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Carbon neutrality is important because it is the best way to fight climate change by reducing global warming. What we do over the next decade to limit emissions will be crucial for the future, which is why every country, sector, industry and all of us must work together to find ways to reduce the carbon we produce. In addition to businesses, cities and financial institutions, more than 130 countries have now set a goal of reducing their emissions to net zero by mid-century. While net-zero emissions are a key long-term goal, strong reductions in emissions – especially from the largest emitters of greenhouse gases – over the next 5 to 10 years are essential to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C and ensure a liveable climate. Of the 191 parties to the Paris Agreement, more than 150 parties have so far submitted a new or updated national action plan – Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – as required by the agreement. Their projected combined emissions reductions by 2030 are still far from the ambitions needed to meet the 1.5°C target. There are sixteen countries that meet Oxford Net Zero`s minimum standards for robustness in all of these criteria to some extent. Sweden is one of them. It has a legally binding target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, including aviation and shipping. It must reduce emissions by at least 63% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, with a maximum of 8% of this reduction coming from offsets. Sweden has outlined plans to increase its already large supply of renewable energy, phase out fossil fuels with a carbon tax, decarbonise transport and ensure more sustainable agricultural management. Third, net-zero emissions targets must be accompanied by detailed plans on how to achieve them, including measures to develop renewable energy, restore natural carbon sinks, help industry transition to clean technologies, and more.

Governments should give citizens a way to hold them accountable if they don`t stay on track, like an institution or a law. Although the numbers are rising, according to Oxford Net Zero, only 14 of the 139 countries have made their targets legally binding. Only 57 have developed a detailed plan. Climate experts have ranked Australia`s net-zero emissions targets as one of the lowest ever announced. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison set a net-zero emissions target for 2050 last week after defying calls to do so for months. Although the date of 2050 coincides with that of most other developed countries, there is no intermediate target for 2030. The government`s recently released climate plan includes no taxes or mandates to develop renewable energy or shut down fossil fuel projects, and critics have said it “grossly manipulates” emissions data. Morrison says the bulk of Australia`s emissions reductions are due to “future technologies” that have yet to be developed – a notion that other leaders have criticised as “dangerous”. The Climate Action Tracker has defined the following best practices for the ten key elements of net-zero emissions targets. Countries can use this best practice to design or improve their net-zero emissions targets.

We`ve all heard the term net zero, but what exactly does that mean? Simply put, carbon neutrality refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no greater than the amount withdrawn. But how can we achieve this and why is it important? Adopting net-zero emissions laws is not only important for public sector actors. The adoption of net-zero emissions laws also serves as a signalling mechanism for other actors and, if properly implemented, can create an enabling environment for other net-zero initiatives in a non-legal context. In addition, the increasing prevalence of net-zero emissions laws allows for greater knowledge sharing with actors with less capacity to implement such laws, and also increases transparency and accountability regarding emissions targets and reporting. The UK legislated to achieve net-zero emissions by amending its Climate Change Act 2008, making it one of the first countries in the world to enshrine a net-zero emissions target in law. The Glasgow Climate Compact, signed at COP26 and marking the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, calls on countries to “achieve a just transition to net-zero emissions by mid-century, taking into account different national circumstances.” To this end, the Covenant encourages parties “that have not yet done so. long-term development strategies for low greenhouse gas emissions” that put the country on the path to carbon neutrality. The shift from “in the second half of this century” to “around the middle of the century” reflects a remarkable increase in perceived urgency. To avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change, we must prevent the planet from warming by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This means that carbon dioxide emissions must decrease by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050. “If you had asked me a year ago, will we see at COP26 India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Russia with a commitment to net-zero emissions? I would have said it would be very optimistic,” said Thomas Hale, associate professor of global public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, who is part of the Oxford Net Zero research project, which was set up to examine global progress in reducing emissions. “It`s really evidence of a tipping point dynamic where something seems impossible and becomes possible [starting with] the work of] climate activists and developing countries who pushed it into the Paris Agreement. Combined with a series of national targets unveiled before or during COP26, India`s commitment means that 87% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 89% of its economy are now covered by net-zero emissions targets, albeit with different timelines. The latest scientific evidence suggests that to meet the temperature targets of the Paris Agreement, net-zero emissions must be achieved in the following periods: Case in point: Walmart commits to net-zero emissions by 2040, but ignores emissions from its global value chain, which is responsible for 95% of the company`s emissions. Saudi Aramco, the world`s largest oil exporter, is also excluding emissions from the value chain from its 2050 commitment. Royal Dutch Shell takes into account emissions from its value chain, but not from products that are not burned to produce energy, such as chemicals, lubricants and bitumen. New Zealand passed legislation in November 2019 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It is important to note that the time frame for achieving net-zero emissions is different for CO2 alone than for CO2 and other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

For emissions other than CO2, the net zero date is later, as models suggest that some of these emissions – such as methane from agricultural sources – may be more difficult to phase out. However, these powerful but short-lived gases will raise temperatures in the near future, potentially pushing the temperature change above the 1.5-degree threshold much earlier. Critics fear this will encourage an over-reliance on carbon removal, allowing policymakers to use net-zero targets to avoid emissions reductions in the near future. Policymakers can address this problem by setting ambitious gross reduction targets (targets that are not reduction-based) in addition to their longer-term net reduction targets. Many of the companies that commit to net-zero emissions do not take into account the emissions generated by their value chains. More and more countries are committing to net-zero emissions by 2050. The coalition is growing. However, commitments must be backed up by bold and credible actions. From any country in the world. From now on. Net zero emissions #ItsPossible.

Now! Now! Now! By 2021, CO2 capture, utilization and storage capacity has reached 40 tons per year, but according to the International Energy Agency, the capacity of the technology needs to increase to 1.6 billion tons per year by 2030 and 7.6 billion tons per year by 2050 to reach net zero. Momentum is accelerating, but so far carbon capture has fallen short of expectations. Some countries set net-zero emissions targets by investing in other countries or paying for emission reductions to be used for their own targets. There are fears that policymakers will use this strategy to avoid reducing their own emissions in the long term. Policymakers can solve this problem by setting emission reduction targets that explicitly avoid or limit the use of offsets to meet their targets. If countries hope to meet their net-zero emissions targets, they should also have ambitious targets for 2030 and the policy measures needed to achieve them. However, Climate Action Tracker found that there is a 0.9°C gap between countries` current emissions reduction policies and their net-zero emissions targets. Only Chile, Costa Rica, the EU and the UK have concrete plans to achieve their net-zero emissions targets.

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