With governments, businesses, and institutions producing an avalanche of net-zero carbon commitments, and some observers writing off the whole exercise as a “big con”, Climate Action Tracker is out with a set of 10 “key elements” for distinguishing effective national targets from the less legitimate variety.
“At their best, well-designed and ambitious net-zero targets are key for reducing global carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero around 2050 and 2070, respectively,” write Tracker analysts Frederic Hans, Silke Mooldijk, and Claire Fyson. “Ambitious net-zero targets can also guide the implementation of Paris-aligned actions in the short and medium term, in particular 2030 emission reduction goals.”
But that’s not the way it always goes. “At their worst, net-zero targets are unclear or not backed up by real-world action,” they warn. “Net-zero targets can distract from the urgent need for deep emissions reductions if 2030 targets and short-term action are inconsistent with their achievement, allowing governments to ‘hide’ behind aspirational net-zero targets. Unless governments start acting now, their chances of achieving net-zero will be slim.”
Climate Action Tracker’s 10 elements of a robust, transparent national net-zero target include:
• A clear target year that matches up with the emission reduction goals in the Paris climate agreement;
• Coverage of all greenhouse gases, sources, and economic sectors;
• Inclusion of international aviation and shipping;
• Achievement of net-zero emissions within national borders, to the extent that that’s feasible, without relying on measures outside the country’s own borders;
• Adoption of national laws to enshrine the targets;
• Separately-defined targets for emission reductions and carbon removals;
• A legally-binding review process that regularly tracks progress toward net-zero;
• “Transparent assumptions” about the role of land use, land use change, and forestry and other forms of carbon dioxide removal;
• Comprehensive planning that provides for short- and medium-term action toward net-zero;
• An emphasis on countries’ fair-share contributions to net-zero, with developed countries explaining “how they will make up for any difference between what would be a fair contribution and what would be a realistic contribution, for example by supporting other countries in decarbonizing their economies without claiming credits for use towards their own targets.”
Climate Action Tracker will soon begin applying these criteria to 40 countries that account for about 81% of the world’s emissions, the post states.
“There is a clear need for a nuanced assessment of incoming national net-zero targets to understand their scope, architecture, and transparency,” the three authors write. “Without such scrutiny, there is a risk that poorly backed up net-zero claims could render these targets meaningless.”