glossary

Net-Zero Emissions

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What does net-zero emissions mean? 

Net-zero emissions describes the general objective to combat climate change. The need for net-zero has been underlined in the Paris Agreement, which states that a balance of emissions production and emissions removal from our atmosphere has to be achieved to stop global warming. 


How can net-zero be achieved? 

Net-zero emissions can be achieved when any remaining human-caused GHG emissions (e.g. from burning fossil fuels for transport, electricity, factories…) are neutralised by removing GHG from the atmosphere. So this does not only mean the necessary and drastic reduction of emissions, which are especially caused by the combustion of fossil fuels, but also the remaining emissions that cannot (yet) be avoided are to be reduced as close to zero as possible in the net-zero emissions' scenario. This can for example be achieved by restoring forests or through direct air capture and storage (DACS) technology.


How can companies achieve net-zero emissions? 

Being a net-zero company means that the company manages to achieve a good balance between the GHG they produce and the ones they take out of the atmosphere. This implies that a company, in order to be considered net-zero, cannot emit more greenhouse gases than it removes. 


Below you can find a few steps for companies to achieve net-zero:


  1. Align your targets with the Paris Agreement
  2. Review your options to adapt and reduce emissions in your business (among all 3 scopes)
  3. Establish emissions baselines, as this will help you in the future to analyse 
  4. Commit to the Net Zero Standard of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) 


What is the difference between net-zero and carbon neutral?

Net-zero is a state that is reached when emissions have been reduced as much as possible and the remaining emissions are neutralised by carbon removal projects. The SBTi speaks of net-zero being achieved when 90-95% of emissions have been reduced.

Carbon neutral is on the way to net-zero when the emitted emissions are compensated for with carbon reduction or carbon removal projects