The imperative of achieving net zero greenhouse emissions lies at the core of addressing the climate crisis, aiming to cap global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. A unified effort involving companies, governments, financial institutions, and various stakeholders has been set in motion, committed to providing and adopting net zero solutions by 2050 under the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign.
Some of the net zero solutions include the following:
- Decarbonising the aviation and shipping industries
- Investing in energy efficiency and embracing clean energy sources like solar and wind
- Transitioning to electric vehicles
- Halting deforestation and implementing reforestation initiatives
- Retiring dirty energy sources like coal and unsustainable bio-energy
- Mitigating food loss and waste through the adoption of sound agricultural practices
- Advocating for public transport, biking, and walking
- Designing climate-smart buildings
These Net zero solutions aim to balance greenhouse gas production and emissions with the capture or removal of gases from the atmosphere. It is crucial to comprehend the steps, challenges, and significance of collaborative efforts to realise a net zero world.
Steps to Achieving Net Zero
Organisations can embrace diverse Net zero solutions to curtail their greenhouse gas emissions. Employ the following steps to guide your Net zero objectives and commit to substantive GHG reduction:
1. Understand Your Emission Footprint
Grasping your emission footprint involves compiling a comprehensive report on the total GHG generated through your business activities. This report, crucial for setting realistic Net zero goals, demands transparency and reliability. To achieve this, account for both direct and indirect emissions stemming from your operations.
Direct emissions include scope 1 and 2 emissions, which are caused onsite due to your company’s operations. These emissions make it easy to come up with solutions that’ll achieve net zero.
On the other hand, indirect emissions are scope 3 emissions, and they account for almost 75% of all GHG emissions. They’re produced along your business’s value chain, which can be downstream or upstream. Typically, these emissions can be difficult to account for since you’ve got zero control over them.
2. Commit to a Net Zero Plan
After establishing Net zero objectives, a solid strategy characterised by unwavering dedication serves as your guide.
A good net zero plan should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). You can ensure this by including the following:
- Specific targets with a timescale
- Measurement of current performance
- Integration of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
These steps ensure your commitment and pave the way for achieving your Net zero plan.
3. Pitch Your Net Zero Ambitions
Attaining net zero necessitates collective effort, time, resources, and substantial investment. Consequently, communicate your Net zero ambitions to investors, clients, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
Once stakeholders comprehend your new goals and business approach, they become a support system. They can aid in reducing scope 3 emissions through strategies such as:
- Employees making sustainable transport choices, like carpooling and utilising public transport
- Suppliers opting for recycling and reusing raw materials
- Investors investing in green business segments
- Customers becoming lifelong consumers of Net zero products
Pitching your net zero ambitions will allow a smooth transition as every stakeholder is on board with your plan.
4. Grow Your Net Zero Plan through Support and Collaboration
When tackling global emissions, you need not go it alone. Recognise that the world is racing to achieve net zero by 2050, and collaboration is the most effective strategy. Fortunately, people are willing to join you. Maintaining an open mind provides endless opportunities for collaboration and support in achieving net zero.
Challenges in Achieving Net Zero
The path to achieving net zero is difficult and fraught with difficulties that organizations must overcome. These challenges encompass:
Achieving net zero necessitates financial investments, and the magnitude of these costs varies with the size of the organization. Larger corporations, with greater financial resources, can readily embrace Net zero solutions, such as transitioning to solar power. Conversely, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), constituting nearly 90% of all businesses, may face hurdles in implementing Net zero goals due to financial constraints. To ensure the sustainability of SMEs, especially in the face of escalating global interest rates, there is a pressing need for favourble net zero funding policies.
2. Data Collection and Monitoring
Meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions require organisations to establish realistic Net zero goals grounded in their carbon footprint. However, the process of collecting and monitoring data, particularly for transport, energy, and scope 3 emissions, poses significant challenges.
Given that scope 3 emissions contribute substantially to the overall carbon footprint, organisations should undertake the following measures in collecting and monitoring such emissions:
- Identify emission hotspots along the supply chain
- Evaluate potential energy risks throughout the supply chain
- Forge partnerships with suppliers committed to carbon reduction
- Implement energy-efficient and cost-reduction policies, such as cycle-to-work programmes
3. Technical challenges
The transition to a Net zero carbon emissions energy system poses formidable technical challenges, demanding substantial investments in research and development across various fronts, including new technologies, infrastructure, and energy storage solutions. Navigating these challenges is essential for realising a sustainable and low-carbon future.
4. Political challenges
The pursuit of Net zero carbon emissions confronts significant political challenges, necessitating robust policies and regulations that provide incentives for transitioning to clean energy sources. However, the manifestation of political will is frequently constrained by competing interests, including considerations of economic growth and social welfare. Navigating these intricate political dynamics is crucial for establishing a framework that facilitates the transition to a sustainable and low-carbon future.
Importance of Collaboration with Stakeholders: Government, Businesses, Investors, and Citizens
Each stakeholder, whether government, businesses, investors, or citizens, plays a pivotal role in achieving net zero. Effective collaboration among these entities is paramount to realising significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The importance of such collaboration extends to the following outcomes:
- Transformative Change: Collaborative efforts among stakeholders pave the way for transformative change across the entire value chain. When every stakeholder aligns with a common Net zero solution, the results become tangible and far-reaching, influencing positive shifts in various sectors.
- Innovative Net Zero Solutions: Recognising that individual resources and capabilities are finite, collaboration and partnerships become catalysts for generating innovative Net zero solutions. One exemplary outcome is the development of groundbreaking techniques like carbon capture and storage, which hold promise for long-term sustainability.
- Cost-Effective Net Zero Solutions: Shared interests and common goals drive economies of scale, making collaborative ventures more affordable due to the readily available market. Effective collaboration across the value chain contributes to the development and implementation of cost-effective Net zero solutions, facilitating broader accessibility and adoption.
- Public Engagement and Awareness: Collaborating with citizens plays a pivotal role in elevating awareness regarding the significance of achieving Net zero emissions. This engagement fosters civic discourse, creating a platform for informed discussions that can catalyse decisive and transformative actions by both governments and businesses. Empowering the public through awareness is a key driver in building momentum towards a sustainable, Net zero future.
The spirit of collaboration among government entities, businesses, investors, and citizens not only enhances the feasibility of achieving net zero but also fosters a dynamic environment where diverse perspectives converge for the greater good of sustainability and environmental well-being.
The target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 remains attainable, yet its realisation hinges crucially on collaborative efforts among stakeholders—governments, businesses, investors, and citizens. Achieving transformative Net zero reductions requires a steadfast commitment to the step-by-step approach to setting and pursuing Net zero goals, all while acknowledging and addressing the challenges inherent in this ambitious journey. By fostering collaboration, innovation, and shared responsibility, we can collectively forge a sustainable and resilient future that safeguards our planet for generations to come.