reduce its emissions by 96% by 2050, however gas is likely to continue to play a role in the nation’s electricity generation mix. The transport sector is expected to achieve a 79% reduction in emissions, largely supported by battery charging and hydrogen refuelling stations.

In his statement on Monday at COP26, Morrison emphasised that Australia will probably exceed its 2030 emissions reduction target, after receiving criticism about his government’s lack of climate ambition. The country’s emissions are expected to drop by 35% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.


At the end of 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled plans for achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The new bill, which became law in June 2021 under the ‘Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act’, requires the government to create new emissions reduction targets, as well as a plan on how it will achieve those targets, every five years from 2030.

Canada has failed to meet environmental targets in the past; in 2011, the Prime Minister at the time, Stephen Harper, withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol – the first agreement between global nations to mandate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Trudeau used his national statement at COP26 to announce ambitious plans to support the global phase-out of coal, help developing countries transition to clean fuel alternatives, and reduce pollution in the oil and gas sector.

However, the country missed its 2020 emissions reduction target and is reportedly on track to miss its 2025 target.


In September 2020, China’s President Xi – who is notably absent from the climate conference in Glasgow – pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2060. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the country’s climate plans and commitments are critical to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Under targets set out in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) carbon emissions in the country should peak before 2030, after which they will start to decline. A key area where the country will need to decarbonise is the industrial sector, which accounted for over 65% of China’s total carbon emissions in 2019.

In a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chinese leader reaffirmed China’s aim for emissions in the country to peak before 2030, and for net zero by 2060. There was no indication of how China will achieve this, however.

A recent report found that China emits more greenhouse gases than the entire developed world combined, accounting for 27% of the global total in 2019.


India currently sits in third place behind China and the US in its total greenhouse gas emissions – and all eyes were on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the conference on Monday, as India had yet to commit to net zero by any date.

Modi used his national statement to announce five major commitments from his country. The most significant of which was a pledge to reach net zero emissions but to do so by 2070, 20 years behind the COP26 conference target date. This is also 10 years behind the world’s biggest emitter, China.

India’s other climate commitments include increasing its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030; ensuring 50% of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2030; reducing the country’s total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes; and reducing the carbon intensity for its economy by 45% by 2030.


In April 2021, Japan significantly increased its emissions reduction target for 2030, from 26% to 46%, compared to 2013 levels. A reduction in the amount of coal used in Japan’s electricity generation mix will help achieve this target, though the expected 26% share of coal-fired generation in 2030 will be at odds with one of COP26’s major goals: to accelerate the phase-out of coal.

The country is aiming for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in October 2020. However, there is currently little detail outlining how the nation will reach this target – which notably excludes international aviation and shipping. It has been suggested that the world’s fifth biggest polluter needs to cut emissions by at least 60% by 2030 to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5°C.

Saudi Arabia

In late October 2021, the world’s largest oil exporting nation announced plans to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2060, supported by an investment of over $180 billion. However, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman added that the Gulf state would continue to produce oil.

Saudi Arabia joins China in its plans to reach net zero by 2060, however this is 10 years later than many other countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – including the United Arab Emirates, which is another major oil producer.

The country will rely on available technologies to manage and reduce emissions, as well as using carbon capture – when carbon is captured at its source, such as an industrial plant, before it enters the atmosphere – to help meet it net zero goal.


The UK declared a climate emergency in 2019, becoming the first major economy in the world to pass legislation that commits the country to net zero emissions by 2050. There are different official carbon targets for different parts of the UK, however. For example, Scotland has committed to net zero by 2045, while Wales has aligned with the UK target of 2050, but with ambitions to get there sooner.

As host of COP26, the UK will be expected to lead other nations in climate commitments over the next two weeks. The country is already going above and beyond, having committed to cut emissions at a faster rate than other developed nations, with a target of 78% emissions reduction by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

In his address to world leaders during the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that “humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change.” He added: “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now. If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.” In a nod to the major aims of the climate summit, Johnson alluded to several of the UK’s climate commitments, including a ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 to help reduce emissions from transport, as well as global goals to phase out coal and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Ahead of COP26, the UK Government launched its Net Zero Strategy, which sets out how the country will reach its net zero target by 2050. Underpinned by an investment of £90 billion, the strategy outlines the support that will be provided to businesses and consumers in the transition to clean energy and green technology – including reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels and switching to low carbon travel options. In the same week, the government released its Heat and Buildings Strategy, which will encourage the transition to low carbon heating in the UK’s 30 million homes – which currently account for 22% of the country’s carbon emissions.  


In April 2021, the US pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 – doubling America’s previous target. One of President Joe Biden’s first acts in office was to recommit the US to the Paris Agreement, bringing America back in line with global greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The US is currently the second biggest polluter after China, accounting for 11% of the world’s total emissions. However, no other country in the world has been responsible for more emissions than the US over the course of history – so Biden has a big job on his hands.

In his statement at COP26, Biden said he was releasing America’s long-term climate plan on how the nation will reach net zero emissions by 2050. He also announced the first ever contribution from the US to the Adaptation Fund, which aims to help developing nations adapt and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

A spending bill worth $555 billion – the biggest investment in US history to tackle the climate emergency – is due to go before Congress to seek approval, with funding earmarked for clean energy credits and incentives.

Head to our Climate talk at COP26 hub to keep up to date with the latest news and announcements from the climate conference.

Last updated: 2 November 2021