The world is starting to look towards a vital global goal: Net Zero. According to science it is essential that we meet this target by 2050 if we are to give ourselves a chance of limiting global warming and avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
To reach this goal, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% globally every year between 2020 and 2030. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is estimated that emissions could fall between 4-7% in 2020. The tragic circumstances of this reduction put into stark relief the scale of change required.
However, we must remain focused as the window of opportunity it still open. It is possible to achieve our target and make our businesses more resilient to future crises in the process. If the current crisis has given us anything, it is an opportunity to reassess our ways of working and proof that collective action in the face of unprecedented challenge is possible.
But what does Net Zero really mean for an organisation and what does a robust and successful strategy for reaching Net Zero look like?
What does Net Zero mean?
The challenge with Net Zero has been the absence of an internationally recognised definition as well as any universal guidelines on how to achieve it.
Having said this, climate experts have been working with terms like “net zero” and “carbon neutrality” for some time and there is some consensus. Put simply, Net Zero is a state where we add no incremental greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This means emissions output is balanced with removal (or sequestration) of carbon from the atmosphere via carbon sinks (e.g forests, mangroves, carbon capture and storage, etc).
Perhaps the most important part of Net Zero, however, is that it requires significant emissions reductions. We must reduce emissions output to as close to zero possible. Then what is left should be removed to achieve Net Zero.
Therefore, Net Zero means more than balancing carbon. What it really means is transformational change.
What does a robust Net Zero strategy look like?
No two journeys to Net Zero will be the same, but a robust strategy for action will be essential to making a strong and credible commitment and to make it possible to achieve the transformational change required. Here are some important things to consider.
A Net Zero ambition must be aligned to the wider business strategy and stakeholder priorities. It should also be informed by an understanding of the risks and opportunities posed to your organisation by climate change.
It should be championed by Senior Management. It will be impossible to achieve the change required without full buy-in from your C-Suite.
Any climate target should be underpinned by robust systems for data collection, monitoring and reporting. Without this, your ability to credibly report your emissions, your target and manage the increasing demands for transparency will be severely challenged.
Net Zero also requires a science-based target for emissions reduction. This is to ensure that emissions are being reduced in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees as per scientific consensus on avoiding the most catastrophic climate impacts.
An effective strategy will also need a considered emissions reduction action plan, taking into account projected business growth, all planned and potential reduction initiatives, as well as an understanding of the financial investment required to activate change in your organisation.
It must also have a credible strategy for offsetting emissions. Make sure all projects are certified by internationally recognised standards and that you are using a reputable and experienced supplier. The projects you choose should also do more than benefit your organisation from a carbon perspective, but have a positive social and environmental impact on the communities in which they operate.
Act now for Net Zero
There is no time to lose in starting your journey to Net Zero. The more of us that do, the more we can start to collectively activate change and make our urgent global goal achievable.
Earlier this year, EcoAct launched its A to Zero programme. This modular programme has been designed to support organisations in navigating the challenges of Net Zero. It sets out a robust pathway for corporate climate action that will help a company to activate the transformational change required for Net Zero and beyond, support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to build a more resilient future.