The growing corporate and political interest in building a net zero emission economy may have been sparked by the Paris Agreement and the somewhat under the radar clause requiring signatories to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”. But the truth is the civilisation-shaping process of setting and delivering on net zero emission targets has its origins less in the legalese of an international treaty and more in the hard physics of climate science. It could be argued the roots of the current interest in net zero targets – as epitomised by Unilever, Tesco, Carlsberg, Kering, and the various business groups and political commentators we spoke to for this investigation – goes all the way back to the 1850s and the discovery of the greenhouse effect. The recognition the only way to eventually halt rising temperatures is by stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases was always the logical conclusion to be drawn from that history-defining breakthrough. More specifically, the current wave of engagement with net zero goals dates back to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and the founding of the UNFCCC climate change secretariat in 1994 – the problem was the goal of balancing greenhouse gas emissions and sinks was hiding in plain sight. “By definition if you want to avoid further warming you need to reach Net Zero,” reflects Jonathan Grant, director of the climate change team at PwC. “There is no escaping it. It’s funny it has taken over 20 years of the existence of the UN Convention on Climate Change for people to realise if you want to stop warming you need to be net zero. It’s obvious really. It was always in the Convention, implicitly if not explicitly. But only now are we talking about it. It is funny it has not been talked about in these terms until now.” It is funny, but Grant is not laughing. No one is laughing.
Business Green 23rd July 2018 read more »