Path to Net Zero

When it comes to sustainability, it’s common to hear or read about the phrase ‘path to net zero’. And although it’s used commonly enough, you may not know exactly what that means.

Let’s start by defining the term ‘net zero’.

Net zero

Net zero generally refers to something which results in neither a surplus or deficit because the gains and losses cancel each other out. Within a climate and emissions context, this applies to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) produced, and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

An ever-increasing amount of GHGs and carbon in the atmosphere intensifies the global warming effect, and causes further planetary disruption via climate change. To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as called for in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050.

Reaching a state of net zero means that whatever carbon emissions are added to the atmosphere, they need to be removed or offset somewhere else so that a state of equilibrium is reached.

Although this will not cool the planet or ‘fix’ climate change, it will lessen and slow the runaway global warming effect which we are currently experiencing.

The path to net zero

As many businesses and organizations are ‘carbon positive’, getting to a net zero state is a stated objective for many, and hence we speak of their ‘path to net zero’ – essentially the set of actions they’re taking to reach this objective.

There are two ways to achieve this – increasing the amount of GHGs removed from the atmosphere, and reducing the amount produced and released into the atmosphere in the first place.

Carbon offsetting

Reducing the amount of carbon emissions produced and released into the atmosphere is an easy concept to grasp, but how does an organization increase the amount of GHGs removed from the atmosphere?

By using a concept known as ‘carbon offsetting’. A carbon offset is a reduction or removal of GHG emissions to compensate for emissions created and released elsewhere.

Companies can buy carbon offsets from organizations and projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (such as renewables for example), thereby investing in them and their technology, and helping to further these ‘green’ projects, organizations, and industries.

Science-based targets and emissions reduction

An increasingly popular way in which businesses and organizations are reducing their carbon emissions is via science-based targets, a term which you may have heard or read about recently.

The Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) is a coalition which has developed and launched the world's first net zero standard, and provides the framework and tools for companies to set science-based net zero targets.

The SBTi independently assesses and approves companies’ targets in line with its strict criteria, and companies can follow a simple five-step process mandated by the SBTi to cut their GHG emissions.

Discover more about science-based targets and the SBTi here.

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When it comes to your path to net zero and reducing your carbon emissions, our ESG and carbon footprint management software can assist to:

  • Identify your emissions sources, track the consumption thereof (diesel for example), and calculate your emissions per greenhouse gas
  • Provide you with access to a global standard emissions factors database via our in-built calculation engine
  • Set emission reduction targets and track your progress in achieving these

Our ESG on Lumina product also includes the following emission factor libraries as established content within our indicator library for any Lumina user.

  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol
  • Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • AP-42: Compilation of Air Emissions Factors | US EPA
  • Code of Federal Regulations Part 98: Mandatory GHG Reporting

For more information, get in touch with one of our GHG and carbon footprint management software experts.