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What is Net Zero and how to achieve zero emissions target?

Net Zero refers to a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere and the amount of greenhouse gases removed. The United Nations defines Net Zero as “cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed by the atmosphere, oceans and forests”. In addition to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (one of the main greenhouse gases), reaching Net Zero targets can also be achieved by carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting is a key consideration when setting Net Zero goals and refers to actions carried out by companies or individuals to neutralize their carbon emissions by - for example - buying carbon credits from projects that remove GHG emissions from the atmosphere or taking actions such as planting trees. Another key enabler for reaching zero emissions targets is - of course - electrification, which substitutes power generated by the use of GHG-emitting fossil fuels with clean electricity generated by renewable sources.


Why is Net Zero important?

Reaching Net Zero carbon emissions is important because it is necessary to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid century, which is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sees as the limit needed to prevent serious damage to the planet’s ecosystems and to limit the most disruptive effects of global warming

What does the zero emissions goal by 2050 involve?

The 1.5°C target and the goal of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions was set in 2015 by the Paris Agreement, a legally binding treaty, signed by 196 countries. To limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C, above which climate change threatens to make parts of the planet unlivable, emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach Net Zero by 2050. The world is not currently on track to meet the 1.5°C target.
Electrification: definition and meaning

Electrification: definition and meaning

Electrification is the most efficient way to decarbonize final energy consumption

How many countries have committed to Net Zero?

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Commitments by governments to reach Net Zero fall “far short of what is required,” according to the United Nations. According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that measures government climate action against the Paris Agreement goals - there are around 140 of what we call "Net Zero countries" in the world, that is countries that have announced or are considering Net Zero targets. A UK-based non profit organization, Net Zero tracker, estimated that 139 countries either had passed laws, policy documents, pledges, or had held discussions to achieve Net Zero targets. Of these, only 16 countries and the EU have passed laws enshrining the 2050 Net Zero target.

What is the difference between Net Zero, zero carbon and carbon neutrality?

Net Zero can be achieved by either cutting the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted into the atmosphere or by offsetting them. In contrast to Net Zero, “zero carbon” stands for releasing no carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is only one of several greenhouse gases, and is produced by burning fossil fuels. “Zero carbon” energy is energy procured by a 100% renewable source like wind or solar.
“Carbon-neutral” refers to a process whereby any carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere are balanced by an equivalent amount absorbed from the atmosphere via carbon sinks like forests. Since the term “Net Zero” refers to all greenhouse gases and not just CO₂, it is larger in scale than carbon neutrality.

How to reach Net Zero emissions?

Reaching Net Zero requires businesses and individuals to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit, or else offset their CO₂ emissions. Reducing or removing carbon emissions, or decarbonization, takes place through an energy transition away from fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy sources like wind or solar.

This switch does not take place overnight. For businesses and countries, the journey to achieving Net Zero emissions starts with a long term strategy that involves setting gradual reduction targets. Many countries or businesses decide to partner with an organization specialized in this process that can help achieve these goals, for example Net Zero Advisory.

Reaching Net Zero emissions starts with data collection and monitoring to assess the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and how much is produced. Once a business or a country has a clear picture of its carbon footprint, it can set ambitious but realistic emissions reduction targets, grounded in Net Zero science based targets. These targets allow the creation of a strategic roadmap to achieve their goal of reaching Net Zero emissions.



The process driving the energy transition for a sustainable world

Another important part of the strategy to reach Net Zero emissions is represented by the European Union’s Net Zero Industry Act. Part of the actions announced by the Green Deal Industrial Plan of February 2023, the act aims to establish “a framework of measures for strengthening Europe’s net-zero technology products manufacturing ecosystem”. According to the EU, the global market for key mass-manufactured net-zero technologies is set to triple by 2030 with an annual worth of around EUR 600 billion; the Net Zero Industry Act aims to encourage the development of companies within the EU that can create such technologies, thus both stimulating economic activity and the adoption of home-grown emissions-cutting technologies.


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