Net Zero Carbon Emission Goals - Seeker's Thoughts

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Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Net Zero Carbon Emission Goals

 Attaining net zero emissions requires overhauling all major energy and land-use systems - from power, industry and building operations, transportation to agriculture and forestry.

Countries can enshrine their net-zero targets into laws or policies to set and monitor long-term goals, create consistent policies that achieve this target and plan for an orderly transition while avoiding expensive carbon intensive infrastructure investments.

1. Invest in Clean Energy

Investment in renewable energy, methane reduction technologies and other low-carbon solutions is one way to reduce emissions while simultaneously creating jobs. The sooner we invest in these industries, the faster we can reach net zero.

Many countries' net zero targets rely on carbon removal (also referred to as negative emissions) as an offset against sectors with limited emissions reduction potential, such as aviation or shipping. As a result, any remaining emissions must be offset through purchasing reductions abroad or using new technology like direct air capture and storage to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

This approach may be divisive as it encourages decision makers to postpone emission cuts within their own borders in favor of purchasing international reductions instead. But in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon removal technologies may need to be deployed much sooner than currently planned.

Companies looking to make credible commitments towards net zero must first achieve long-term emission reduction targets and develop consistent policies, along with engaging stakeholders and customers in this initiative. Furthermore, organizations must also consider scope 3 emissions which originate in their supply chains rather than solely their operations when setting net zero goals.

2. Reduce Methane Emissions

Methane emissions account for 30% of current warming, making methane an especially potent greenhouse gas and contributing to its rapid production. Reducing methane emissions quickly is critical to keeping climate change within safe boundaries and avoiding irreversible tipping points from occurring.

The Global Methane Pledge is an important milestone, but must be followed up with concrete actions and verifiable reductions. Countries will need to align their energy sectors towards net zero emission levels by addressing all major sources of methane emissions - this includes oil and gas operations by eliminating routine venting/flaring operations, repairing leaks and upgrading infrastructure; waste sector through technologies that separate organics for recycling or capture landfill gases for energy production, such as separation or segregating organics for recycling as well as technologies separating organics for recycling/capturing landfill gases as well as curbing emissions from oil/gas operations/storage operations/storage infrastructure upgrades/generation technologies etc.

Accomplishing these goals will bring both public health and economic benefits. In the US, for instance, recently approved Environmental Protection Agency standards will reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations by more than 80 percent below future levels - this will prevent millions of premature deaths due to exposure to ozone pollution as well as billions in lost wages and productivity due to air pollution-induced lost work days.

Transitioning to a low-carbon economy may be costly, but cost-effective methane mitigation measures are available across sectors. Waste sector solutions that can prevent methane losses by recycling organics for recycling or turning them into energy can reduce methane losses with little or no extra expense.

3. Reduce Nitrous Oxides and Fluorinated Gases

Climate science has made one thing abundantly clear: to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be cut in half from current levels compared with CO2. This includes emissions of methane and nitrous oxide - three short-lived gases with an even larger combined impact than CO2.

Reducing short-lived gases is of vital importance as they are produced unavoidably as part of human activities: fossil fuel combustion, intensive agriculture practices, nitrogen fertiliser use and wastewater treatment are among those contributing to these emissions. One effective strategy to do so includes adopting improved technology and changing farming practices while simultaneously decreasing chemical usage across other sectors of the economy.

Numerous countries, including most of the world's major emitters, have already established targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by timescales compatible with Paris climate goals. Others are making swift strides toward net-zero energy goals; more cities and regions are setting net-zero targets quickly. Such local targets will accelerate the roll-out of clean energy solutions while helping establish consistent policies and send strong signals to investors. Countries can take steps to raise ambition by raising ambition levels and meeting Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030 - plans designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - which will enable us to meet global warming limits of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and beyond.

4. Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere

World efforts to reduce carbon pollution have hit an impasse and progress is not fast enough to prevent us from crossing potentially catastrophic warming thresholds. Therefore, in addition to drastic cuts in emissions, cutting-edge carbon capture technologies must also be deployed quickly.

Net zero emissions refers to a state in which every year there must be as many greenhouse gasses removed from the atmosphere than are produced - this balance may be achieved either through reforestation or carbon removal technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which remove emissions directly from the air.

Recent research from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates it will be nearly impossible to keep global temperatures below 2degC without substantial efforts to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while 1.5degC may only be achievable through carbon reduction efforts.

Removing carbon from the atmosphere won't be an easy feat and comes with costs that must be addressed. Economic and structural adjustments required of workers attached to fossil fuel industries could present considerable difficulties; hence, benefits of a net-zero economy must be distributed equitably among its beneficiaries. Businesses taking steps forward with groundbreaking innovations have taken the lead on this challenge; watch our documentary series Future Forward to learn about some of these pioneering businesses who are revolutionizing energy sector with industry-shaping strategies and commitments.

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