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Net Zero: The Path to Saving the Planet

Article by GVI


Posted: March 17, 2023

Net zero refers to a goal of achieving balance between human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In other words, it means that the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere must be offset by an equal amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere. By achieving net zero, it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed to under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Historical Context of Net Zero

The concept of net zero emissions has been around for centuries, though only in recent decades has it gained traction. In 2009, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formulated its goal to “hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” This was followed by the Paris Agreement in 2015, which further stated that “the increase in the global average temperature should be kept to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5°C.” Thus, the idea of net zero was born.

Net zero is a concept that has been embraced by many countries and organisations around the world. In 2019, the United Kingdom became the first major economy to pass a law committing to net zero emissions by 2050. Since then, many other countries have followed suit, including France, Germany, and Japan. Additionally, many companies have committed to net zero emissions, with some even aiming to reach the goal by 2030.

The Science Behind Net Zero

Net zero requires that humans stop releasing new greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and also begin removing them from the atmosphere to offset existing emissions. This means that emitters must reduce their emissions as much as possible and transition towards zero emissions sources of energy such as renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In addition, strategies like reforestation, restoring wetlands and soil carbon sequestration can be used to capture and store carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

In order to achieve net zero, it is important to understand the science behind the process. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise. To reduce the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere, we must reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. This can be done by transitioning to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and by implementing strategies to capture and store carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

Examples of Net Zero Initiatives

In recent years, a number of organisations and countries have set goals of achieving net zero emissions or have already achieved it. For example, the European Union has pledged to become “climate-neutral” by 2050, which implies achieving net zero emissions. Similarly, private companies like Microsoft, Ikea, and HSBC have all declared their own goals of achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

In addition to these large-scale initiatives, many individuals are also taking steps to reduce their own carbon footprints. This can include simple changes like switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs, using public transportation, or reducing food waste. By making small changes in our daily lives, we can all contribute to the global effort to achieve net zero emissions.

Mangrove forest. Natural carbon sinks. Mangroves capture CO2 from the atmosphere. Blue carbon ecosystems. Mangroves absorb carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon captured and stored by coastal ecosystem.

The Impact of Net Zero

Net zero offers a host of advantages, but also comes with some disadvantages. For example, since reducing emissions requires a transition away from fossil fuels, this results in economic disruptions, job losses and inequality. There are also significant upfront costs and technological challenges associated with achieving net zero. On the other hand, this transition will create new job opportunities in renewable energy and other green industries, mitigating economic disruptions in the long term.

In addition, net zero can help to reduce air pollution, improve public health, and reduce the risk of extreme weather events. It can also help to reduce global warming, which is essential for preserving the planet for future generations. Furthermore, it can help to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels, which can help to reduce geopolitical tensions.

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will help avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change like rising sea levels and extreme weather events. It will also prevent mass extinction of species, soil erosion, water scarcity and other global effects caused due to climate change. Achieving net zero emissions is the only way to reach this goal.

Net zero emissions means that the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere is balanced by the amount of greenhouse gases removed. This can be achieved through a combination of reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either through natural processes like planting trees or through technological solutions like carbon capture and storage.

Achieving net zero has multiple benefits beyond limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It will reduce air pollution, create new industries and job opportunities in green energy, reduce inequality, open new possibilities for sustainable economic growth. In addition, it will help protect vulnerable communities who are currently at a greater risk of climate-related disasters.

How to Achieve Net Zero

Net zero can be achieved through a combination of strategies such as investing in renewable energy, transitioning towards electric vehicles and green building standards, conserving forests, reducing food waste and increasing energy efficiency. Governments can also put in place policies such as carbon pricing or subsidies to make sustainable solutions more affordable and feasible.

Challenges Facing Net Zero Implementation

Achieving net zero emissions is a challenging task due to a number of factors. The first is the sheer scale of emissions reduction needed; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 for 1.5°C goal to remain achievable. The second is that changes will need to occur across all sectors, including energy, transportation and agriculture, which means a huge effort must be made by individuals, corporations and governments alike.

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Net zero is a crucial goal for climate action and must be achieved if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C. It may sound daunting at first glance, however with strong leadership from governments and private companies and individual commitment to sustainability it is perfectly achievable. If we act now to reduce emissions and restore ecosystems we can still steer our planet towards a more secure future.

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