What is Net Zero?

What is Net Zero?

From countries and companies to individuals, tackling climate change is at the top of the agenda, and one way we can help to do this is to reach net zero. But what does net zero really mean, and how can it help us in the fight against climate change?

Put simply, net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, scientists and world leaders recognised that warming of the earth must be limited to well below a 2°C increase and ideally not more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

In order to limit this, a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2, will be required within the next few decades.

That’s where net zero comes in; by achieving it, we’ll be helping to significantly reduce the amount of harmful emissions that contribute to global warming.

At the next climate summit just last year in Glasgow, world leaders recognised that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is essential and the key to keeping temperatures to 1.5°C of warming, and most countries involved pledged to pursue this limit.

Educational content written by Carys Burton 

Net Zero vs. Carbon Neutral

As the conversation around climate change grows louder, we’ve had to become familiar with the language used to describe what it all means.

The phrases ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’ are often used interchangeably by the politicians, businesses, and experts driving the climate conversation.

While both have the same result – removing harmful emissions from the earth’s atmosphere – the scale and kind of emissions removed are different.

For example, businesses will often speak about coming carbon neutral.

This means that they’re taking steps to remove the equivalent amount of CO2 to what’s emitted through activities across their supply chains, by investing in ‘carbon sinks’ that absorb CO2.

Carbon sinks, such as forests or our oceans, absorb and store more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit.

Investment into their health is called ‘offsetting’ and allows companies to operate in good conscience, knowing their emissions are balanced out.

Net zero is similar in principle to carbon neutrality but is expanded in scale.

To achieve net zero means to go beyond the removal of just carbon emissions.

Net zero refers to all greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, such as methane, nitrous oxide and other harmful elements (hydrofluorocarbons).

As with carbon neutrality, the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere must be equivalent to the greenhouse gases being removed from the atmosphere to reach net zero.

How Will We Achieve Net Zero?

The Paris Agreement established a process for all countries to set out their plans to reduce emissions.

These are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in which many governments have set a target for achieving net zero and begun to lay out plans to get there.

Governments are also setting incremental targets and measures for businesses in the public and private sectors to adhere to.

There are increasing expectations from shareholders that companies have such targets and plans in place.

Disclosing this information is expected to become mandatory for UK-based businesses in 2023, as legislation and guidance on climate transition plans develop.

However, it’s not just governments and businesses that can strive for net zero – we can all make contributions as individuals.

Making more sustainable lifestyle choices can help reduce each of our carbon footprints and limit our overall environmental impact.

This could mean using public transport over a personal vehicle, limiting food waste, recycling packaging and old clothes, or saving energy at home.

There are thousands of ways we can begin to make more sustainable choices that work better for both us and the planet, and at Play it Green, we are passionate about helping you take that journey step by step.

Whether as a business or as an individual, our unique 3-step solution of Reduce, Repair, and Regive can help you reach that net-zero goal with support and a community all taking part in the same journey.

Just one step...

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