How to get to net zero
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report highlighting the urgent need for the world to halve its emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
Net zero means that any carbon emitted is balanced with an equivalent amount of carbon permanently removed from the atmosphere. This goal is not only applicable to countries but also serves as a blueprint for individual companies striving to achieve net zero status.
Net zero requirements: reduction and removal
To reach net zero, companies must focus on two key requirements: the reduction and removal of emissions. Several prominent net zero standards, including the SBTi Net Zero Standard, ISO Net Zero Guide, and Race to Zero Net Zero Guidelines, provide varying levels of depth and detail to help companies achieve this goal.
However, these rules can sometimes be overly complicated and not specifically targeted towards asset-light companies, such as those in the tech and professional services industries.
To address this challenge, expert guidance can help businesses make sense of the rules, create robust net zero plans that meet any of the standards, and ensure these plans are actionable and practical.
Net zero requirements
residual emissions removed
50% reduction required
90% reduction required
All residual emissions removed
Corporate commitments and leadership
Companies with net zero commitments represent sales of nearly $14 trillion, which is 33% of total sales across the top 2,000 public companies and roughly the size of China‘s GDP.
The most ambitious companies have set early net zero targets, starting from 2030, positioning themselves as climate leaders.
As most corporate carbon footprints stem from supply chains, achieving these targets also necessitates significant emission reductions from suppliers, creating a network effect.
Another path to leadership is the early adoption of carbon removal strategies. By investing in innovative carbon removal technologies and projects, companies can demonstrate their commitment to mitigating climate change while also fostering the development of solutions that can benefit other businesses in the long run.
Rethinking the net zero approach
One weakness of current net zero standards is the sequential structure of ‘measure, reduce, remove’ with regard to emissions.
Early actions taken before measurement may not count towards reduction targets, and if everyone waited to implement removal strategies until reductions were complete, there would be insufficient removal capacity to meet the demands.
Instead, companies should measure, reduce, and remove emissions in parallel, accelerating the pace of climate action.
Going beyond net zero standards
True corporate climate leaders should strive to go beyond what net zero standards prescribe, motivated by doing the right thing for the planet rather than simply complying with regulations.
By setting ambitious reduction and removal targets, adopting innovative solutions, and engaging suppliers in the fight against climate change, companies can make a meaningful and lasting impact on our global climate.
Biochar£145/t • Permanence medium
Biochar is charcoal-like material rich in stable carbon. It is produced by heating biomass in an oxygen-limited environment in a process called pyrolysis.
Enhanced weathering£245/t • Permanence high
Enhanced rock weathering (ERW) takes natural weathering of silicate rocks that removes & mineralizes atmospheric CO₂ and speeds it up dramatically.
Direct air capture£533/t • Permanence high
Direct air capture (DAC) is a chemical process to capture ambient CO₂ from the atmosphere.
Bio-oil£600/t • Permanence high
Bio-oil and biochar production both convert waste biomass through pyrolysis. Bio-oil is a liquid stored in geological repositories, while biochar is applied to soils.
DAC with ocean storage£670/t • Permanence high
This employs seawater electrolysis to capture and convert atmospheric CO₂ into carbonate solids for construction and permanently stores dissolved bicarbonate ions in the ocean.
Woody biomass sinking£246/t • Permanence medium
This is a method that sequesters carbon by submerging leftover woody materials in the oxygen-depleted layer of the Black Sea, which is approximately 2 kilometers deep.
Tree planting£30/t • Permanence low
Afforestation and forest restoration, if done effectively, combat climate change by removing carbon dioxide and protecting biodiversity.