top of page

Net Zero : How do we get there?

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

To embark on the journey towards net zero emissions by mid-century, countries must pursue short-term policies with their long-term goals in mind. The benefits of climate action and progress will only come if the world reaches net zero by mid-century and achieves the emission reductions needed by 2030.

The annual special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changestates that countries must provide zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050. To maintain global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, temperatures would not fall without emission reductions.

" 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon dioxide (CO2) should reach net zero between 2044 and 2052."

Net-Zero Emissions

If countries plant more trees and use negative emission technologies, the number of emissions they want to use to achieve their net zero target will be reduced. The Chairman of the Energy Transition Commission have argued however that this approach is not the right way to achieve net zero. The target is a measure of emission reduction, not negative emissions in the UK. The 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO 2E) would have to be offset by negative emission strategies.

A global scenario consistent with limiting warming to 2C above preindustrial levels would require net global emissions to decline by the second half of the century. Efforts must be made to reduce greenhouse gases from all sectors, it is clear that the UK's zero target would require the removal of greenhouse gases using negative emission technologies. For example, the aviation industry has the capacity to reduce most of the emissions it produces, but total elimination for the industry would be expensive and impossible.

In scenarios that limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon dioxide (CO2) should reach net zero between 2044 and 2052 and total greenhouse gas emissions between 2063 and 2068 must reach it. Reaching the net zero point in this range would avoid the risk of exceeding 1.6 degrees C. However, reaching the top of this range is almost guaranteed to exceed this temperature. The Earth reacts to small changes in the CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Emissions of these gases have to be reduced until the whole system is balanced.

In order to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the Paris agreement committed to reducing the net emissions to zero by the second half of the century. Although the agreement set a global target that implied achieving net-zero emissions, it remained unclear how individual countries would achieve that goal. If each country offsets only part of its emission reductions, it would be difficult or impossible to achieve net zero on a global scale.

The threat of climate change is a direct result of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. About 40% of carbon dioxide emissions come from power plants that burn fossil fuels to produce the energy we consume every day. The energy sector, which accounts for three quarters of greenhouse gases today, is the key to preventing the worst effects of climate change, which is the largest challenge facing humanity.

We have come to the painful conclusion that CO2 emissions continuing to soar. Carbon dioxide is a dangerous and abundant greenhouse gas, and reducing carbon emissions and carbon footprints without finding low-carbon alternatives is hardly an appropriate way to address climate change. Net zero means striking a balance between what greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere and what is taken out. Excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can trigger a harmful global warming, so reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air can help combat climate change.