The United Nations reported last month that emissions are on track to be just 0.5 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, compared with the 45 percent needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which would give the world the best chance of avoiding the worst projected consequences of global warming.AD
Fudging a net zero commitment doesn’t reduce emissions, exacerbates the climate crisis and emits cynicism, which threatens the political momentum generated by scientific warnings and popular demands for action.
So what needs to happen?
First, we need enforceable international rules, independently adjudicated and based on science, free from industry influence — think a climate World Anti-Doping Agency with teeth.
The rules need to make clear that carbon must first be removed. Where there is no prospect of getting to zero in the medium term, residual emissions will need to be offset. We will need to agree what residual emissions are. Offsetting should preferably be by a method where the carbon is removed and stored for the long term.
Offsetting is a critical buffer and should be regarded as a precious space — one that should only be used for difficult-to-abate emissions. Offsetting cannot be a crutch for firms wanting to extend business as usual or countries slow-walking the transition to carbon neutrality.