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Carbon Emissions: What Is the Net Zero Target All About?

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In the past years, the consequences of climate change and global warming have been more severe than ever. Higher temperatures are causing floods, droughts and fuel fires in forests all over the world. The pressure to begin facing these issues has become hard to ignore.

One of such actions is to cut global carbon emissions in the next three decades. To succeed in this endeavor, it is not enough to stop relying on fossil fuels and other sources of emissions. The IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – has urged governments to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

However, what does net zero targets mean?

What Are Net Zero Carbon Emissions?

Net zero target means basically that nations remove from the atmosphere the amount of carbon they emit until they reach net zero emissions. Seventeen nations have agreed to set these targets. Some countries, such as Suriname and Bhutan, already remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce. Other nations try to implement this process by writing their targets into law.

To reach the net zero targets, countries can rely on trees and plants which naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere. This means increasing the number of areas dedicated to wetlands and forests. However, this solution is fraught with problems. Therefore, many nations are considering other methods of removing the carbon they emit. For instance, one of such methods is bio-energy which consist in employing energy crops to capture carbon and store them until we burn them to produce energy. Another option is direct air capture, which, indeed, means capturing CO2 directly from the air. Both methods, however, have their shortcomings.

The Issue With Net Zero Targets

It is hard for nations to increase the amount of land dedicated to trees and plants since this would mean reducing the available area for food production. The same issue arises as far as bio-energy is concerned. Moreover, carbon capture and storage and direct air capture are two technologies that are at very early stages of development. To bet everything on them would mean to risk not reaching the net zero targets.

Another issue of net zero carbon emissions lays in the way countries measure their emissions. For instance, the emissions countries produce outside their borders are ignored. Therefore, the carbon footprint left by trade or by the products that nations consume but produce in other countries is not considered by the net zero targets.

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