What is net zero?
- It means the aggregate carbon emissions of a country should be zero on a given date.
- It is primarily carbon neutrality.
- A country can achieve negative emissions, if removal and absorption exceed the actual emissions.
- Eg: If a country emits a certain amount of carbon every year, it will have to offset it through forest absorption or carbon capturing or buying carbon credits.
- Bhutan and Suriname are the only two countries in the world whose net emissions are less than carbon absorption capability because of their green cover and very little population.
Significance of moving towards Net Zero Emissions
- Earlier, the discussions focussed on emission-reduction targets by 2050 or 2070 for rich countries, whose unregulated emissions over several decades are responsible for global warming and consequent climate crisis which resulted in countries realising that emission reduction will not work, and countries will have to work towards carbon neutrality.
- The net zero formulation does not assign any emission reduction targets to any country.
- It primarily aims at aggregate zero emission levels.
- Net zero is mandatory to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement target of not allowing the planet’s temperature to rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century.
- According to the IPCC Report, reaching net zero for greenhouse gas emissions is a requirement to stabilise human-induced global temperature at any level.
- This was for the first time that net zero got scientific backing with IPCC projecting the impact of net zero in different scenarios.
How many countries have committed to net zero?
- As of now, 137 of 192 countries that are part of the UN Climate Convention and representing 80% of global emissions have committed to net zero emissions targets.
- They include the world’s two largest emitters, the USA and China.
- The third biggest emitter, India is yet to announce a net zero target year.
- Eg: China has a net zero target of 2060, Germany and Sweden have opted for 2045; Iceland and Austria 2040; Finland has opted for 2035; and Uruguay has set 2030 as the target year and most countries including the USA have opted for 2050.
Why is India opposing the idea?
- India believes that agreeing to net zero would slow down its economic growth and hamper its poverty alleviation programmes.
- It also believes that net zero negates the concept of common but differentiated responsibility of the UN Climate Convention to deal with the climate crisis because in net zero, every country has an equal responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is not equitable.
- Net zero will impact India’s use of coal for electricity and as of now, thermal power contributes 60% of India’s needs.
- India also emphasised on the issue that net zero is not possible without the transfer of clean technology patents to the developing and underdeveloped world to help them faster transition to a cleaner economy.
- Eg: Europe has moved away from fossil fuel to a cleaner and greener economy as a result to meet the net zero target would not be very investment intensive.
- It also claims the Green Climate Fund set up in 2016 with a promise to share green technologies with the developing world has not been able to do much as the rich countries have not provided the promised US$ 100 billion by 2020.
Why in News ?
- The idea of net zero emissions has got a lot of traction among global climate negotiators over the last year and some agreement on it is expected at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.
Green Climate Fund (GCF)
- GCF is a unique global platform to respond to climate change by investing in low-emission and climate-resilient development.
- It was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in developing countries, and to help vulnerable societies adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
- Given the urgency and seriousness of this challenge, GCF is mandated to make an ambitious contribution to the united global response to climate change.