What Is Net Zero and How Can We Help?
We are all becoming increasingly aware of climate change – both in terms of international news coverage and the impact upon our immediate environment. The UK recently hosted the 26th annual UN Climate change conference of the Parties – or ‘COP26’. For the conference, over 190 world leaders gathered in Scotland to pledge to work together to achieve net-zero global warming by 2050. As we work towards ‘net zero’, the decisions made during the COP26 conference are likely to impact businesses across all industries and sectors. So, what does “Net Zero” actually mean in principle, and how does this work in practice?
What Does It Mean to Have a Net-Zero Carbon Footprint?
Simply put, when the amount of greenhouse gases produced and removed from the atmosphere are equal, we are said to be at net zero. We will have attained net-zero status when the amount we contribute equals the quantity taken away. The question world leaders are joined together to focus on is how we achieve this.
The key focus of the COP26 conference has been surrounding the commitment towards deforestation, restoration, and the collective drive towards a reduction in methane emissions.
Over 100 countries — accounting for more than 85 % of the world’s forests — have committed to halting and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030, with $19.2 billion in public and private funding. If this pledge is successful, it will have a significant impact on the fight against climate change. Impressively, Brazil, which is home to the world’s greatest tract of tropical forest, has now committed to the 2030 target too.
Additionally, there has been a strong drive to reduce methane emissions. Over 100 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions – a considerable rise from the pledge’s first announcement in September. As a result of signing the pledge, countries are committing to a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030, which would cut global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius.
What else can we do to work towards Net Zero status?
There are small steps we can take to be more mindful of the amount and source of food we consume. Intensive food production has a detrimental effect on the environment, depleting soil and destroying marine ecosystems. Poor land management and modern intensive agricultural methods have degraded the quality of soil; by its nature, soil is a nutrient-rich structure which provides the fertile foundations for growing plants. The heavy use of pesticides and mono-crops leads to soil depletion and the consequential loss of nutrients from the soil structure faster than nutrients can be replaced. Additionally, roughly a quarter of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are currently attributed to the global food system, a share that is expected to rise in the future. Meat production has quadrupled since the 1960s and food system emissions alone pose a hazard to global warming of more than 1.5 degrees C. Methane from livestock accounts for nearly 30% of all global methane pollution – that’s almost a third of global pollution from animal agriculture and therefore all of us can contribute to cutting that 30% by simply choosing to eat plant-based meals.
Small, sustainable steps such as choosing organic groceries, purchasing produce from ethical farming practices and cutting down on meat and dairy in our day-to-day lives can make big changes in reducing our carbon footprint and collectively lowering our own impact on the planet overall.
The UN has issued a strong call to action, predicting that the world’s population will exceed 8.5 billion by 2030, to significantly reduce waste generation through waste prevention and waste packaging reduction, as well as reuse and recycling wherever possible with the goal of minimising the health and environmental impact. Further packaging practices you can build into your day-to-day life includes reusing shopping bags, opting for ‘zero waste’ shops and purchasing eco-friendly packaging over single-use plastics.
Simple steps such as these have a big impact in terms of lowering our footprint on the planet and creating a cleaner, greener future.