The term net zero means to create a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount that is removed from the atmosphere. When the amount produced is not more than the amount removed, we reach the net zero. It is also referred to as carbon-neutral.
Reaching net zero means we can still produce some emissions, as long as they are offset by processes that reduce greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Offsetting can be done in various ways like planting more trees or technologies like direct air capture. But it is also important to reduce carbon emissions by reducing and gradually phasing out the use of fossil fuels coal, oil, and gas – and transition to renewable energy.
How do we get Net Zero?
Removal of Carbon from the Atmosphere
Net zero can only be achieved by removing carbon from the atmosphere as well as reducing the amount that is produced. Planting trees that absorb and store carbon is one easy method to achieve this, but other methods include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which takes carbon emissions from the air and stores them in the ground.
Improving Energy Efficiency in Buildings
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings will also have a large impact on reaching net zero. Alternative energy sources can be an effective solution as can factors such as improved insulation and energy efficiency in buildings.
Electrification of Transport
Transport is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and these continue to rise. Replacing conventional petrol and diesel vehicles with electric vehicles (EV) is a clear example of how transport can be made environmentally friendly. Emissions from transport can also be reduced through means such as light-weighting, which means the use of lighter components in order to reduce fuel consumption.
Decarbonization of Power
The decarbonization of power requires the greater adoption of renewable and clean energy sources.
Who are the biggest Carbon Emmiters?
The chart below shows the top 10 global emitters of greenhouse gases.
Commitment by the Countries
Of the top ten GHG emitters, only Japan, Canada and the EU have legally binding net zero commitments.
Sweden and Germany have legally binding net zero targets for 2045. France, Denmark, Spain, Hungary and Luxemburg have set theirs for 2050.
Japan, Korea, Canada, and New Zealand have passed laws committing to achieving net zero by 2050 while Ireland, Chile and Fiji have proposed legislation.
The UK has a legally binding net zero target by 2050 and new interim targets to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced at the COP26 world leaders’ summit that the country would meet a target of net zero emissions by 2070.
In October, Russia announced its commitment to net zero by 2060. In the build up to COP26, Boris Johnson, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he hoped Russia will bring forward its target to 2050.
Saudi Arabia has also committed to achieving the target by 2060.
On 10 November, China and the USA issued a joint statement outlining their commitment to tackling the climate crisis and that they would continue to discuss “concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach.”
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