‘Net zero’ climate targets sound great. But…

‘Net zero’ climate targets sound great. But there are pitfalls – read the fine print
2020-12-09 19:11:00
Countries are increasingly saying they will attempt to be carbon-neutral (net zero) by around 2050.  But caution needs to be exercised in understanding the net zero claims. There are some key problems:  1. Do the plans apply to all greenhouse gases, or just CO2? That would mean including agriculture emissions, eg. methane.  2. There is a lack of intermediate hard targets before 2050, and it is useless to have higher emissions between now and then. It is the cumulative CO2 that matters.  3. How much of a net zero commitment will be fulfilled with short-term emissions cuts, like planting trees. And how much will come from “negative emissions technologies” which permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Some of the tree planting schemes have been shown to be impractical and unworkable.  4. The fine print of the pledges has to be checked, as there are no established principles or guidelines, so they can differ between countries and be “full of loopholes.”  5. The plans generally leave out the international aviation and shipping sectors, and probably also the embodied carbon in imports. All those can make up a huge % of a country’s total emissions.  6.   Plans for future emissions cuts are less useful than employing technologies and policies that start cutting emissions now. .Tweet     ‘Net zero’ climate targets? Read the fine print EURACTIV.com with AFP  9th December 2020 “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said last week in New York. The worldwide effort to prevent Earth from becoming an unliveable hothouse is in the grips of “net zero” fever. More than 110 countries have committed to becoming carbon neutral by mid-century, including major greenhouse gas emitters such as Britain, Japan and South Korea, according to the United Nations. The European Union has taken the vow, as has incoming US President Joe Biden. China – which generates a quarter of all carbon pollution – set 2060 as the year when any remaining emissions from energy, agriculture or industry must be offset by tree farms or experimental technologies that suck CO2 from the air. More than 65% of global CO2 emissions now fall under such pledges, according to a UN estimate. The London-based Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) calculates the aggregate GDP of nations, cities and states with 2050 net zero targets is $46 trillion, well over half of global GDP. “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said last week in New York. “Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050.” ‘Devil in the detail’ But what is being promised? And will it deliver the P


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