How Countries Are Achieving Net Zero Goals
Despite the importance of the net zero goal, there are several challenges facing the goal. For example, how do we assess the net zero commitments of countries? What steps can we take in order to make them credible? Below we'll take a look at the challenges and what countries have already achieved net zero goals.
The financial sector plays a significant role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Many financial institutions have pledged to become net-zero by 2050 and are already undertaking greening activities. However, few have begun measuring the emissions of their portfolios. This is a complex challenge, which is exacerbated by the lack of a global data framework, standard, and database.
A comprehensive approach is required to reduce emissions. The transition to net zero will take different paths in different countries. Different priorities and political buy-in will determine the dominant narrative of the transition. However, the concept of net zero needs to be grounded in the principles of sustainable development and equity. If these principles are adhered to, then it will be possible to create a low-carbon future with the lowest net emissions possible.
Creating a low-carbon economy will require a variety of innovative business practices and infrastructure changes. Moreover, many businesses will need support to achieve net zero. For example, small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent 99.9% of the business population in the UK, will need to be encouraged to implement low-carbon policies.
Countries with net zero goals
Despite the growing urgency of meeting climate change targets, countries are still not setting clear goals for net zero emissions. The lack of a universal framework for offsetting carbon emissions is part of the reason. While a number of national governments have set ambitious targets, there is no clear consensus on how to set them.
While net zero goals are often considered unrealistic due to the lack of progress, more governments are moving towards them. Recent court rulings have caused governments to step up their climate ambition. For example, the European Union has imposed sanctions on Russia and is now actively pursuing its policy of replacing Russian coal with renewable energy. Similarly, in Asia, countries like China and Vietnam are moving ahead quickly to transform their energy systems.
In Sweden, for example, the country pledged to become carbon neutral by 2045. This timeline was the first to be set in legislation. Sweden plans to cut emissions by 85% from 1990 levels, while the remaining 15% will be eliminated through investments in pollution reduction projects. Sweden has also spent the past several years decarbonising its energy sector, implementing a carbon tax to encourage the shift away from fossil fuels.
Countries with significant forest cover
In order to achieve Net Zero, countries must protect large areas of forest. These efforts can take different forms. For instance, some countries are developing 'jurisdictional/landscape' approaches to reduce deforestation. These approaches seek to protect large areas of forest by bringing various stakeholders together. These approaches scale up conservation programmes to cover the entire country and maximize benefits from carbon sequestration and ecosystem services.
The implementation of national net zero goals is critical in meeting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement stipulates that countries must balance anthropogenic emissions from sources with removals from sinks by the second half of the century. This means that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases must reach net zero by 2050. By 2070, the carbon dioxide emissions in countries with large forest cover should be negative.
Most countries set their net zero goals for 2050. This long-term objective should guide near-term actions today. For example, it can help avoid building carbon-intensive infrastructure or using non-resilient technologies. By investing in green infrastructure, designing consistent policies and sending clear signals to the private sector, countries can reduce costs and achieve net zero.
Steps to achieving net zero
The first step in achieving net zero goals is to establish a comprehensive baseline for all of your value chain's GHG emissions. Then, set your net zero targets based on this baseline. Because Scope 3 emissions often represent the largest portion of your total emissions, defining your baseline is crucial for setting your net zero targets.
The second step in achieving net zero goals is to set ambitious targets. Many countries are aiming to become net-zero by 2050. While this sounds ideal, some critics point out that such targets can allow decision-makers to avoid emission cuts in the short-term. To address this concern, decision-makers can establish ambitious, long-term gross reduction targets alongside net reduction targets. Alternatively, countries can choose to purchase emissions reductions from other countries.
Ultimately, scaling the deployment of low-carbon technologies will be critical. The aim is to create an environment where these technologies can continuously improve. This will help the economy to remain competitive and grow. The scale of such projects will depend on existing capacities, costs, and the ease of scaling up.