Net-zero vs. carbon neutral
Net-zero (short for net-zero emissions) means that a company or individual achieves a balance between the greenhouse gases they put into the atmosphere and those they take out.
Imagine you have an empty sink. You can turn the taps on to add water and pull the plug to allow water to flow out. The amount of water in your sink depends on how much water you allow to run through the taps and how much to let out through the plughole. To keep the amount of water in the sink at the same level, you need to ensure that the input and output remain balanced.
Reaching net-zero follows the same principle, requiring companies to balance the amount of greenhouse gases they emit with the amount they remove.
When what we add to the atmosphere is no more than what we take away, we reach net-zero. Reaching net-zero is also referred to as carbon neutral. Zero emissions and zero carbon are somewhat different, as the latter usually means that no emissions have been produced in the first place.
Five actions to reach net-zero:
1. Establish emissions baselines
Baseline definitions are a snapshot of your company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a specific moment in time. Building emissions baselines make it a lot easier to view and analyze historical emissions. Additionally, they’ll help your organization grasp future trajectories and serve as a reference point to evaluate decarbonization projects and business decisions against.
Finally, defining your baseline carbon will assist in peer benchmarking and is an integral part of many climate risk disclosure frameworks for reporting.
2. Assess mitigation and adaptation options
Our second suggested action to take is to organize and compare emissions reduction opportunities that exist in your corporation and connected supply chain.
This will help you compare and contrast marginal abatement costs of mitigation options across your multiple business units while helping your company identify the most cost-effective opportunities for adaptation.
It’s possible to generate automatic Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MAC Curves) and Levelized Cost Curves that are accessible and user-friendly to help you analyze emissions reductions costs, quickly and easily.
3. Align with the Paris Agreement
Consider aligning your CO2 reduction targets with the goals of the Paris Agreement by striving for net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
Science-based CO2 reduction targets are considered the gold standard for corporations setting emissions reduction goals, both within their direct operations and across their supply chains.
Companies can now set targets in line with the decarbonization level required to limit global warming to 1.5°C. These targets are ambitious, but they are achievable and are vital in reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
4. Set an internal carbon price
Setting an internal carbon price means putting a monetary amount on the carbon emissions your company produces. The cost can be calculated based on your environmental impact of GHG emissions and any low-carbon energy solutions you utilize, among other indicators.
Putting a price tag on your company’s carbon is a powerful and efficient way of incorporating climate risks into the cost of doing business.
In several countries, emitting carbon is now much more costly as a result of carbon pricing. Emerging technologies and products help corporations and individuals calculate, monitor, price and achieve their CO2 reduction goals.
5. Commit to a science-based initiative
Lastly, companies may be assisted in reaching net-zero faster by committing to ambitious targets set by an external, science-based initiative.
The STBi’s Ambitious Corporate Climate Action is just one of many respected initiatives companies are getting involved in. Science-based initiatives bring together a growing collective of energy-smart businesses with ambitious targets in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
Additionally, many initiatives generate shared natural climate solutions across the supply chains in specific business sectors by bringing companies together, focusing on the energy, agricultural, and transport industries. These types of initiatives give businesses greater access to resources and communities that can help them develop new low-carbon pathways.
Natalie Yelton is a consultant with SINAI Technologies.