It’s easy to get tied in knots with sustainability jargon and greenwash. Navigating your way through the many standards, frameworks, and targets can be tough. The purpose of this article is to clarify the different definitions around decarbonisation and look at whether a new corporate standard for net zero could help matters.
In June 2019, the UK government amended the Climate Change Act from 80% to 100% GHG reduced emissions – or ‘net zero’ – by 2050. In the same year, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal as the strategy through which to achieve EU ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050.
The terms “net zero” and “climate neutral” are part of the lexicon of global climate change terms. Though they are sometimes used interchangeably, they have different definitions. Understanding the nuances is important.
Certainly, offsetting alone is an approach which is holding less and less credibility with investors and customers, but for some ‘net zero’ is also in the cross hairs. According to Oxford economist Kate Raworth, it is in danger of becoming “just another piece of jargon” as many firms continue to operate based on linear, extractive business models. She calls for companies to go past zero into an era of sequestration where we are drawing down far more carbon than the world is emitting. However let’s not run before we can walk.
Net zero carbon commitments always involve emission reductions. This requires an initial carbon footprint measurement. This is followed by strategic GHG emission reduction initiatives, the implementation of renewable energy solutions and then carbon offsetting.
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