To be environmentally sustainable, tackle climate change, and reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 2050, all possible actions are necessary. This is where the critical “Net Zero” concept comes in. To better understand the term’s meaning, we need to step back to the Paris Agreement. Due to the greenhouse effect, the increase in temperatures must not be higher than 1,5°C compared to the pre-industrial levels.
To achieve this goal, the concentrations of CO2 and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must not increase and are contained within certain thresholds. Individuals, companies and politics must do their part and cooperate to significantly reduce, to the point of cancelling, emissions in all sectors, acting on processes and lifestyles.
We talk about “Net Zero”, when the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are balanced by an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere. So, the net emissions are precisely zero. To be defined as “Net Zero”, a company must set medium-term targets and plan a concrete strategy to achieve these targets. The emission reduction plan must be in line with the Paris Agreement, and the company must act at every point of its supply chain to remove CO2 from it.
The reduction targets are very ambitious, must be compatible with business planning, and are set by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) rules. The SBTi is a scientific reference within the Net Zero, providing standards and tools for this purpose and a validation procedure. Indeed, there are sectors where it is impossible to altogether remove emissions by 2050. For this reason, to get to the Net Zero is essential to reach the “Carbon Neutrality“, where certified carbon credits balance the unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases.
Carbon credits, created under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, are tools for offsetting emissions. These are implemented by funding specific projects to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. These include, for example, renewable energy projects, replacing fossil fuels, or projects to combat deforestation. A carbon credit is equivalent to 1 ton of equivalent CO2 reduced, avoided or removed by these projects.
But not all environmentally positive activities are capable of producing carbon credits. There are exact rules to evaluate an action suitable for generating credits. The valuation methodologies are constantly evolving, updating and improving, and ensuring credits quality. First of all, the reduction must be real, measurable and tangible. It must be proven and certified, with methodologies recognized by international standards developed by scientific committees. The reduction result must then be permanent and irreversible.
We can say that Net Zero is a “Science-Based” goal because it relies on scientific analysis. All States can also cooperate through the exchange of certified carbon credits. An even more ambitious and challenging goal is to become “carbon positive“. The removed emissions are higher than those needed to reach the “net-zero”. Unlike carbon neutrality and Net-zero plans, climate-positive does not yet have methodologies or standards shared internationally. In agriculture and livestock, however, some situations approach this result, confirming the virtuousness of these sectors once again.