Bending the curve: can climate ambition and reality still converge?

Net Zero Economy Index 2023

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Our Net Zero Economy Index 2023 reveals that the world must achieve a daunting year-on-year decarbonisation rate of 17.2% from now until 2050, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But there is positive news too.

This is the 15th Net Zero Economy Index, which is our annual indicator of the progress made in reducing energy-related CO2 emissions and decarbonising economies.

The world achieved a decarbonisation rate of just 2.5% in 2022, which means a year-on-year decarbonisation rate of 17.2% is now required to limit average global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. That’s seven times faster than at present. While this figure is stark, our analysis also reveals that last year saw a surge in renewable energy adoption, demonstrating the growing potential for an accelerated and market-led transition. This development, alongside the COP28 Presidency’s action plan for renewable energy capacity to triple by 2030 and net zero action rising up boardroom agendas, is galvanising the momentum required to scale decarbonisation efforts.

The results are an urgent reminder that we must act to meet ambitious net zero targets. This year can be the one that finally unlocks the true power of business, the capital markets and competition to spur breakthrough innovation, accelerated emission reductions and mass behavioural change. But it needs diplomacy and policy to align - both between and within countries - to deliver clarity for private investment to scale.

There is hope, but we risk doing too little, too late. We no longer question whether urgent transition to the net zero economy is necessary, but this might be our last year to answer whether we will act fast enough.

What do our Net Zero Economy Index 2023 results mean for you?

“The fact the world needs to decarbonise seven times faster is a spur to action, not a counsel of despair. While the overall pace has to pick up rapidly, dramatic change is possible when business and policy makers align. The rapid acceleration of the deployment of wind and solar in several regions shows change can happen. The world is decoupling growth from carbon emissions, now we need that trend to become a surge.”

Emma Cox, Global Climate Leader, PwC UK

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The global picture

Our 2023 findings

Decarbonisation rates need to increase by seven times

Decarbonisation rates have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Decarbonisation trajectories are progressing at different rates between G7 and E7 economies

The world is gradually decoupling economic growth from energy consumption

Our analysis shows that last year witnessed a remarkable surge in renewable energy adoption

The scale of investment to achieve net zero is a significant business opportunity

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Our metrics and methodology

For details on our methodology and key metrics - including fuel factor and energy intensity - find out more in the methodology and metrics section below.


The Net Zero Economy Index tracks the decarbonisation of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide.

The analysis is underpinned by The Energy Institute’s Statistical Review of World Energy, which reflects energy consumption per fuel type per country and CO2 emissions based on the consumption of oil, gas and coal.

Our data sources include: The Energy Institute, IEA, World Bank, OECD, PwC

AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use) emissions and non-CO2 emissions are excluded from this analysis. No carbon sequestration is accounted for in the Net Zero Economy Index analysis. As a result, this data cannot be compared directly with national emissions inventories.

G7 comprises: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States

E7 comprises: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey

G20 comprises: G7 countries, E7 countries, Argentina, Australia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the EU

Carbon intensity

The primary purpose of the Net Zero Economy Index is to calculate national and global carbon intensity (CO2 / GDP), and track the rate of change needed by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°C.

To do this, we use the IPCC carbon budget to calculate how much emissions need to be reduced in the future, and divide this by the projected increase in GDP.

This allows us to see the amount emissions must reduce to maintain projected GDP growth, providing insight to the scale of efforts required to decouple emissions from economic growth.

Fuel factor

The fuel factor (CO2 / energy) measures how much CO2 is emitted per unit of energy consumed. Put simply, how green the energy consumption is.

It indicates a country’s shift in energy mix towards renewable energy sources, and can reflect movements away from the most highly emitting fossil fuels (such as coal).

For each unit of energy consumed, different fossil fuels will release differing amounts of CO2 emissions. For each unit of energy consumed from a renewable source, emissions will be reduced to negligible, or zero, therefore reducing the fuel factor toward zero.

Energy intensity

Energy intensity (energy / GDP) measures the amount of energy consumed per unit of GDP generated.

It shows us how much energy is needed to generate a given amount of GDP.

Energy intensity is impacted by factors including: energy efficiency, in the form of energy efficiency policies or technological advances enabling efficiency; energy pricing mechanisms; shifts in regional population and demographics; changes in the composition of an economic sector’s output; maximising economic output per unit spend on energy usage; investment in new, more efficient technology and infrastructure; and climatic influences on energy usage.

Contact us

Emma Cox

Emma Cox

Global Climate Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Dan Dowling

Dan Dowling

Partner, Net Zero Strategy & Transformation, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7715 487335

James King

James King

Senior Manager, Sustainability, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7706 285078

Josh Huntley

Josh Huntley

Senior Associate, PwC Sustainability, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7483 407354

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