What does Net Zero mean?

Where is it? How do you get to it?

Global net zero will never be achieved while large-scale negativity prevails. It can, however, be approached. As long as those who can, keep carbon reduction front of mind and central to behaviours and cultures, industries, businesses,
infrastructures, supply chains, transportation systems and governmental priorities, we can move in the right direction; at least those of us who care can.

Who’s to blame for the state we’re in?

If there’s anybody, anywhere, who doesn’t yet appreciate that the planet and our climate are in crisis, it’s either because they deny the ‘inconvenient truth’ , or belong to an exceptionally remote tribe.

Ironically neither the former, nor particularly the latter, is immune to its catastrophic potential. Even among everybody else there are millions who feel that it’s sort of nothing to do with them. The scary fact is that there are people in high office, businesses, and even entire countries who feel the same way. China, for example, the world’s biggest source of climate-changing pollution, “…has announced generally moderate new energy and climate targets that give little sign that it will step up its pace in combatting climate change”. There are many easy-to-identify culprits whose apathy toward the problem damages global efforts in direct proportion to the scale and source of their own carbon emissions. Very soon, the process of naming and shaming will create an irresistible force, at least to those for whom public censure or opprobrium are unwelcome. We can all imagine who the nation states are who simply don’t give a damn.

Who cares wins

It is encouraging to hear statements of intent such as that made by Boris Johnson in November 2020, outlining the government’s ten-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’:

“ My…Plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future”.

An attainable goal

Unashamedly Churchillian in tone, the intention in the foregoing words is exemplary; a rallying call to action. The first steps along the way to net zero are largely obvious. They are all about reducing practices that you know are dependent on harmful energy sources or result in planet-damaging outputs either directly or somewhere along the supply chain. This much is a universal truth.

Reduction alone, unfortunately, does not get us to zero; only eradication can do that. Universally there is heated discussion about carbon footprint reduction, not carbon footprint elimination. There’s a fine and realistic difference.

Moving from excess (blinkered or flagrant disregard of fossil fuel-based energy sources, and neglectful approaches to waste management) to moderation is the most realistic journey, the most attainable goal; doing what you can, where you can, as soon as you can.

Aggregate impact

Targeting for net zero means making meaningful efforts to move in the direction of zero carbon emissions with the understanding that while you may never hit zero – never actually eliminate the footprint – you can compensate for the margin by which you fail to achieve it by expending the residual efforts elsewhere.

What is net Zero

What does net zero mean?

Quite simply net zero is the zero you hit when you aggregate the impact of what you do that’s not so positive, by cancelling it out by doing something else that is very positive.

The UK government think tank, The Institute for Government, defines net zero as: “achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere”. Once everybody has a firm grasp of the concept and the practical steps in making it work, we will collectively accelerate progress. Numerous small steps make progress possible; every one counts, the more of them you embark on simultaneously, the more they will count.

Where is it?

If net zero is not a realistic goal within your operations because of the impossible shifts in operations involved, where is it? The answer is that it will be part of a global swing of the dial in the right direction; from one dirty great big slug of carbon into the environment, to an erosion of its overall impact by companies cancelling out their negative contribution with a positive one.

There are schemes to help you along the way; to help you continue to make a valuable contribution to the global effort if, for example, you cannot instantly eliminate your car or lorry fleet’s dependence on petrol or cannot yet easily switch from fossil fuel-based sources of electricity to wind or solar power. These schemes come under the banners of Carbon Credits and Carbon Offsetting

How do you get to it?

  • Carbon Credits: The World Economic Forum (WEF) explains carbon credits in this way: “By paying someone else to either reduce their emissions or capture their carbon, companies can compensate for their environmental footprint and even, in the most ambitious cases, use carbon credits to get to carbonneutral status.” Various schemes exist and it’s a matter of doing the research to find out the most appropriate for your type of business. An informative starting point can be found at the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
  • Carbon offsetting: No one central core scheme exists for carbon offsetting, but many are available. The schemes generally work by your purchasing a transferable instrument, basically a ‘credit note’ that can then be claimed as a reduction towards your own carbon footprint goals. Schemes are defined by their purpose (protecting rainforests from deforestation, for example) or by industry sector such as the international aviation scheme (CORSIA), construction sector schemes, hostility retail and so on. There is plenty of choice which enables you to align carbon reduction goals with your own feelings about environmental sustainability priorities.

Reputation matters

To summarise, any business can start the journey to net zero. All it takes is a little research about the types of schemes I’ve mentioned as well as the modifications to company behaviours that will have a positive impact on your carbon footprint. Don’t forget that as they do, they also have an immensely valuable impact on how people view your business. Customers everywhere are voting for environmentally sustainable businesses with their wallets. The knock-on effect through the supply chain also means that businesses are less inclined to deal with other businesses that are not making an effort to help the planet.

Start here. Start Now

The very first step is to understand the size of the problem in direct relation to your business; to measure how much carbon you produce. Only by measuring it can you manage it. The WEF offers some guidance on this: “You can calculate your carbon footprint by analysing how your activities generate CO2. Everything from lighting and heating to the data centres that host your business software, right through to the ink and paper for your printers. And, of course, your business travel. It all adds up. AyMa IoT is helping businesses to get to grips with the matrix of challenges presented by carbon footprint reduction. We’re using the Internet of Things (IoT) to great advantage by locating tiny sensors at the point of use to give exact real-time insights into what’s going on, and where, across your business. We can also help you find the right carbon offset scheme for your business and help you shift to greener energy sources.

There’s a lot to do, and the clock’s ticking. I firmly believe that by working together across businesses and supply chains, with the workforce and the community, with the environment at heart, we can all make a sizeable difference; but we have to start now.