Equity & Inclusion on the path to net zero

 What is an inclusive transition to a net zero world?

 A just transition to a net zero future needs to be inclusive, not just of a range of actors and their priorities, but also of a range of views, including in particular those relating to moral and ethical arguments on climate justice. Please follow this page as a work in progress, with latest updates in research and applied practices for increasing equity and inclusion in the net zero transition. 

Framing Emissions Responsibilities

The central and enduring questions in contemporary climate policy are how the burden for reducing emissions should be shared, specifically who should bear responsibility for reducing emissions, by how much and when. Different approaches to global emissions produce different answers to these questions:

Historical vs.

Contemporary Emissions

  • Emissions and economic development. In an equitable world, each country would have a share of possible global emissions proportional to their population to develop at an equal rate to other nations. This has not happened, leading to economic inequality across the world.
  • Developed countries have historically emitted a larger share of emissionsallowing them to develop at a greater rate. While developing countries have begun to rapidly increase their emissions, historical emissions of developed nations far outweigh these increases.
  • Time mattersEfforts to reduce emissions now are essential, but obfuscating the reality of historical emissions exacerbates the reality of global economic inequality. Including the costs of adaptation (along with emissions reductions) within the responsibility of developed countries helps establish a just accounting of historical emissions. 

Luxury vs.

Survival Emissions

  • Survival emissions: emissions necessary for the pursuit of          subsistence and the activities required to live a healthy life.
  • Luxury emissions: emissions generated from non-essential activities, such as driving high-emitting cars or frequently flying. 
  • In an equitable transition to net zero, luxury emissions would be tackled first, so that survival emissions make up the remaining share of ongoing emissions in a low-carbon world. This would allow poorer regions to develop, while also ensuring that luxury emissions are decarbonised among the wealthy classes across the world. To read more on this framing see Shue, 1993

Though China currently emits more CO2 than any other nation in the world (around 27% of global emissions in 2017), the United States is responsible for 25% of global cumulative emissions, twice the amount of China’s historical emissions share. 

StakeholderS to Consider 

As Part of Any Net Zero Strategy

Climate change affects communities on every level, and net zero strategies should, too. It is critical to consider how a given net zero strategy will affect local, extended, and global communities. This diagram (a working idea) offers a framework for net zero committers to think through the different scopes of stakeholder groups which they will need to consider as part of their net zero strategy (in addition to the emissions scopes which they will be required to cover as part of their GHG accounting process). [Oxford Net Zero research paper forthcoming.]

Equity concerns on the pathway to net zero


DIsplacement and exclusion of indigenous communities

While the rapid development of global renewable infrastructure is necessary for achieving net zero, it has raised concerns relating to community displacement. There are a growing number of examples of the displacement of indigenous communities as a result of “green development” projects, particularly in South Asia and Africa

The exclusion of indigenous knowledge and perspectives has also been witnessed in a number of carbon offsetting ventures. Quick carbon sequestration solutions that fail to consult indigenous communities or environmental experts (such as monoculture plantations) weaken biodiversity and lead to unintended psychological, social and economic consequences on local communities.

ENvironmental racism

Climate justice intersects with other major systems of inequality and injustice in our world, including global racism. Access to environmental resources, environmental health outcomes, and experiences of environmental change are all affected by one’s identity. “Environmental racism” exists within pathways to global net zero when indigenous peoples and people in the Global South are forced from their communities in the name of a crisis for which they are largely not responsible.

Unequal Effects

Negative impacts of the climate crisis have been shown to disproportionately affect developing countries, indigenous communities, people of colour, and women. Vulnerable populations overall are expected to suffer more severe consequences and sooner than those with greater access to resources.

Developing countries

The greatest degree of warming is projected to be in developing countries located in the Global South, but such countries generally have poorer infrastructure, and less capacity to adapt and cope with the effects due to their limited economic capabilities than their northern counterparts.

Indigenous communities

Rising sea levels and changing marine ecosystems have  been shown to highly affect indigenous communities in both coastal and mountainous locations. As much as 80% of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity lies within indigenous peoples’ territories, and indigenous and community lands store at least 24% of the above-ground carbon in the world’s tropical forests.

Racial Inequality

Decades of unjust, racist environmental policies have seen some communities of colour become dumping ground for toxic chemicals. In the US, air pollution disproportionately harms individuals of colour, with more than 57% of people of color living in counties with a failing grade for air quality measures (compared to 37% of whites).

Gender Inequality

Women are more likely to be negatively affected by the climate crisis than men. More likely to live in extreme poverty than men, women have lower access to basic human rights and resources, making adaptation to changing environmental conditions more difficult. Women also deal with systemic systems of gendered violence, which are often exacerbated by instability, such climate-induced migration. 

Other research themes

Greenhouse gas removal

There are various types of Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) technologies which recapture already emitted greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and ocean.

Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) involve working with and enhancing nature to achieve multiple benefits for people, including removing CO2 from the air, and aiding adaptation  to climate change.

Green Recovery and Resilience

A green recovery from COVID-19 could accelerate GDP growth in the immediate future, establish new industries and jobs for the coming decade, and deliver a sustainable climate for the next century. 

News and Events

New ONZ report on Net Zero Commitments by Businesses in Africa
New ONZ report on Net Zero Commitments by Businesses in Africa

ONZ fellow Dr Jessica Omukuti has undertaken a stocktake study on net zero commitments by Africa’s largest publicly listed companies. For the report, the team gathered data on the emission targets of Africa’s 250 largest publicly listed ... Read more

ONZ contributes to new global guidelines for clarity on net zero action at COP27
ONZ contributes to new global guidelines for clarity on net zero action at COP27

The ISO publishes the Net Zero Guidelines to support all actors and organisations to reach their net zero goals, with expert contribution from Oxford Net Zero. Read more

New HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations
New HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations

New UN HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations. Read more

Oxford Net Zero at COP27
Oxford Net Zero at COP27

Lovely to meet you at COP27! We are here representing Oxford Net Zero, an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Oxford. Our group is made up of anthropologists, geophysicists, biologists, lawyers, political scientists and more. ... Read more

The Science, Origins and Implications of Net Zero – new research paper
The Science, Origins and Implications of Net Zero – new research paper

A new research paper by Myles Allen and colleagues explains the science behind the drive for global net zero emissions and why this is needed to halt the ongoing rise in global temperatures. Read more

Oxford Net Zero publishes report on the Voluntary Net Zero Initiatives Landscape
Oxford Net Zero publishes report on the Voluntary Net Zero Initiatives Landscape

Oxford Net Zero researchers have produced a report of 33 voluntarz initiatives across the governance landscape to identify areas of convergence and divergence in terms of guidance offered to corporate actors. Read more

See more news and events

Dr @thomasnhale, @OxfordNetZero /NZT co-lead:
“The #HLEG report crystalizes a clear set of best practices on #netzero: cover all your emissions, set nr-term targets, publish your plan & update on progress, do not use offsets to delay/substitute for reduction, get there by 2050."

We'll be sharing these #netzero guidelines individually a lot over the coming months. Why?

Because tackling the *surplus of confusion and deficit of credibility* relies upon these becoming the lodestar 🌟 for thousands of global entities, even national governments.


The #HLEG #NetZero Guidelines show what “good” looks like, including:
🎯Setting net zero pledges
🎯Set targets quickly/fully
🗺️Transition plans
🛢️Fossil fuel phase out
⛓️People/ nature
🪟Transparency/ accountability
⚖️Just transitions
👩‍⚖️Road to regulation

Load More...