WHAT IS NET ZERO? What have other countries promised? - Geography for You

WHAT IS NET ZERO? What have other countries promised?


Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. 

The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’. 


What does net zero emissions mean?

‘Net zero emissions’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere. Think of it like a set of scales: producing greenhouse gas emissions tips the scales, and we want to get those scales back into balance, which means no more greenhouse gas can be added to the atmosphere in any given year than is taken out. 

Eventually, we will probably need to tip them the other way to repair past harm. Once we stop emitting greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, we still need to deal with all the emissions we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere over the years. 

Getting to net zero means we can still produce some emissions, as long as they are offset by processes that reduce greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. For example, these could be things like planting new forests, or drawdown technologies like direct air capture. The more emissions that are produced, the more carbon dioxide we need to remove from the atmosphere (this is called sequestration) to reach net zero. 

However, to avoid a climate catastrophe, new emissions of greenhouse gas must be as low as possible. In other words, we need to get as close as possible to a real zero and only rely on offsetting when it is absolutely necessary.  This means that we need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and transition to renewable energy.


All of the different terms (Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, Climate Neutral) point to the different ways in which emissions sources and sinks are accounted for in context, and help to indicate what is, and is not included in the calculation or a target. As net zero is the internationally agreed upon goal for mitigating global warming in the second half of the century, and the IPCC concluded the need for net zero CO2 by 2050 to remain consistent with 1.5C – the purpose of this site is to inform effective climate action that is net zero aligned in order to advance progress towards this goal.

Many actors will be able to achieve absolute zero or zero emissions in the process, hence the choice of terms in the global ‘Race to Zero’ campaign focused on raising ambition. Others will need to scale up removals either themselves directly or by supporting other project, hence the ‘net’ in net zero.   

What have other countries promised?

More than 130 countries have pledged to reach net zero emissions before 2050.

However, China - currently the biggest producer of CO2 in the world - says it's aiming for "carbon neutrality" by 2060. It hasn't set out exactly what this means or how it will get there.

Russia - the third-largest producer of oil worldwide - has also pledged to reach net zero by 2060, although its draft commitment hasn't been legally ratified.

Until recently President Putin dismissed the risks posed by rising temperatures.

US President Joe Biden criticised the Russian and Chinese leaders for not attending the COP26 summit.

India - the world's fourth biggest emitter of CO2 after China, the US and the EU - has promised to cut its emissions to net zero by 2070.

Some of the world's most heavily populated countries - including Indonesia - haven't made any net zero commitment.

But many of the announcements which have already come out of the COP26 summit on deforestation, cutting methane and reducing coal are directly linked to helping countries hit their net zero goal.

Previous article
Next article

Leave Comments

Post a Comment

Articles Ads

Articles Ads 1

Articles Ads 2

Advertisement Ads