What does net zero mean?
The term Net Zero is getting thrown around a lot nowadays though the actual meaning of the term can be misinterpreted somewhat. Net Zero can mean something different depending on the context and use, but the main definition remains the same or very similar.
In light of our recent addition to the site and net zero targets and goals being set on a daily basis, and if you’ve ever asked yourself ‘what does net zero mean?’ we wanted to create this post to help iron out the true meaning of net zero.
Net Zero explained.
Ever been half way through an article or conversation and thought ‘what is net zero?’, well we don’t think you’d be alone! As simply as can be put, Net Zero is a term that refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. So, when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions added is no more than the amount taken away, the organisation, country or business reaches Net Zero.
As climate change is an ever looming threat, setting and outlining Net Zero transitions are becoming an ever greater priority every day. This is especially so for all organisations in the UK, as the first major economy to announce a Net Zero goal, are automatically bound to reaching Net Zero by 2050.
What Net Zero can mean.
As previously stated, depending on the context, net zero can mean something different for countries or organisations. So there’s not always one straight answer to ‘how does net zero work?’ or ‘what is the meaning of net zero?’.
Net Zero for organisations:
Outlined in the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) the defined requirements for an organisation to reach Net Zero are:
‘To reach a state of net zero emissions for companies implies two conditions:
- To achieve a scale of value-chain emission reductions consistent with the depth of abatement achieved in pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot and;
- To neutralise the impact of any source of residual emissions that remains unfeasible to be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.’
Net Zero for countries:
A reduction in national carbon emissions requires a huge amount of effort for most major economies. While there are some notable exceptions, taking on Net Zero pledges will mean that a country has pledged to reduce their emissions significantly and plan on using methods to take any remaining emissions out of the atmosphere.
Nationwide counting emissions is usually restricted to the country’s geographical location and borders; not usually including interconnectors or exports. For example, the UK has set their 2050 pledge to relate to their territorial or produced emissions.
Net Zero for cities and provinces or counties:
Although much the same as Net Zero for countries, there is no globally recognised meaning for net zero in this context. However, we think that this definition by The Carbon Trust covers what most of what local authorities will be aiming for when making their Net Zero plans and roadmaps:
‘A net-zero city or region will set and pursue an ambitious 1.5°C-aligned science-based target for all emissions sources covered within the BASIC+ reporting level of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC). Any remaining hard-to-decarbonise emissions can be compensated with certified greenhouse gas removal (GGR).’
Why does all this matter?
Defining Net Zero is very important, not only can it help increase public awareness but it can help drive climate action. The next decade will be critical for the future, so the more people setting Net Zero pledges or goals the closer the world comes to keeping the 1.5°C target. With everyone up to date on the current terms and goals the easier it will be to collaborate in helping ways to reduce our carbon emissions and reach Net Zero.
If you have ever asked yourself ‘what does net zero mean?’ we hope this post has helped!