7 Attributes for a Successful Net Zero – read Oxford Net Zero’s new Nature Climate Change paper

Jan 11, 2022

The Oxford Net Zero team has authored a new paper, published in Nature Climate Change, on ‘the meaning of net zero and how to get it right’.

The readiness with which a growing number of countries, sub-national entities and individual organizations have made net-zero pledges speaks to the unifying and galvanizing power of the net-zero narrative. These pledges should be encouraged. However, there is concern that these often-voluntary commitments allow too much discretion in the design of net-zero pathways and may therefore not be consistent with global net zero, or with ambitious climate action more generally.

Governance, accountability and reporting mechanisms are currently inadequate. Long-term ambition is often not backed up by sufficient near-term action. Many entities have not yet set out detailed plans to achieve their pledges and are opaque about the role of carbon offsets in place of cutting their own emissions. The environmental and social integrity of some of these offsets is questionable. As a result, some advocates have accused these pledges of amounting to little more than ‘greenwashing’.

These concerns do not negate the scientific logic of global net zero. However, they demonstrate the need for clear guardrails to ensure the robustness of net zero as a framework for climate action. The authors set out seven attributes that for a successful net-zero framework:

  1. Front-loaded emission reductions
  2. A comprehensive approach to emission reductions
  3. Cautious use of carbon dioxide removal and storage
  4. Effective regulation of carbon offsets
  5. An equitable transition to net zero
  6. Alignment with broader socio-ecological objectives
  7. Pursuit of new economic opportunities

The paper was co-authored by Professor Sam Fankhauser, Dr Steve Smith, Professor Myles Allen, Kaya Axelsson, Dr Thomas Hale, Professor Cameron Hepburn, Professor J. Michael Kendall, Dr Radhika Khosla, Dr Javier Lezaun, Eli Mitchell-Larson, Professor Michael Obersteiner, Professor Lavanya Rajamani, Professor Rosalind Rickaby, Professor Nathalie Seddon and Professor Thom Wetzer.

Read a more detailed summary of the paper, or download the full paper from Nature Climate Change.

Latest news

Job Opening at ONZ: Impact and Operations Officer
Job Opening at ONZ: Impact and Operations Officer

Oxford Net Zero is looking for a highly organised and motivated Impact and Operations Officer to join its team. You will be working alongside the Programme Manager, Cath Ibbotson, and the Head of Policy and Partnerships, Kaya Axelsson to ... Read more

Net Zero Regulation Stocktake Publishes Results 
Net Zero Regulation Stocktake Publishes Results 

A new report published by Oxford Net Zero presents a comprehensive ‘stocktake’ of developments in net-zero regulation across the G20 in 2023. It focuses primarily on four regulatory domains: claims and financial products standards, disclosure, ... Read more

New ONZ report on rolling out renewables in the Global South
New ONZ report on rolling out renewables in the Global South

The scaling up of clean electricity, and using it to decarbonise other parts of the economy, is central to all decarbonisation pathways.  In their latest report, “Rolling out renewables in the Global South”, Oxford Net Zero’s Sam Fankhauser ... Read more

See more news and events