Global Carbon Budget and Net Zero

Global Carbon Budget and Net Zero

Liz Bentley

25 years: Meteorologist

What do countries and organisations base their targets and pledges on? Join Liz Bentley as she uncovers the global carbon budget, net zero and nationally determined contributions.

What do countries and organisations base their targets and pledges on? Join Liz Bentley as she uncovers the global carbon budget, net zero and nationally determined contributions.

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Global Carbon Budget and Net Zero

17 mins 31 secs

Overview

The global carbon budget is a simplified way to measure the maximum greenhouse gas emissions that can still enter the atmosphere if the world wants to limit global warming to a certain target. The carbon budget is based on the fact that the amount of global warming that will occur can be approximated by the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. It is important to measure this to set targets for net zero. Net zero refers to the state of achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas we emit and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Key learning objectives:

  • Understand the carbon budget

  • Define net zero

  • Understand requirements of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

  • Outline global climate pledges

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Summary
What is the carbon budget? 
The global carbon budget is a simplified way to measure the maximum greenhouse gas emissions that can still enter the atmosphere if the world wants to limit global warming to a certain target. The carbon budget is based on the fact that the amount of global warming that will occur can be approximated by the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon budgets mask a lot of the complexity because the world has already warmed by approximately 1.2°C and the remaining carbon budget is small. Between 1850-2019 we have already emitted 2390 GtCO2 of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We had approximately 360 GtCO2 left as of 2020.

What is net zero? 
Net zero refers to the state of achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas we emit and the amount removed from the atmosphere. 

What are Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)? 
Nationally Determined Contributions are the pledges made by countries under the UNFCCC to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Each country is required to submit an NDC that outlines its targets, policies, and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. NDCs are expected to be updated and submitted every five years, with increasing ambition to reduce emissions over time. NDCs are important tools to facilitate global co-operation on climate change as they provide a framework for countries to take collective action. 

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Liz Bentley

Liz Bentley

Professor Liz Bentley is the Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK. Her career in meteorology spans over 30 years and she has worked at the Met Office, BBC, and in Government. She is a regular contributor to the major broadcasters, delivering over 200 media interviews each year.

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