is net zero just a buzzword?

I’ve been around long enough to have seen a few fads come and go in the environmental sector. I might have got into bins because of the fact that plastic in the oceans was killing leatherback turtles, but back then, recycling was all about saving the trees. Now it’s about being carbon net-zero.

In recent years we’ve seen companies go plastic-free, declare climate emergencies, join climate rebellions, move to one-planet living, go climate neutral, carbon neutral and now, more recently go carbon net-zero. All these different terms to deal with the one simple fact: modern living damages the planet’s ecosystems to such an extent that future generations will not be able to enjoy the same standard of living that we do today.

So where does carbon net zero come from? The Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 at COP21 as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signatories to the Agreement (196 countries) agreed to keep global average temperature rises to less that 2degrees and to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees ideally which is the level at which we think we can handle the impacts of climate change. We’ve been talking about this since Kyoto was signed back in 1997 and since then global emissions have increased. In Paris it was agreed that the only way to meet these targets was for there to be net zero carbon emission by mid-century. The UK has led the way in being the first country to put this into law, and so companies are following suite. (Whether or not you think we’ll make it is another matter).

However, being net zero something is just a sum; add something, take something else away and make sure the result is zero. When we are talking about climate change, some have taken it to mean carry on as normal, do some offsetting and hope the net result is no extra carbon being released. Unfortunately, while the market price of carbon is still low, it is easy for some companies to offset business as usual and greenwash it as something positive. Or net zero.

At Binit we want to be clear that for us, and for other responsible companies that we work with and support, net zero means reducing our carbon impact first and foremost. We are working now on calculating our Scope 1 and 2 emissions so we can set ambitious reduction targets by 2025. Scope 3 is harder, as anyone who has tried to calculate them will know! However, we’re working on a plan to reduce these too and while we’re doing this, we will offset. But offsetting is the temporary sticking plaster, it’s not healing the cut. As far as I’m concerned, even when we are net zero, we’re still bleeding. And the bleeding won’t stop till we stop using fossil fuels altogether. If we can’t do that, then there ain’t enough space on this one planet to plant all the trees that will be needed to stop climate change. 

Is net zero a buzzword? Can I ‘cop’ out and say it depends who uses it and how? Afterall, it’s not what you say, but what you do that counts. 

Want help in going net zero? Give us a shout.