The meaning of net zero and how to get it right

Aug 1, 2023

The concept of net-zero carbon emissions has emerged from physical climate science. However, it is operationalized through social, political and economic systems. We identify seven attributes of net zero, which are important to make it a successful framework for climate action. The seven attributes highlight the urgency of emission reductions, which need to be front-loaded, and of coverage of all emission sources, including currently difficult ones. The attributes emphasize the need for social and environmental integrity. This means carbon dioxide removals should be used cautiously and the use of carbon offsets should be regulated effectively. Net zero must be aligned with broader sustainable development objectives, which implies an equitable net-zero transition, socio-ecological sustainability and the pursuit of broad economic opportunities.

Publication details
Theme(s)
Carbon dioxide removal Carbon offsetting Net zero & sustainable development The meaning of net zero The urgency of zero
Type(s)
Research paper
Author(s)
Allen, Myles Axelsson, Kaya Fankhauser, Sam Hale, Thomas Hepburn, Cameron Kendall, Mike Khosla, Radhika Lezaun, Javier Mitchell-Larson, Eli Obersteiner, Michael Rajamani, Lavanya Rickaby, Ros Seddon, Nathalie Smith, Steve Wetzer, Thom
Year(s)
2022
Nature Climate Change

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