April 29, 2022

What is Net Zero?

What is Net Zero?
Contents

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

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

We'll show you what net zero emissions are and clarify some of the terms relative to net zero.

What does "net zero greenhouse gas emissions'' mean?

There are also 5 other GHGs: methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) that need to get to net zero by the end of the century besides CO2 emissions. Each nation has to do its part differently depending on its emissions. Like methane for example, which New Zealand plans on combating completely after net zero carbon emissions are accomplished, due to their high agriculture sector. If net zero carbon emissions are achieved sooner, the rest of the GHG emissions can be removed from the atmosphere earlier and that will get us globally closer to our goals by 2070 instead of 2100. If net zero CO2 emissions are achieved by 2050 with 1.5C warming, we can achieve other GHG emissions at net zero by 2063-2068. If they aim for 2C warming by 2070, we will face net zero GHG emissions by the end of the century.

Are net zero emissions possible?

To be able to achieve net zero carbon emissions or net zero greenhouse gas emissions, we will have to remove the emissions that are already in the atmosphere. The longer that they linger, the harder it's going to be to limit global warming to 1.5C which is already causing climate disasters. 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 be aware of your carbon footprint and how you can better align with The Paris Agreement now.

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

First, it is becoming the norm as more nations make commitments, that 2050 is agreed upon by most countries to get to net zero. Many nations want to peak their emissions this decade but some higher emitters like China, are planning to peak in the future although their proper numbers haven't been released. 

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

How to achieve 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

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. 

What countries have net zero targets?

As of February 2nd, 2022, 13 countries and the European Union, have set actual laws (not just legislative proposals) to become net zero in time: 

By 2045: Germany, Sweden, Portugal.

By 2050: United Kingdom, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Hungary, Japan, S. Korea, Canada, Spain, Ireland, and the EU as a whole.

There are additional countries that propose earlier net zero targets such as 2030 or 2035 but the laws have not yet been set. Of course, there are countries planning later targets like 2060 as well. 

Related content

If you would like to find out more about net zero carbon, how to achieve it, and it's terms, please read our following resources:

• Article:
Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero: What's the Difference?
• Article: Glossary of Climate Change Terms
• Article:
Carbon Neutrality: What Does Carbon Neutral Mean?

Related terms and definitions

  • Absolute zero or zero emissions - zero GHGs were emitted.
  • Climate neutral - when your organization's activities have no effect on climate change. 
  • GHG neutral - any of your organization's activities that resulted in GHG emissions have been removed from the atmosphere with offsets
  • Carbon neutral - any of your organization's activities that resulted in CO2 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.
  • 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 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 emit will be captured and removed from the atmosphere. Moreover, this system enables the world to fund the projects that will give us alternatives and provide a carbon neutral lifestyle, that wouldn't have gotten funded as sufficiently had it not been for offsetting projects. It's a win-win to offsetting unavoidable emissions every year along with targets that decrease your annual rate of emissions, not an empowerment to emitting more. 
  • Insetting - when an organization offsets its emissions through a carbon offset project within its value chain.
  • Neutralization - this goes beyond net zero and removes GHGs outside the reporting company's emissions, even outside of its value chain to mitigate 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.

Final takeaways

If you are wondering what the next step should be in your company, Net0 can help. Knowing how to measure your carbon footprint will allow you to make actionable plans going forward. 

Net0 is an emissions management software that can help measure your carbon emissions data in real-time to calculate your company's carbon footprint precisely on our easy-to-use, cloud-based dashboard. Now it's simple to form a strategy knowing accurately the emissions that you can control and need to cut back on with investor-grade reporting compatible with your local regulatory requirements. You can also offset your unavoidable emissions by choosing from our 140+ verified projects. Net0 will empower your company and partners to make more environmentally-conscious decisions that benefit the community around you as well as the world while following government standards that are coming into play.

We make it easy for you to set targets and achieve them with analytics and a simulator tool. Book a free demo today to talk to an expert and see how it works.

FAQs

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

Net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.

  1. 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. 

  1. What is the difference between net zero and carbon neutral?

Net zero is negating GHG emissions and removing them from the atmosphere while making reductions, while carbon neutral is avoiding increasing emissions while removing what's in the atmosphere to achieve balance. 

  1. Does net zero include scope 3?

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

  1. How can companies achieve net zero emissions?

By measuring, reducing, offsetting, and creating realistic and vigorous strategies to stay under your targets every year and decrease them annually in your organization. Once you see your complete carbon footprint on Net0's all-in-one dashboard and take the aforementioned steps, achieving net zero will be a much simpler and more realistic goal for your organization. 

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

Cover photo by: Chelsea on Unsplash

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FAQ

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

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.
How soon can we start?

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.
Do you help with setting up the processes?

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.
What type of clients have you successfully helped?

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.
What sets Net0 apart from others on the market?

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.
Why do companies choose to work with Net0?

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

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