O'Vert Dose: Better understand the "net zero emissions" objective

You’ve probably heard terms like “net zero” or “carbon neutral” when it comes to global warming, but what does that mean more concretely?

There is an international scientific consensus that to avoid the worst climate damage, net global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity must fall by around 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, to reach a net zero level around 2050. Is this achievable

What is net zero?

Net zero means achieving a balance between the amount of emissions produced and those removed from the atmosphere in order to reduce global warming.

By definition, net zero emissions can be achieved when all remaining greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released by human activities are neutralized by removing all GHG emissions from the atmosphere.

Net zero refers to a state in which greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere are balanced by their removal from the atmosphere. The term “net zero” is important because, for CO2 at least, this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement emphasizes the need to reach net zero, requiring states to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century .

The “net” in “net zero” is important because it will be very difficult to reduce all emissions to zero in the required time frame. In addition to deep and widespread emission reductions, we will likely need to step up removals. For “net zero” to be effective, it must be permanent, i.e. any removal of greenhouse gases does not escape into the atmosphere over time, for example through the destruction forests or inadequate storage of the carbon dioxide removed.

Net zero goal

All terms (carbon neutral, net zero, climate neutral) indicate the different ways in which emission sources and sinks are taken into account in the context, and help to indicate what is and is not included in the calculation or in an objective.

Given that net zero is the internationally agreed goal to mitigate global warming in the second half of the century and that the IPCC has concluded that net zero CO2 by 2050 is needed to to remain compatible with 1.5°C, the aim of this site is to inform effective climate actions that are aligned with net zero in order to progress towards this goal.

Many players will be able to achieve absolute zero or zero emissions in the process, hence the choice of terms for the global ‘Race to Zero’ campaign focused on raising ambition. Others will need to increase removals, either directly or by supporting other projects, hence the “net” in net zero.

How much would net zero cost?

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will not come cheap. In its sixth carbon budget released last year, the Climate Change Commission estimated that the annual cost of going ‘zero emissions’ would be 0.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) by the early 2030s, for fall to about 0.5% in 2050.

This would involve increasing investment in low-carbon technologies from around £10bn in 2020 to £50bn by 2050.

How to achieve net zero emissions by 2050?

To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we need to take concrete and immediate climate action. The latest IPCC report, Working Group III on Climate Mitigation, unveiled that we have until 2025 (now three years) to reduce the global GHG emissions curb before we begin to experience extreme living conditions. . Another report even indicates that by 2026, we will reach the 1.5°C mark. Nevertheless, even if we achieve this climate target, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold, but we could fall back below it at the end of the century.

Difficult goal but not impossible. Available technologies could allow us to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This would require rapid and widespread changes in policies and investments in many sectors of society, as well as government participation and commitment, industry and individuals.


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