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What is Net Zero and what does it mean for events?

As the world considers how it can mitigate climate change, Global Engage has committed to playing its part by reducing the impact of running events. But how to do it? I recently attended an onboarding course organised by ISLA and discovered that “Carbon Neutral” and “Net Zero” are not the same thing!

This blog was published by ISLA in November 2021 and is reproduced here with their permission.

“Want to commit to a Net Zero strategy, but you’re not entirely sure what that means or why it’s so important? Don’t worry, you’re not alone… “
The definition

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines ‘net-zero’ as the point in time when:

“Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specified period”.

In other words, a point at which we are no longer emitting more human-made GHGs than we can remove from the atmosphere.

In their 2018 scientific assessment, the IPCC made clear that in order for the Earth’s atmosphere to stay within a 1.5C global warming limit, we would need to cut our CO2 emissions in half by 2030 (compared to 2017 levels) and reach a state of Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050 – these Science Based Targets (SBT) nations have been rushing to publish blueprints for what this looks like ahead of COP26.

The earlier 2030 target serves as a crucial and urgent milestone to set us on a more ambitious and cost-effective path towards meeting Net-Zero by 2050.

The UK’s net-zero commitment

In July 2019, the UK pledged national emissions would be cut to almost zero by 2050, and in April 2021 the government set out an additional target of a 78% reduction in emissions (vs. 1990 levels) by 2035. Putting it simply, this is the same as a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from pre-industrial levels.

On 19th October 2021, ten days ahead of COP26, the UK published its Net Zero Strategy. This document focused on the diffusion of technologies such as electric vehicles, low-carbon aviation fuel and the mass installation of heat pumps.

Net Zero vs. Carbon Neutrality

So, does that mean that Net Zero is the same as ‘Carbon Neutral’?

Carbon neutrality is indeed a process of balancing the CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere, as a result of your company’s activities, with an equivalent amount of CO2 removal. The go-to method of achieving this involves carbon offsetting – investing in schemes that both reduce CO2 emissions in the first instance (renewable energy projects, reducing heat loss through improved building insulation, the development of electric vehicles), or by preserving and restoring natural carbon sinks (forests, oceans and soils). This approach should be viewed as more of a stepping stone towards the Net Zero by 2050 transition.

Net Zero targets take things a step further than carbon neutrality and involve a more comprehensive decarbonisation assessment and approach – including mandatory SBTs – targets designed to keep us within a 1.5C global warming limit including credible delivery plans.

You can read the full blog and more about the steps that will accelerate the event industry’s transition to a sustainable future here

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