Citizen Action Monitor

NET ZERO — Everyone, from countries to companies, is talking about it – But what does it really mean?

BEWARE — Turns out that not all Net Zeros are created equal – Some are “greenwashing” with big loopholes to slip through. —

No 2689 Posted by fw, December 1, 2020 —

ClimateAdam

“You see, everyone from countries to companies are announcing their net zero targets. But there’s a lot hiding behind this little number. And sometimes net zero can mean nothing at all. Let’s start be looking at this crucial little word: “net”. This simply means that overall emissions have to add to zero. So there still can be some emissions, they just need to be cancelled out by absorptions…say by planting trees to suck carbon out of the air. But not all “net zeroes” are created equal. Some are cast much wider than others. And some have much bigger loopholes to slip through. Take my own country – the UK. Last year, the UK made history by setting a net zero target for all greenhouse gases by [the year] 2050. But don’t celebrate just yet. The fine print shows that the UK is happy to make others do the hard work. The target allows the UK to get other, poorer countries to clean up our mess, absorbing the carbon dioxide that we’re emitting. … But our enthusiasm should have just as many loopholes as the announcements themselves. Because if we’re not working hard to end our emissions, then these announcements really do mean zero.”ClimateAdam

Below is my repost of an embedded 6-minute video of ClimateAdam’s expose of the fine print and greenwashing accompanying “net zero” pledges of emission reductions by 2050. Accompanying Adam’s brilliant analysis is my transcript of his narrative, some added images, and, at the bottom, an embedded video of Adam’s related flick, “Too Late to Stop Climate Change.

Alternatively, watch Adam’s video, without my transcript of course, by clicking on the following linked title to his You Tube site.

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What does Net Zero emissions actually mean? by ClimateAdam, March 4, 2020 (5:56)

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers when you talk about climate change.

DISTANT: The limit of 2C or 1.5C was agreed at COP21 in 2015. CO2 is at over 410ppm and emissions need to fall by…

But there’s one number that is very easy to get your head around – ZERO. Net zero greenhouse gas emissions, to be precise.

Net zero just means adding no greenhouse gases overall. We need to reach net zero if we want to stop global warming. And the more we want to limit it, the sooner we need to reach net zero.

For our most ambitious targets, we need to reach it around the middle of the century – 2050.

Simple.

Well… sort of. You see, everyone from countries to companies are announcing their net zero targets. But there’s a lot hiding behind this little number. And sometimes net zero can mean nothing at all.

Let’s start by looking at this crucial little word: “net”. This simply means that overall emissions have to add to zero. So there still can be some emissions, they just need to be cancelled out by absorptions…say by planting trees to suck carbon out of the air.

But not all “net zeroes” are created equal. Some are cast much wider than others. And some have much bigger loopholes to slip through.

Take my own country – the UK. Last year, the UK made history by setting a net zero target for all greenhouse gases by [the year] 2050.

But don’t celebrate just yet. The fine print shows that the UK is happy to make others do the hard work. The target allows the UK to get other, poorer countries to clean up our mess, absorbing the carbon dioxide that we’re emitting.

The whole world needs to get to net zero as quickly as possible. So giving other countries the burden of helping us hit our targets isn’t going to help get this global job done.

But there’s another problem quite apart from loopholes – Words are cheap.

How much will it cost to reduce my emissions in all sectors to zero?

“That will cost many billions of dollars, sir. Would you like that net zero plan gift wrapped?”

I really would rather not spend that much…

“It is a very good investment, though, sir. I think you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the costs.”

But how much would it cost to just say I’m going to reduce emissions in all sectors to zero?

“Well sir, that would be free, but of course…

Great! I’ll do it.

Once again, my own country is – sadly – a great example of this. Yes, it’s amazing that we’ve set this target. And, yes, we’re making great progress in cutting emissions from electricity. But hitting this target means cutting emissions in all sectors. That includes flying, food, and our flipping homes.

And you may have noticed that these changes are not underway in the UK. In fact, thanks to slow progress in these areas, the UK was already on track to miss its old targets by a wide margin, never mind heading towards net zero.

So we should be cautious when a country claims a climate target like this.

But what about a company? And not just any company…a fossil fuel company? Well BP, who currently dig up millions of barrels of fossil fuels every single day, has announced exactly that — That they’re aiming for net zero by 2050. But when your business is digging up and selling oil and gas, what does it mean to have zero emissions overall?

Well, honestly, it’s not clear. Because right now, the details are pretty sketchy. At  the moment the only real explanation is that they must be hoping for a very, very big net. They’re probably aiming to suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the air using what are called “negative emissions.” This would offset the huge amounts of carbon they’re causing.

The most common idea for it is planting a bunch of trees, burning them, capturing the carbon that’s caused and burying it underground. But we just don’t know whether ideas like this would work at these vast scales. And the world would definitely be safer off just avoiding these emissions in the first place.

But we also have good reason to be nervous about BP. After all, this is the company that in 2001 rebranded as “Beyond Petroleum”, and then failed quite catastrophically to move beyond petroleum.

BP’s net zero announcement could be yet another attempt at “greenwashing”: trying to present yourself as green, while carrying on with all the same old dirty activities.

“Hey. Wanna buy some oil?”

So how do I feel when I hear these “net zero” announcements?

Well, I’m not going to lie… a part of me is psyched. I mean this is something that just a few years ago, no one was talking about, even though it’s essential for stopping global warming. So even if it is just words, I’m really excited to hear these words…from countries and from companies.

But our enthusiasm should have just as many loopholes as the announcements themselves. Because if we’re not working hard to end our emissions, then these announcements really do mean zero.

If you’re feeling worried that we’ve left it way too late to tackle the climate crisis, then I’ve made a video just for you —

Too late to stop Climate Change? by ClimateAdam, January 21, 2020 (5:24 min) —  It feels like our targets to limit global warming are slipping through our fingers. But no matter how bad it gets, it’s never too late to make a difference, and stop climate change from getting even worse.

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