The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that we will need to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees, a threshold beyond which we will see extreme temperatures, rising oceans, destruction of coral reefs, amongst many other critical issues.
To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as agreed to by most countries at COP26 in 2021 – greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
There is some confusion as to what net zero entails. ‘Net zero emissions’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere. The more emissions that are produced, the more carbon dioxide we need to remove from the atmosphere to reach net zero. Given the challenges inherent in sequestering carbon, new emissions of greenhouse gas must be as low as possible.