In an era of increasing environmental concerns and the urgent need to combat climate change, the concept of net zero has gained significant attention. Achieving net zero emissions is a crucial goal for companies looking to contribute to a sustainable future. But what exactly does net zero mean, how is it measured, and what are the first steps companies should take? In this beginner’s guide, we’ll answer these questions and provide insights into embarking on the journey toward net zero.
Understanding Net Zero:
Net zero refers to the state where the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by a company are balanced by removing an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere. It’s about achieving equilibrium between what is emitted and what is removed or offset. In the long run, companies may even be carbon negative, and operate in such a way as to take carbon out of the environment. This balance can be achieved through a combination of reducing emissions at the source, adopting cleaner technologies and practices, and investing in carbon removal or offsetting initiatives. To learn more, check out this article on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
Measuring Net Zero Progress:
To measure progress towards net zero, companies need to establish a baseline for their emissions. This involves conducting a comprehensive GHG emissions inventory, identifying emission sources, and quantifying the amount of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) released. Familiar emission sources include energy consumption, transportation, waste management, and supply chain activities. These are covered under the aforementioned three scopes.
Once the baseline is established, companies can set targets to reduce emissions over a specific timeframe. These targets should be science-based and aligned with the global goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Companies can use internationally recognized frameworks like the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and ISO 14064 to guide their emission accounting and reporting.
First Steps Towards Net Zero:
- Conduct a GHG emissions inventory: Begin by understanding the company’s current emissions profile. Identify and quantify emission sources, including direct emissions (Scope 1), indirect emissions from purchased electricity (Scope 2), and indirect emissions from the value chain (Scope 3). You can find out more here.
- Set ambitious reduction targets: Establish science-based targets to guide emission reduction efforts. These targets should align with the company’s overall sustainability objectives and be measurable, time-bound, and in line with the latest climate science. Even if you miss the targets, getting part of the way there could be further than small, limited changes.
- Implement energy efficiency measures: Identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency within operations, such as upgrading equipment, optimizing processes, and adopting energy-saving technologies. This can lead to significant emissions reductions while also reducing operational costs.
- Transition to renewable energy: Explore renewable energy options for powering operations. Switching to renewable sources such as solar, wind, or hydropower can greatly reduce a company’s carbon footprint.
- Engage supply chain partners: Collaborate with suppliers to encourage sustainable practices and reduce emissions across the value chain. This can involve setting sustainability requirements, promoting responsible sourcing, and supporting suppliers in adopting cleaner technologies.
- Invest in carbon offset projects: As companies work toward reducing their emissions, there may still be residual emissions that are challenging to eliminate. In such cases, investing in verified carbon offset projects can help balance out these emissions by supporting activities that remove or reduce CO2e from the atmosphere.
What to keep in mind for the future:
Achieving net zero emissions is an essential step for companies to contribute to a sustainable future and combat climate change. By understanding the concept of net zero, measuring emissions, and taking the first steps outlined in this beginner’s guide, companies can begin their journey toward a more sustainable and resilient future. Embracing net zero not only benefits the environment but also enhances brand reputation, attracts customers, and positions companies as leaders in a low-carbon economy. It’s time to take action and pave the way for a brighter, greener future.
The “Climate & Legal Risk Summit: Navigating Sustainability in Energy & Mining” summit is a two-day event that brings together leading legal professionals from the energy and extractive industries for a unique opportunity to learn from and network with their peers. It will be held in Amsterdam, NL, on June 5th-6th, 2023. Visit future-bridge.eu and netzero-events.com or follow us on our social media to track other energy use and decarbonization events.