Carbon neutrality or net-zero. How to set rigorous and realistic commitments
Now, more than ever, a seamless response to the climate emergency is needed. The science is clear on how to lead this response, we will not reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, set out in the Paris Agreement, if global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not reduced to zero by 2050. The new report AR6 – Climate Change 2021: Physical Basis, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that human influence has led to rapid and widespread temperature changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere. Thus, above 1.5°C, climate change impacts would be reflected in extreme heat waves and droughts, flooding in coastal and riverine areas and a substantial increase in extreme weather events. Climate neutrality by 2050 is therefore the clear milestone, the compass that must guide everyone’s efforts in the face of the climate emergency.
In recent years, national governments, cities, regions and especially the private sector have made climate neutrality commitments in line with science, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the risks of climate change. For its part, the European Union has committed to achieving the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 through the European Green Deal, a very ambitious package of emission reduction measures, as an action plan. In line with this roadmap, Spain is committed, within the framework of its Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, to achieving the neutrality of its entire economy by 2050.
In this regard, during the last United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, COP26, several important objectives were agreed, such as the progressive reduction of coal as an energy source, the mobilisation of USD 500 billion by 2025 for emerging economies to adapt to climate impacts and make the transition to clean energy, and the importance of reducing GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 was recognised.
Initiatives such as Sience Based Targets (SBTi) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) have developed net-zero standards and frameworks to drive private sector action towards carbon neutrality by setting rigorous, realistic and science-based targets. The SBT NET-ZERO Standard published in the last quarter of 2021, sets out 4 steps to achieve net-zero:
- Set near-term science-based targets: 5-10 year emission reduction targets in line with 1.5°C trajectories.
- Set long-term science-based targets: to reduce emissions to a residual level in line with the 1.5°C scenarios by 2050 at the latest.
- Mitigation beyond the value chain: in the transition to net zero, companies should take action to mitigate emissions beyond their value chains.
- Neutralisation of residual emissions: GHGs released to the atmosphere when the company has reached its long-term SBT must be offset by permanent carbon removal and storage.
CDP’s new net-zero reporting framework seeks to empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to act against climate change through the dissemination of environmental information and the setting of science-based targets, complementing what was proposed by SBTi. This framework focuses on SMEs as they make up the majority of the value chains of large companies, which is where most GHG emissions are generated. It is therefore crucial that SMEs are equipped with the necessary tools and resources to make commitments aligned to a 1.5°C future and disclose environmental performance.
Factor supports companies and organisations to achieve carbon neutrality through our roadmap to net-zero, go zero, which consists of five steps towards net-zero emissions, through a holistic strategy that includes different aspects of the organisation by conducting a baseline analysis and identifying the action plans needed to achieve net-zero.
- Strategy: Organisations should establish a strategy as an action plan to steer their path towards zero commitment. A credible carbon neutrality strategy is a long-term strategy. Companies should also develop a robust climate impact reduction strategy.
- Calculation: By calculating a detailed carbon footprint that takes into account emissions at an organisational or product level, the aim is to identify key action points based on the three scopes: Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (indirect emissions associated with electricity generation) and Scope 3 (other indirect emissions in the value chain).
- Targets: Targets should be ambitious, but also realistic, and should be aligned to an international initiative such as SBTi. They should also have a set base year, deadlines and a plan for their achievement.
- Reduction: Companies should identify, analyse and implement reduction measures, prioritising those that have the greatest impact on their GHG emissions.
- Offsetting: Those company emissions that cannot be eliminated, at least in the short and medium term, must be offset as a transitional measure. This is done through carbon credits purchased on the voluntary emissions market under recognised standards such as VERRA, CER or Gold Standard.
For more information on how Factor can help your organisation achieve net-zero, please contact us: