How the Breakthrough Agenda Enhances International Cooperation for Climate Action

The power, road transport, steel, hydrogen, agriculture, buildings, and cement and concrete sectors account for over 60% of global emissions. Photo credit: ADB.

Share on:           


Promotes collaboration in pivotal sectors collectively responsible for over 60% of global emissions.


Under the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty addressing climate change that was adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in 2015, countries agreed to pursue efforts “to limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” However, at the COP28 summit in November 2023, the outcome document of the first ever Global Stocktake  underscored that the parties are “not yet collectively on track” towards achieving the purpose and goals of this Agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also indicated that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced by 43% by 2030 (compared to 2019). The COP28 consensus urged parties and non-party stakeholders to accelerate delivery through coordinated action to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly, and equitable manner” by expediting zero and low-emission technologies. 

Amid global efforts to address climate change, the Breakthrough Agenda, initiated by world leaders at COP26, stands as a notable initiative for practical collaboration. It represents a worldwide commitment to expedite the adoption of clean technologies and sustainable solutions. 

This article explores how the Breakthrough Agenda facilitates global cooperation, establishes ambitious goals in crucial sectors, and assesses its impact on advancing sustainability worldwide. In response to the challenges highlighted by COP28, the Breakthrough Agenda takes a central role as a strategic and collaborative effort to address the urgent need for effective climate action.

What is the Breakthrough Agenda?

Launched by 45 world leaders during COP26, the Breakthrough Agenda is an international effort to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible, and attractive option before the end of this decade. It represents a political process where signatory countries agree to common targets, demonstrating their commitment to stronger international collaboration on climate action. This collaboration enhances the ambition loop by enabling faster innovation, providing stronger incentives for investment, creating larger economies of scale, and establishing level playing fields where needed. 

How does it shape global cooperation?

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Agenda has established an internationally recognized, annual, COP-centered, collaborative process — supported by 57 countries, covering over 80% of global GDP, and endorsed by 100+ international initiatives. This initiative enhances global cooperation in seven key sectors: power, road transport, steel, hydrogen, agriculture, buildings, and cement and concrete, accounting for over 60% of global emissions. These ambitious goals, referred to as “breakthroughs,” with the co-leading countries, are detailed below.  

  • Power breakthrough: Make clean power the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their power needs efficiently by 2030. (Co-leads: Morocco, UK)
  • Steel breakthrough: Make near-zero emission steel the preferred choice in global markets, with efficient use and near-zero emission steel production established and growing in every region by 2030. (Co-leads: Germany, UK)
  • Road transport breakthrough: Make zero-emission vehicles the new norm by ensuring they are accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030. (Co-leads: India, UK, US)
  • Hydrogen breakthrough: Make affordable renewable and low-carbon hydrogen globally available by 2030. (Co-leads: India, UK, US)
  • Agriculture breakthrough: Make climate-resilient, sustainable agriculture the most attractive and widely adopted option for farmers worldwide by 2030. (Co-leads: Egypt, UK)
  • Buildings breakthrough: Establish near zero-emission and resilient buildings as the new norm in all regions by 2030 (Co-leads: France, Morocco)
  • Cement and concrete: Establish near-zero emission cement as the preferred choice in global markets, with efficient use and near-zero emission cement production established and growing in every region by 2030. (Co-leads: Canada, UAE)

The Breakthrough Agenda’s ambitious objectives are realized through a series of activities, including regular meetings among participating countries and the key initiatives most active in each sector. These sessions aim to assess current international cooperation, determine progress, and agree on future actions.  The discussions are guided by the Breakthrough Agenda Report, authored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the High-Level Champions (HLCs). The second report, released in September 2023, provides an independent assessment and evidence of the progress made against the recommendations in the 2022 report. Key recommendations include strengthening collaboration between governments, business, and civil society, focusing on areas such as adopting common standards, creating demand, investing in research and development, establishing a level playing field for trade, and enhancing technical and financial assistance. 

Annually, countries participating in the Breakthrough Agenda agree on “Priority Actions” which are specific, timely and measurable actions that countries will take forward together through relevant initiatives, in response to the recommendations of the Breakthrough Agenda Report.

What impact did the Breakthrough Agenda have on COP28 and sustainable partnerships in 2023?

The Asia-Pacific Regional Climate Week 2023 took place in Malaysia from November 13 to 18, aiming to generate momentum for climate action. Organized collaboratively by the UNFCCC, HLCs, and UNEP, an event titled “Non-State Actors Perspectives on the 2023 Breakthrough Agenda Report in the Asia Pacific” was held. This event served as a collaborative platform, integrating the perspectives of non-party stakeholders to accelerate climate action in the region. Focused on three sectors—climate-resilient built environment, green infrastructure (low carbon steel and cement), and low-carbon mobility—the event featured speakers who presented non-state actors’ perspectives on regional trends, assessed implementation challenges, and showcased how organizations are making an impact through relevant case studies. As a result, the event contributed to strengthening international collaboration in areas such as financial and technical assistance, research and innovation, standards and regulation, and market creation. These collaborative efforts have the potential to enhance the deployment of sustainable solutions in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Building upon the partnership between the Breakthrough Agenda and the COP28 Presidency in January 2023, the COP Presidency Letter to Parties, Volume II declared, “We will convene countries and industry leaders at COP28 to respond to the conclusions from these dialogues, as well as the policy recommendations from the recent Breakthrough Agenda Report, with ambitious commitments.” At the plenary opening session, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber unveiled the new priority actions of the Breakthrough Agenda for 2024.  This was followed by round table discussions for each sector during the first week at COP28, where the “Priority Actions” for 2024 were deliberated. Additionally, two new buildings breakthrough (supported by UNEP, Global ABC, and 27 other countries) and the cement sector were launched. Furthermore, a new partnership between the Breakthrough Agenda and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was announced to strengthen public-private cooperation on the rapid deployment of clean technologies. 


The Breakthrough Agenda is a robust process that catalyzes international cooperation on climate action by establishing ambitious goals, tracking progress, identifying areas for coordinated action, and rallying public and private actors behind specific recommendations. In addition to directly advancing SDG7 on clean energy, SDG9 on industry, SDG11 on cities, and SDG13 on climate action, the Breakthrough Agenda fosters international collaboration, catalyzing coordinated action across sectors. 

However, there is a significant untapped potential for enhancing international collaboration. The need for greater investment in political capital, business leadership, and civil society activism is evident to support the Breakthrough Agenda's mission of practical cooperation to accelerate transitions. Without this sustained effort, the goal of “making clean and sustainable technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in all regions by 2030” cannot be achieved. 


IEA, IRENA, and UN Climate Change HLCs. 2023. Breakthrough Agenda Report 2023. IEA, Paris.

Kapil Narula
Senior Analyst, Breakthrough Agenda, Climate Champions Team

Kapil Narula holds an interdisciplinary PhD in Economics and a master’s degree in Engineering. With more than two decades of work experience spanning India, Europe, and the Arab region, he has focused on energy transition and sustainability.

Follow Kapil Narula on

Simon Sharpe
Director, Economics, Climate Champions Team

Simon Sharpe worked for the UK government on climate change diplomacy leading up to the Paris Agreement and served as Deputy Director of the COP26 Unit during the UK’s COP Presidency.

Follow Simon Sharpe on
Leave your question or comment in the section below:

The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or its Board of Governors or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this publication and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. By making any designation of or reference to a particular territory or geographic area, or by using the term “country” in this document, ADB does not intend to make any judgments as to the legal or other status of any territory or area.