International Collaboration

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About this report

International collaboration will be vital to get the world on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. It will be particularly important for decarbonising heavy industry and the long-distance transport sectors, given that they are often highly traded, serve global markets and their net zero transition involves the massive deployment of technologies under development today.

Without well-targeted international collaboration, the energy transition in these sectors could be delayed by decades. This review focuses on these sectors, while noting that international collaboration in other sectors and on climate change more broadly will also be important. The year 2021 saw increased momentum, with the launch of nine net zero initiatives in the steel, shipping, aviation and cement sectors. Other sectors, such as trucking and aluminium, are yet to launch initiatives aligned with net zero, although a number of decarbonisation initiatives already exist. 

Sectoral net zero initiatives

Without enhanced international collaboration in support of decarbonisation, getting on track with the Net Zero Scenario could be delayed by decades, as shown by the Low International Co-operation case in the IEA Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap. International collaboration could accelerate shared innovation and technology deployment, support the agreement of common international standards and foster the development of joint approaches to achieve a level playing field for the trade of low-emission goods, which are all of particular importance for these sectors. International collaborative action can make the transition to net zero faster, lower cost and easier to achieve. In order to maximise these benefits, collaboration in these sectors should be inclusive, well-coordinated and support interaction between governments, businesses and civil society. 

Number of existing net zero initiatives in selected sectors and their coverage of global activity, 2022


International collaboration can take several forms, one of which is the engagement of public and private actors via sectoral net zero initiatives. The number of these initiatives saw an unprecedented increase in number in 2021, including public-sector, private-sector and hybrid initiatives. In 2019 and 2020 a total of two such initiatives were announced, one in each of the heavy industry and long-distance transport sectors. In 2021 alone, nine new sectoral initiatives were launched: three in shipping; two in aviation; two in steel, and one in cement and chemicals, respectively. They cover a range of areas, from joint commitments to increase the share of zero-emission fuels in shipping, developing industry-backed global roadmaps for net zero in steel and aviation, and mobilising international public- and private-sector procurement of low-emission steel and cement.  

Announcement of sectoral initiatives, 2019-2022


These initiatives are at different stages of development for different sectors. There are more net zero-aligned initiatives in the shipping, steel, aviation and cement sectors, with broader coverage and more advanced work programmes. International collaboration in chemicals, trucking and aluminium is nascent, but several initiatives are being launched, and several more are soon to be launched. 

The majority of these sectoral net zero-aligned initiatives are driven by the private sector, focusing on collaboration among businesses to foster knowledge sharing and scale up early technology development. While public and hybrid (public–private) sectoral initiatives also exist in these sectors, some of these are not yet aligned with net zero.  

The coverage of these net zero initiatives by share of global sectoral activity has expanded rapidly since 2021, but remains limited. Initiatives in the aviation sector cover the highest share of activity at 80%, due to the International Air Transport Association’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the industry by 2050, which covers 290 airlines in 120 countries. The initiative with the second highest coverage of sectoral activity is in the steel sector; the Steel Breakthrough covers around one-third of global activity. Sectoral net zero initiatives in other sectors cover less than one-quarter of global sectoral activity. 

Many of the existing collaborative net zero initiatives have more extensive coverage in Europe and among OECD member countries. Public and private representation from Africa, Asia and Latin America is currently much lower. 

Cross-cutting organisations and forums

Beyond collaborative initiatives focused on individual sectors, there has also been growth in international collaboration across the entire heavy industry and long-distance transport sectors.  

Launched in 2019, the Leadership Group for Industry Transition represents the principal public–private forum for collaboration in these sectors. It currently includes 18 country members and 19 company members. In 2021 the Mission Possible Partnership was established, which focuses solely on the private sector and the development of industry-backed pathways to net zero. Both initiatives cover the steel, cement, chemicals, aluminium, aviation, shipping and trucking sectors. 

Also in 2021, the G7 launched the Industrial Decarbonisation Agenda. This collaboration aims to develop joint approaches to industry decarbonisation among the G7, with a focus on definitions and standards for near zero-emission materials during 2022.