The world is starting to look towards a vital global goal: net-zero. According to climate 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. The IPCC’s latest report on Mitigation of Climate Change claims emissions must peak by 2025 to limit global warming and reduce by 43% by 2030, if we are to reach net-zero by 2050.
We must remain focused while the window of opportunity to achieve net-zero it still open. It is possible to achieve our target and make our businesses more resilient. The Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to reassess our ways of working and gave proof that collective action in the face of unprecedented challenge is possible.
Since 2020, a huge number of net-zero targets have been announced as part of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. As we look ahead to COP27 and the growing need for climate action, 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. That was until the Science Based Target initiative launched the new Net Zero Standard in October 2021. This new standard provides businesses with a clear blueprint on how to achieve net-zero and the requirement to set near- and long-term emissions reduction targets to achieve this.
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. In line with the new Net Zero Standard, businesses are required to reduce emissions by 90-95% by 2050. The remaining 5-10% should then be removed through carbon offsetting projects 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 science-based targets should be aligned to a 1.5C degree trajectory as per scientific consensus and in line with the Net Zero Standard to avoid 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. 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.
EcoAct’s A to Zero programme is a modular programme that 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.