Introduction to Net Zero Targets

Introduction to Net Zero Targets

John Lang

12 years: Sustainability and Net Zero

In this video, John explores the evolution of the net zero concept, tracing its journey from the IPCC's 'Special Report on 1.5°C' to a key driver of global economic policy. He breaks down the three implementation phases, uncovers the pillars of integrity for credible net zero targets, and discusses accountability mechanisms such as the Net Zero Tracker and global frameworks like the UN Recognition and Accountability Framework.

In this video, John explores the evolution of the net zero concept, tracing its journey from the IPCC's 'Special Report on 1.5°C' to a key driver of global economic policy. He breaks down the three implementation phases, uncovers the pillars of integrity for credible net zero targets, and discusses accountability mechanisms such as the Net Zero Tracker and global frameworks like the UN Recognition and Accountability Framework.

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Introduction to Net Zero Targets

8 mins 21 secs

Overview

The concept of net zero emerged rapidly after the IPCC's 1.5°C report, with its adoption expanding from one-sixth to 90% of global GDP within years. Initially, policy aligned with the scientific consensus that emissions must balance with removals by sinks. Pledges then dominated the discourse, but the current phase emphasises integrity and actual implementation of net zero commitments. Net zero requires clear intent and robust planning, followed by genuine, immediate action. Credibility demands setting and meeting interim targets, transparency in progress, and advocacy aligned with climate action. Accountability frameworks are evolving, with entities like the UN and Race to Zero defining best practices. While scepticism exists, with criticisms of strategic deflection and vague commitments, net zero remains essential for climate stabilisation, driving collective action towards reducing emissions, and ultimately, transitioning to climate positivity to reverse overshooting climate targets.

Key learning objectives:

  • Understand how net zero has evolved as well as the specific phases of implementation

  • Understand the pillars of integrity in setting credible net zero targets

  • Outline the convergence on standards for net zero and emerging frameworks

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This video is now available for free. It is also part of a premium, accredited video course. Speak to an expert today to watch more.

Summary
How has net zero evolved and what are the phases of implementation? 

Net zero's evolution is marked by its swift adoption post the IPCC’s ‘Special Report on 1.5°C,’ influencing global economic policy significantly. The evolution includes three phases: Phase One is the acknowledgement of net zero in policy circles, Phase Two marks the surge of net zero pledges shaping the decarbonisation approach, and the latest Phase Three emphasises the actual delivery of these net zero commitments, highlighting action over promises, focusing on the integrity and feasibility of these pledges.

What are the pillars of integrity in setting credible net zero targets?

The pillars of integrity for credible net zero targets consist of a transparent, publicly-announced commitment to net zero, considering global responsibilities. Credibility is supported by setting and following through on interim targets, and formulating detailed, quantifiable plans covering all emissions. Immediate emission reductions, ongoing transparent progress reports, and independent verification are crucial. Additionally, corporate policies and lobbying must align with climate action objectives, and any use of carbon credits should be limited, high-quality, and independently verified.

How is accountability established when setting net zero targets?

Accountability for net zero targets is underpinned by clear, measurable, and publicly-accessible tracking systems like the Net Zero Tracker, which offers an overview of national and corporate commitments and progress. It helps identify genuine action versus superficial claims. This is further reinforced by global frameworks such as the UN Recognition and Accountability Framework and initiatives like the Race to Zero, which set the standards for what constitutes credible action, ensuring transparency and driving comparability among pledges to foster a collective move toward a sustainable, net zero future.

Now free to watch

This video is now available for free. It is also part of a premium, accredited video course. Speak to an expert today to watch more.

John Lang

John Lang

John Lang manages the Net Zero Tracker for various organisations, including the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit in London, NewClimate Institute in Germany, Data-Driven EnviroLab in the US, and Oxford Net Zero. He specialises in analysing and communicating climate science and policy to the public. He also runs Consult Climate, a sustainability-focused consultancy, and Kiwis in Climate, a 250-strong group of international New Zealanders working in climate and related fields. John holds a Master of Laws in international environmental law and policy from UCL and undergraduate degrees in history and law from the University of Otago.

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