February 27, 2024


What Is Net Zero? Answering the Questions About Achieving It

What Is Net Zero? Answering the Questions About Achieving It

Net zero is the target of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) produced by human activities, which is accomplished by decreasing global emissions and abating them from the atmosphere. This is also defined as net zero carbon which makes a balance in the atmosphere.

The global scientific community agrees that to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change, we must reduce worldwide net human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 45 percent from their 2010 levels by the year 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by around 2050. Since the extent of global warming is directly linked to the total amount of CO2 emissions, the Earth will continue to warm as long as emissions exceed zero. Consequently, as emissions persist, the adverse effects of climate change, driven by global warming, will continue to intensify.

If your company is aiming for carbon neutrality which is the avoidance of increasing carbon dioxide and making further reductions with carbon offsets, then this article will help you understand what "net zero emissions" means.

In this article, we'll define net zero and break down some of the associated terms and frequently asked questions.

What are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming and climate change. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

pie chart of greenhouse gas emissions globally

What are net zero emissions?

Net zero emissions is the goal of reaching a balance between all sources of GHG emissions and removal. This means that all global emissions are either avoided or offset with activities that remove GHGs from the atmosphere, such as reforestation and carbon capture.

What does net zero have to do with limiting global warming?

Net zero emissions is essential for reducing global warming. The current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing a rise in average global temperatures. To prevent Earth's temperature rising above 2C in line with the Paris Agreement, GHG emissions must be reduced to net zero. Reaching net zero emissions is a major challenge but one that must be met if we are to mitigate climate change and its associated impacts.

Is net zero carbon emissions possible?

To be able to achieve net zero carbon emissions or net zero global emissions, we will have to remove carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. The longer that it lingers, the harder it's going to be to limit a global temperature rise.

If emissions peak sooner, it will be easier to remove them from the atmosphere after the goal is achieved. It's important for your company to calculate your carbon footprint and how you can better align with The Paris Agreement now.

Does net zero emissions mean no emissions?

No, net zero emissions do not mean that you produce no emissions. It means that your company or country is balancing their carbon footprint by offsetting whatever is left over from reducing and abating GHGs. That can be done through renewable energy changes, forest planting initiatives, and other green technologies. With the right strategy and collaboration of countries, net zero GHG emissions by the end of this century are achievable.  

Net zero targets are an important step to take to start tackling climate change and reach the goals of The Paris Agreement. Companies need to understand what net zero means, as well as take advantage of the opportunities to reduce their emissions considerably to meet global targets. If every nation, city and company take this seriously, we can make a real difference and start creating a better future for us all.

What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?

Gross zero emissions is the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere that would need to be fully offset or eliminated in order to reach net zero. Net zero refers to overall emissions including those that are offset through various means such as carbon offsets and renewable energy. In order for a company or nation to be considered net zero, their emissions must equal the amount of carbon they are removing from the atmosphere through various means.

What is the difference between net zero and carbon neutral?

Carbon neutral is the goal of reducing GHG emissions to zero, but does not account for any additional carbon removal activities. Net zero takes into account additional activities such as carbon offsets and renewable energy that help to balance the amount of GHG emissions released with those removed from the atmosphere, resulting in a net zero balance of emissions.

Why is net zero greenhouse gas emissions important?

Reaching net zero emissions will require major changes in the way we produce and use energy, the way we transport people and goods, and the way we use land and manage our forests. For businesses, transitioning to net zero also means deep business transformation. Getting to net zero will require the collaboration of countries (especially top 5 emitters), cities and companies to ensure that everyone is playing their part in reducing GHGs and decarbonising the world economy.

What is the net zero target?

A net zero target is a commitment to reducing global emissions to net zero, meaning that all emissions are either avoided or offset with activities that remove GHGs from the atmosphere. It is an ambitious goal that requires businesses, governments and citizens to work together in order to cut emissions and make changes to the way we produce, use, and consume energy. By making these changes, it is possible to achieve net zero by 2050.

Ultimately, achieving a net zero target will require global collaboration, as well as a shift in the way we produce and use energy. An ultimate net zero emissions goal can be reached with genuine net zero pledges, transparent net zero commitments, right strategies and policies. By working together to reach this target, we will be able to limit warming and mitigate its associated impacts.

Recommended reading

If you would like to find out more about net zero carbon, please check out our blog and free downloadable resources:

• Article:
Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero: What's the Difference?
• Article: Top Countries in the Race to Net Zero Emissions
• Article: How Are Carbon Emissions Measured?
• Article:
What Are Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions?
• Infographics: Three Scopes of Emissions

Net zero targets for businesses

Businesses and corporations are also setting their own net-zero targets. They understand that cutting emissions to net zero will help them make cost savings, boost their reputation through improved sustainability credentials, and benefit from a range of other advantages.

To help businesses reach net zero, there are initiatives such as the Science Based Targets initiative that provide advice and guidance on setting achievable targets to reduce carbon emissions. Businesses can also collaborate with governments to achieve net zero faster and more efficiently.

Ultimately, businesses play a key role in tackling global warming and achieving net zero emissions. By setting stronger targets and committing to ambitious strategies, they can help create a sustainable future for us all.

Net0 works both with large businesses, public companies and governments to accelerate the transition to net zero and decarbonise the economy. Net0 carbon management platform enables businesses to accurately measure all scopes of emissions, set realistic targets and use predictive technology tools to plan emissions reduction strategies, and disclose their carbon footprint following government regulations.

What does "net zero emissions by 2030 or 2050" mean?

An objective that some companies are looking toward is achieving net zero emissions by 2030, while most nations have made pledges to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Another 2030 commitment that we are hearing about is companies that have a target set to halve their emissions by 2030 and eliminate them in the following decade.

WRI global timeline to reach net zero emissions
Image source: World Resources Institute

What countries have set net zero targets?

According to the United Nations, ". More than 140 countries, including the biggest polluters – China, the United States, India and the European Union – have set a net-zero target, covering about 88% of global emissions. More than 9,000 companies, over 1000 cities, more than 1000 educational institutions, and over 600 financial institutions have joined the Race to Zero, pledging to take rigorous, immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030."

How many countries have reached net zero emissions?

Suriname and Bhutan currently have negative emissions which means they absorb more CO2 than they produce due to being mostly forested, small countries. They prefer more natural lifestyles without highly-developed infrastructures.

How do we get to net zero emissions?

Individuals, businesses, and entire nations can all accomplish net zero together. Getting ahead of policies now will make it easier to adjust once they are in place and since so many nations have signed the agreement to fight climate change, the laws will be coming. Taking action step-by-step is the key. Collectively:

  • Each nation would have to have 70-85% renewable energy sources for energy by 2050
  • Change what kind of fuel is being used for transportation
  • Increase the use of clean public transportation
  • Switch to eco-friendly vehicles with electric and natural gas
  • Start building green buildings going forward
  • Start retrofitting older buildings using green technologies
  • Increase energy efficiency in buildings and households
  • Increase the use of carbon capture and storage technology
  • Create incentives for companies to cut emissions
  • Increase biofuel production and use
  • Protect forests, create protected areas and restore degraded lands.

These are only some of the steps that nations and businesses can take to reduce emissions and reach net zero.

Over 110 countries have already begun implementing their strategies. The most important aspects have been those of energy, buildings which account for approximately 40% of all carbon emissions, and transportation solutions.

How can businesses achieve net zero targets?

Step 1: Measure emissions

The initial step for any business when it comes to carbon management is measuring carbon emissions. This involves using a carbon management platform to accurately calculate the Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions associated with your organisation.

Net zero does include scope 3 according to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) although a state of carbon neutrality that is recognised by most regions (PAS2060) only covers scopes 1 and 2, with 3 being optional.

In addition, measuring Scope 4 emissions might be useful when choosing carbon reduction strategies and reevaluating your supply chain processes and network.

Net0 automates carbon accounting by using artificial intelligence tools and offering full API access and more than 10,000 integrations available off the shelf. Net0 software solution also tends to be a lot more accurate than other platforms out there as Net0 enables businesses to choose the right methodology, always prioritising activity-based data over spent-based data where possible.

Net0 carbon emissions management platform dashboard

Step 2: Reduce emissions

Once GHGs are accurately measured, recorded and can be analysed by scopes or by activities, businesses can start planning to reduce emissions. The emissions reduction process is not all straightforward and requires collective input from both internal teams and external suppliers and stakeholders.

Net0 offers tools like several powerful tools to help businesses with carbon reduction.

Some of them include:

  • Carbon and financial simulators that enable businesses to understand what kind of impact their decisions would make on their carbon profile enabling companies to move forward with the most cost-effective strategies for them;
  • Action cards to involve team members and check the progress of the tasks linked to strategies;
  • Vendor outreach programmes that enable businesses to communicate with suppliers at scale and in a transparent manner;
  • Public dashboards to communicate the efforts and the progress on the way to net zero to investors, stakeholders, media and others, and more...

Sustainably cutting emissions often requires businesses to undergo a transformation, commit time and resources, and plan carefully.

Net0 platform reduction simulations

Step 3: Offset unavoidable emissions

Offsetting emissions is not the preferred option and many businesses are doing their best to get away from that strategy. In some cases, however, it is necessary to offset your unavoidable carbon footprint.  

Net0 offers businesses access to carbon reduction projects that are verified and certified, enabling them to get the most out of their money.  The variety of 140 offset projects available includes but is not limited to renewables, forestry or soil management, carbon removal projects, direct air capture, and more.

Here at Net0, we not only encourage businesses to prioritise carbon reduction over offsetting but make it possible for them to do so.

Carbon offset projects on Net0

Step 4: Report emissions

Carbon reporting is a necessary stage of any carbon management process.

Net0 carbon management platform offers access to a comprehensive range of reporting and dashboard tools for businesses to easily report their emissions data. In addition, Net0 supports all greenhouse gas protocols such as The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, ISO 14064-1 and -2, PAS 2060, and more.

These can be used to create ESG and sustainability reports, and greenhouse gas inventory reports for internal use or for external stakeholders.

Net0 also offers a fully automated, real-time carbon reporting solution to internal teams or investors, who can access the data at any time. Net0 also guarantees that their clients are always compliant with industry regulations by following the Net0 platform's recommendations without needing to always keep an eye on updates.

Net0 Analytics Dashboard

Step 5: Get a certificate to communicate net zero efforts

The best way to communicate a company’s efforts and progress towards achieving net zero GHGs is by getting a Net Zero certificate. The certificate can be displayed on the website, and products or simply be included in reports. Net0's certification demonstrates a company's dedication to reducing carbon emissions. We not only recommend using the certificates but also sharing the public dashboard that tracks progress via scopes of emissions and activities.

Businesses can stay within their carbon footprint target yearly by implementing effective and realistic strategies that measure, reduce, and offset emissions. Achieving net zero target for your company will be much simpler and more realistic once you start using Net0's all-in-one dashboard to track your company's complete carbon footprint.

For a more comprehensive list of activities and their details, please see our full article on how companies can achieve net zero.

Net0 Carbon Offset Certificate

Strategies businesses can implement to get to net zero:

  • Increasing energy efficiency throughout the organisation by using LED lighting, updating appliances and HVAC systems, and switching to renewable sources
  • Reducing reliance on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy sources for power generation
  • Offsetting carbon emissions through purchasing carbon credits or supporting reforestation projects
  • Investing in green technology and transportation options to reduce emissions from transport
  • Incorporating sustainable business practices such as recycling or composting
  • Educating employees on sustainability initiatives and creating awareness about climate change
  • Choosing the right suppliers who are transparent about their carbon footprint and working hard on reducing their emissions.

Businesses have the potential to be leaders in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. By following these steps, organisations can contribute significantly to global efforts towards achieving net zero targets. With the right action plan, businesses can help make a difference in slowing down climate change and achieving net zero.

mans hand holding wooden blocks that say net zero on a blue backround
Net0 Checklists

Explore our extensive list of Net0 checklists, designed to assist businesses in effectively implementing sustainable practices across various departments and operations.

Carbon Emissions Inventory Checklist
Carbon Emissions Reduction Checklist
Supply Chain Emissions Checklist
Partnerships and Collaborations Checklist
Carbon Emissions Mitigation Strategies Checklist
Communicating Your Efforts While Transitioning to Net Zero
Employee Travel Emissions Checklist
Employee Education and Engagement Checklist

Frequently asked questions by businesses that set net zero targets

Q: How do I calculate my greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Carbon reporting is an important step when planning to set and get to net zero emissions. Carbon reporting requires accurate greenhouse gas inventory and tracking systems to measure, monitor, and report on the greenhouse gases emitted by an organisation. Net0 offers comprehensive carbon reporting solutions to help businesses measure and report on their greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: How can I offset my greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Offsetting greenhouse gas emissions involves buying carbon credits, which is essentially an investment into projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or remove them from the atmosphere. Net0 helps businesses to offset their greenhouse gas emissions effectively by recommending them carbon credits from verified projects. The carbon credits can be purchased at the click of a button directly on the platform and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today.

Q: How can I stay within my carbon footprint target?

A: Companies can stay within their carbon footprint target yearly by implementing effective and realistic strategies that measure, reduce, and offset emissions. Net0 provides an all-in-one dashboard to track an organisation's carbon footprint. We also offer greenhouse gas reduction strategies tailored to each company's industry, size and goals and we love involving the team by encouraging businesses to set transparent goals, share responsibilities and use action cards to track the progress internally.

Q: How can we go about setting net zero targets?

A: Setting net zero targets requires a comprehensive understanding of greenhouse gas emissions and the scope of activities that affect them. Companies should conduct an in-depth carbon audit to identify their greenhouse gas emissions sources and calculate their total carbon footprint. Net0 provides an all-in-one greenhouse gas inventory to measure, track and monitor greenhouse gas emissions and develop comprehensive net-zero targets. Our platform also provides tools to set goals, track progress and share insights with stakeholders.

Q: What are the benefits of getting a net zero certificate?

A: Getting a net zero certificate from Net0 helps businesses to communicate their efforts and progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving net zero. It also serves as an assurance to customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders that your organisation is committed to sustainability. Additionally, it provides recognition for your efforts and helps build your brand’s reputation as an eco-friendly business.

How can Net0 help your business to set and achieve net zero goals?

If you're uncertain about the next step for your company, look no further – Net0 offers the most effective solution on the market to guide your progress. Knowing how to measure your carbon footprint will allow you to make actionable plans going forward.

Net0 offers a carbon management platform that can help businesses accurately measure their emissions and set achievable climate goals. The platform provides predictive technology tools to plan emission reduction strategies and track progress towards net zero targets. It also helps businesses to disclose their carbon footprint in compliance with regulatory requirements.

smoldering leaf turning into a green leaf in someone's hand

Related climate change terms and definitions to know

  • Absolute zero or zero emissions -  zero GHGs were emitted.
  • Anthropogenic emissions - 02, methane and nitrous oxide are the main GHGs emitted by humans CERs (Certified Emission Reductions) - a certificate that credits one tonne of GHG removal from the atmosphere.
  • Climate-neutral - when your organisation's activities do not affect climate change.
  • GHG neutral - any of your organisation's activities that resulted in GHG emissions have been removed from the atmosphere with offsets.
  • Climate positive or net negative - absorbing more CO2 than you emit.
  • Carbon negative - offsetting more CO2 tonnage than you emit.
  • Carbon removal - capturing CO2 from the atmosphere through direct air capture technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) or from nature (e.g., forestry, wetland restoration). Carbon removal technologies are considered essential for achieving net zero emissions and limiting temperature rise to below 2.5 degrees Celsius. Carbon removal is distinct from carbon offsets, which involve reducing emissions from a different source than the one emitting them.
  • 1.5C aligned - achieving targets that are in agreement with keeping global warming under an increase of 1.5C past pre-industrial levels.
  • Science-based or Paris-aligned - follows guidelines that global warming shouldn't exceed 2C past pre-industrial temperatures.
  • Offsetting - using carbon credits to pay for/contribute to global projects like wind energy or reforestation, so that the GHG tonnage you have to emit will be captured and removed from the atmosphere.
  • Insetting - when an organisation offsets its emissions through a carbon offset project within its value chain.
  • Neutralisation - this goes beyond net zero and removes GHGs outside the reporting company's emissions, even outside of its value chain to mitigate carbon emissions. This is more robust and has to be done if residual emissions last longer than the reporting year.
  • Compensation - avoiding or reducing emissions outside of an entity's inventory.
  • Like for like - when a source of emissions and the emissions sink cancel each other out.
  • GHG reductions - avoiding GHG emissions.
  • GHG removals - offsetting GHG emissions.
  • Paris Agreement - The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that focuses on reducing global greenhouse gas emission levels. It sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
  • Net zero by 2050 - an international goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the 2050 year. It means that no net emissions will be released into the atmosphere so that global temperatures can remain at safe levels and climate change can be prevented. The net zero goal applies to all sectors of the economy, including transport, energy, industry, and agriculture. It requires reducing emissions as much as possible and offsetting those that cannot be avoided. It also involves transitioning to renewable energy sources and investing in carbon removal technologies like reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, and direct air capture.
  • Net zero commitments -  They are commitments by companies, cities, countries, and other organisations to reduce their emissions as much as possible and offset the remaining emissions to reach net zero.
  • Reaching net zero - Reaching net zero requires reducing emissions as much as possible, for example through energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources, and decarbonisation of industries.
  • For all the carbon management terms, check out our Glossary.

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    With Net0, your company will be able to make choices that help the environment. Our platform is designed to support executives, sustainability managers, and operations teams in making informed decisions. We make it easy for you to set targets and achieve them with analytics and a simulator tool. By working collaboratively, you can drive positive change throughout your organization.

    Book a free demo today to talk to an expert and see how it works.

    Written by:

    Sofia Fominova

    As a Co-Founder of Net0, Sofia applies her experience in environmental software to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality. She is an accomplished tech entrepreneur recognized for her expertise in B2B software and contributions to the field of Artificial Intelligence.
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