The meaning of net zero and how to get it right
Fankhauser S., Smith SM., Allen M., Axelsson K., Hale T., Hepburn C., Kendall JM., Khosla R., Lezaun J., Mitchell-Larson E., Obersteiner M., Rajamani L., Rickaby R., Seddon N., Wetzer T.
The concept of net-zero carbon emissions has emerged from physical climate science. However, it is operationalized through social, political and economic systems. We identify seven attributes of net zero, which are important to make it a successful framework for climate action. The seven attributes highlight the urgency of emission reductions, which need to be front-loaded, and of coverage of all emission sources, including currently difficult ones. The attributes emphasize the need for social and environmental integrity. This means carbon dioxide removals should be used cautiously and the use of carbon offsets should be regulated effectively. Net zero must be aligned with broader sustainable development objectives, which implies an equitable net-zero transition, socio-ecological sustainability and the pursuit of broad economic opportunities.