carbonJuly 28, 2023by admin

Net zero is not just a catchphrase

Since the United Nations’ adoption of the “Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond — a framework to Guide” in 1987, global awareness of environmental issues has taken a significant turn. Presently, the world is more conscious of the peril human activities pose to the environment and, consequently, to humanity itself. This consciousness has resulted in significant responses, including the buzz words ‘net zero.’ While it may be a commonplace phrase to those in the science, policy, advocacy, and activism of climate change, not everyone understands what it means, the science behind it, and the benefits to humanity, including the pivotal role it plays in securing a sustainable future for our planet.

Why net zero: Humanity has a responsibility to secure both current and future generations. Children have a right to live in a safe environment rather than destroy their world for immediate gratification. It is critical to act quickly, and with unwavering commitment and collaboration from governments, industries, and individuals, we can make net zero a tangible reality, ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for our planet.

The science of net zero: Science has confirmed a consistent rise in global temperatures. The World Meteorological Organisation says the last eight years are the warmest on record. As of 2022, the global average temperature was approximately 1.15°C higher than pre-industrial levels (1850-1900). While a difference of one degree Celsius may seem insignificant, the effects could be very significant with uneven adversity spread across different parts of the world. Already, there are forecasts predicting higher global temperatures in the years ahead.

Net zero and the Paris Agreement: What this suggests strongly is that to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change and ensure a habitable planet, it is crucial to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This was the crux of the agreement reached at the Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) Climate Change Conference held in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement is simply a call to keep global warming below 1.5°C, with a strategy of reducing global greenhouse emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. According to the UN therefore, net zero simply means “cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests, for instance.” Net zero implies several complexities and transitional (and sometimes transformational) demands on societies, economies, and humanity in general. This is because it entails a consciously contrived and sustained movement away from carbonization largely anchored on fossil-based energy.

Net zero and the energy transition: Energy is responsible for approximately three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, mitigating the severe impacts of climate change necessarily focuses on what is generally termed energy transition. This means transitioning away from fossils (especially coal and crude) to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power. This shift reduces carbon emissions and dependence on finite resources while fostering a sustainable energy ecosystem. The fact, however, is that this transiting stands as one of the most formidable challenges humanity has encountered. This is because achieving a Net-zero will necessitate nothing short of a complete overhaul in our methods of production, consumption, and lifestyle considering the fact that the world has been dependent on fossil fuel since the industrial revolution.

Net zero and country commitments: In spite of the daunting challenges, hope is not lost as many countries have committed to net zero. At present, over 70 countries, including major polluters like China, the United States, and the European Union, which account for approximately 76% of global emissions, have committed to achieving net zero. Additionally, more than 3,000 businesses and financial institutions are collaborating with the Science-Based Targets Initiative to align their emission reduction strategies with climate science. This collective effort signals a growing global commitment to combat climate change and transition towards a sustainable, low-carbon future.


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