Countries and companies globally are taking action to pursue net-zero emissions, but their plans could easily be derailed by myriad factors. Here are some considerations for helping to keep them on track.

Global momentum toward decarbonization continues to grow. The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow—the fifth COP meeting since the historic 2015 Paris Agreement treaty—produced stronger national climate action plans, a landmark pledge to cut methane emissions, and an agreement to phase out coal and fossil-fuel subsidies. Despite recent geopolitical turmoil, corporate net-zero pledges continue to increase, and the hard work of redirecting global investment dollars toward sustainable investments is fully under way.

Broad consensus among developed countries, leading companies, and other organizations has evolved regarding the types of swift and comprehensive actions necessary to get to net zero in areas such as electric-vehicle adoption, electrification of building heating, low-carbon steel production, and zero-carbon electricity generation. Beyond those, however, many other technical solutions exist that could help a region or country achieve a sufficiently swift decarbonization trajectory. Determining the right steps to take—and when to take them—is key not just for policy makers and public-sector organizations, but also for private-sector leaders trying to determine their companies’ emissions-reduction strategies.

Many organizations have performed sophisticated full-system modeling using extensive libraries of expected future technology cost trajectories to design comprehensive pathways that aim […]