Net Zero target has started to flash in the sustainability agenda of nearly every company. They have begun to set short-term and long-term targets to achieve net zero by 2050 and keep global temperature below 1.5 degree C. The recent reports during the COP26 conference have warned about the upcoming crises and have suggested an accelerated decrease in the emission in order to curb climate change. According to the report, the GHG emission must be halved by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. But what exactly are Net Zero Emissions and how can it be achieved?
Achieving ‘Net Zero’ means bringing a balance between the excess carbon that is emitted due to human activities and its equivalent that is sequestered by the atmosphere. The countries around the world agreed to the same by signing the Paris Agreement. There are two possible ways in order to achieve net zero:
Reducing at the source: Reducing the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission at the source before it even gets into the atmosphere is the key and impactful solution. This is done by zooming in into the contributors of greenhouse gas emissions like electricity production, industry, food, agriculture and land use, transportation, etc.
Supporting the sinks: The sinks work by absorbing the emitted carbon from the atmosphere and utilizing it for their daily requirements like photosynthesis or storing it underground. On one hand, nature’s carbon cycles are like forests and oceans absorb the emissions mainly in the form of CO2. On the other hand, some man-made sinks like Direct Air Capture and Storage (DAC+S) capture CO2 directly from air and store it permanently underground in the form of rocks.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
Under the Paris Agreement, countries around the world have pledged to cut their emissions in order to maintain the global average temperature below 2 degree C, ideally below 1.5 degree C. But with the current mercury level reaching 1.1 degree C, the climate impacts like cyclones, droughts, melting of ice and heat waves are becoming evident.
Figure 1: Timeline showing the global net-zero emission achievement duration (Source)
With the clock ticking with the on-ground climatic reality that humanity is facing, it is becoming much more important to start working to capture the excess carbon and lower the global temperature.
Figure 2 shows a reduction in the GHG emission in the year 2020 due to the COVID lockdown which minimized the activities which use fossil based energy sources. But the report estimates that total worldwide GHG emissions are expected to be lower than the reduction in fossil CO2 emissions. The steep increase in the GHG level in the atmosphere needs to be slowed down and stabilized. Then work towards rapid and deep reductions in emissions towards carbon-negative.
How can Net-Zero emissions be achieved?
Achieving net-zero targets entails reducing carbon emissions to near zero in all sectors and domains, with positive emissions offset by negative emissions or carbon dioxide (CO2) removal. The government, corporates, academia, and policy-makers around the world have set climate mitigation targets. But apart from setting targets, certain other points need to be considered.
Avoiding Net-zero greenwashing: Corporates still follow science based techniques to set targets and measure their emissions. But due to lack of data and failure to choose the best framework, these models look impactful on paper but less on ground. This tends to misguide the stakeholders involved in the process.
Aiming for efficiency: Improving efficiency is one of the fine ways to reduce emissions. This can be achieved by minimizing the material level wastage, fuel wastage and energy wastage.
Switching to low carbon alternatives: Low carbon alternatives such as renewable energy, regenerative farming, public transportation, etc. can help minimize the carbon footprint.
In conclusion, with numerous sources of emissions in different geographics and domains, the solutions to achieve the targets need to be diverse in nature. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has listed three pillars on which achieving net-zero depends, these include upscaling net-zero technology, bringing better policy and creating a demand.
How to measure your impact?
The transition to net-zero has to happen in a financially sustainable but also ecologically and socially responsible manner. Measuring the emission reduction and net zero targets along with sustainability reporting needs holistic solutions that are able to integrate systems and processes for data management and impact assessment. In order to achieve it, having the best ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) Data Management Software is crucial for your company’s sustainability and compliance efforts. At Oren, we aim to make sustainability simple and accessible to all businesses. Our ESG data management software, Prism enables you to regularly analyze the emission data and incorporate it in your ESG reports. These also can be used to craft appropriate strategies for growth and success for your company. The software will be developed and customized to match the needs of your company. Lead the way towards net-zero by working collaboratively with Oren.