From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Net Zero
Mains level : Global rush for carbon neutrality
Independent charitable organization Oxfam has said that ‘net zero’ carbon targets that many countries have announced maybe a “dangerous distraction” from the priority of cutting carbon emissions.
What does Net-Zero mean?
- Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero.
- That would be gross-zero, which means reaching a state where there are no emissions at all, a scenario hard to comprehend.
- Therefore, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Achieving net-zero targets
- One way by which carbon can be absorbed is by creating carbon sinks.
- Until recently, the Amazon rainforests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, were carbon sinks.
- But eastern parts of these forests have started emitting CO2 instead of absorbing carbon emissions as a result of significant deforestation.
What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?
- Given the impact that carbon emissions have on our planet, you might wonder why we aren’t aiming for zero, or gross zero, rather than net-zero.
- Gross zero would mean stopping all emissions, which isn’t realistically attainable across all sectors of our lives and industry. Even with best efforts to reduce them, there will still be some emissions.
- Net-zero looks at emissions overall, allowing for the removal of any unavoidable emissions, such as those from aviation or manufacturing.
- Removing greenhouse gases could be via nature, as trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or through new technology or changing industrial processes.
What is carbon negativity?
- It is even possible for a country to have negative emissions if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions.
- Bhutan has negative emissions because it absorbs more than it emits.
Which countries have recently announced net-zero targets?
- In 2019, the New Zealand government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which committed the country to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.
- In the same year, the UK’s parliament passed legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100 per cent relative to 1990 levels by the year 2050.
- More recently, US announced that the country will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
- The European Union too, has a similar plan, called “Fit for 55”, the European Commission has asked all of its 27 member countries to cut emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
- Last year, China also announced that it would become net-zero by the year 2060 and that it would not allow its emissions to peak beyond what they are in 2030.
What does the Oxfam report say?
- “Land-hungry ‘net zero’ schemes could force an 80 per cent rise in global food prices and more hunger while allowing rich nations and corporates to continue “dirty business-as-usual”.
- The report says that if the challenge of change is tackled only by way of planting more trees, then about 1.6 billion hectares of new forests would be required to remove the world’s excess carbon by 2050.
- Currently, countries’ plans to cut emissions will only lead to a one percent reduction by the year 2030.
- Oxfam estimates that it could rise by 80 percent by the year 2050.