The mandate for net zero
The weight of science is clear: atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions relating to large scale human activity has caused significant warming of the planet, leading to increased natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and socio-economic difficulties across the world. Over 130 governments have set their net zero targets for 2050. This means that their emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are matched by the removal and storage of an equivalent volume of greenhouse gases. This is conjunction with efforts to reduce the volume of gases being released in the first place.
Despite more countries expressing ambitions for emissions reductions and many enshrining targets in law or in policy, net zero carbon emissions remain out of reach for every nation for at least the next two decades. The result of this will be overshooting the key goal of the COP15 Paris Agreement, which is to limit global atmospheric temperature rise from pre-industrial levels to below 1.5˚C.
Fortunately, governments, NGOs, industries, and individuals are starting to take serious climate action to address their environmental impact and align themselves with a net zero pathway. As businesses have greater agility to accelerate their own emissions reductions, many are aiming for net zero between 2030 and 2045. The voluntary carbon market is vital for facilitating this by providing carbon offsets for companies while funding the establishment and maintenance of international environmental projects that sequester carbon or avoid emissions.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels between 1850 and 1900. In it, they declared that reaching global net zero atmospheric emissions by 2050 is essential to limiting temperature rise. In order to maintain a 66% probability of achieving the 1.5˚C target, emissions must remain within a cumulative global budget of 570GtCO2e. For context, the International Energy Agency tracked 33 GtCO2e of emissions in 2019 alone.
The following graph describes the prescribed emissions reduction pathway according to the IPCC’s calculations. To reduce total emissions by the required 90-95% by mid-century, we need to achieve an average of around 5% reductions in annual emissions and hit a target of 50% reduction from 2018 levels by 2030.
The role of offsetting en route to net zero
One of the first crucial steps on the journey to net zero emissions is to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions, such as through switching to an entirely renewable energy tariff at the office or upgrading industrial machinery for better fuel efficiency. However, it is very difficult to reduce emissions down to nothing at both a personal and industrial level, as greenhouse gases may be woven into daily practices that do not currently have lower-polluting alternatives. An example of this would be the release of carbon dioxide from the calcination process used to produce clinker, one of the components of cement.
In these situations, carbon markets provide an avenue to “neutralise” and monitor those emissions which remain unavoidable for the time being. Although there are a multitude of anthropogenic greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, with methane and nitrous oxide receiving increasing attention from policy makers in recent years, the heating effects and widespread release of carbon dioxide are particularly well-known and possible to regulate. Given carbon dioxide is by far the most abundant greenhouse gas emissions and credits are reported by tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). As the effect on the climate is the same wherever greenhouse gases are emitted, avoided or removed, carbon credits can be purchased from global offset projects to rebalance the footprint of an Individual or organisation no matter the location.
The first stage for any organisation wishing to implement a net zero strategy is to create a baseline year of reporting. This involves the production of a carbon footprint for the most recent annual operational period (often calendar year or financial year), by which each subsequent year can be compared and the recommended 5% reductions can be tracked. At each annual carbon footprint submission, businesses are able to rebalance their positive atmospheric emissions by purchasing and retiring carbon credits for a carbon neutral, carbon positive or carbon negative position…
There are two different processes working in tandem to help organisations achieve net zero, emissions reductions and emissions removals. as both processes take time, unlike carbon neutrality which can be achieved annually, net zero requires longer term planning.
- Net zero can only be achieved after demonstrating an emissions reductions pathway of 90-95% from baseline reporting year
- Net zero claims must be based on Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon reporting. Whereas, carbon neutrality can be achieved for Scope 1 and 2 with scope 3 discretionary
- Residual emissions can only be rebalanced using verified and permanent carbon removal credits. This marketplace is nascent and availability of removals credits are scarce and costly
Plannet Zero would be delighted to work with you on your sustainability journey. We can take you through One Two Zero so you become operational carbon neutral and continue on towards net zero.
We can work with you to communicate the steps you are taking to your stakeholders, customers and supply chain, encouraging others to join the journey too.
We can help you make a splash and draw attention to your actions
‘Speed Couriers are a well-established company providing courier services for over 36 years across the North West of England. We recognise the importance of the impact our day-to-day operations has on the environment, which is why we chose to work with Plannet Zero on the project ‘One Two Zero’. They were knowledgeable, inspirational and made it easy to understand the businesses carbon footprint, how we could implement an effective strategy to reduce this and achieve our goal of becoming Operational Carbon Neutral. We are delighted to be involved with Plannet Zero and look forward to continuing our carbon reduction journey.’
Speed Couriers Northern