Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the atmosphere mostly through burning fossil fuels (e.g. transportation) and certain chemical reactions (e.g. manufacture of cement). Meanwhile Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle. Methane (CH4) is emitted during the production of fossil fuels and produced from raising livestock and other agricultural practices. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is emitted through combustion of fossil fuels, manufacturing processes, agricultural production and treatment of wastewater. Fluorinated gases are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are highly potent greenhouse gases.
If we do nothing to control emissions and eventually removal of greenhouses gases from our atmosphere, air quality will continue to deteriorate and global temperatures will continue to rise increasing the incidence of:
- deaths and illnesses due to respiratory disorders and heat waves
- decimation of our forests and wildlife due to increasing incidents of wildfires
- melting of the ice caps causing rampant flooding and permanent damage to costal areas
- climatic changes and ecological disruptions
resulting in unquantifiable financial losses and more importantly, irreversible harm to our planet and ultimately the well-being of all living beings and plants.
Put simply, Net Zero means that we will not be adding any incremental Green House Gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. GHG emissions will continue, but there will be an attempt to greatly reduce these emissions, and in addition there will be an attempt to remove already emitted GHGs from the atmosphere.
The Paris Agreement came into force during Nov 2016, under the guidance of the United Nations, and was debated on and accepted by almost all (190+) countries. Net zero by 2050 is the goal. But countries also need to demonstrate how they will get there. Efforts to reach net-zero must be complemented with adaptation and resilience measures, and the mobilization of climate financing for developing countries.
The Key Objective is to limit global warming to below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, as compared to pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, we should reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (as per scientific research) to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century. This will be facilitated by the combination of actual reduction in emissions and removal of “rogue”, what we at get2net0 have termed GHG gases collectively. More and more regions, countries, cities and companies are establishing carbon neutrality targets. This trend is most noticeable in the power and transport sectors and has created many new business opportunities for early movers.
This Objective will be achieved through a combination of:
- Global economic and social transformation, based on the best available science.
- A 5-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action carried out by countries; by 2020, each country was expected to submit, and most have, their plans for climate action known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs which state the actions countries will take to reduce their emissions and actions they will take to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures.
- In addition, each country was required to submit long-term low emission development strategies (LT-LEDS). Unlike NDCs, LT-LEDS are not mandatory but they place the NDCs into the context of countries’ long-term planning and development priorities.
- Finance; developed countries have been requested to take the lead in providing financial assistance to needy countries which are more vulnerable. Voluntary contributions by all parties is being encouraged. Large-scale investments (climate finance eg. Green Climate Fund) are required to both significantly reduce emissions and to adapt to the outcomes of climate change.
- Technology; accelerating technology development and transfer; reducing time to market and increasing access to all stakeholders.
- Capacity-Building; developed countries have been requested to enhance support for capacity-building actions in developing countries
- Public awareness and participation is being encouraged and will be critical to the achieving of the overall mandate
Regions, countries, corporations, and eventually individual citizens, we are all responsible. We will have to change our habits and start living in a way which is more sustainable, and which does less harm to the eco-systems of our planet.
National governments will kickstart the process through legislation and local regulations. They will develop frameworks and timeframes in consultation with their constituent organizations and citizens, and this process has already begun in most jurisdictions. Local bodies, and industry associations along with local residents will then plan their strategy to meet or improve on the regulatory requirements and contribute to the achieving of Net Zero.
The federal government recognizes that it cannot achieve the net zero emission commitment on its own. Engagement is desired and expected from all stakeholders; provinces, cities, businesses and people including our youth.
To kickstart the process and legislate accountability, the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act was tabled in Nov. 2020. When finalized, the Act will formalize the actions required to achieve net zero by 2050 and will establish interim emissions reduction targets by providing 5-year milestones.
To further support the process, during Feb 2021 the government of Canada established an independent group, the Net-Zero Advisory Body, which is comprised of 14 experts from across the country. In addition, initiatives such as the $3B Net-Zero accelerator fund a Net-Zero Challenge, will encourage Canadian companies, particularly large industrial emitters, to develop and implement plans to transition their operations.
For Canada, the need to get moving is of great urgency. Temperatures in Canada are rising at twice the rate of the global average. We are a long way from our Paris agreement and net-zero commitments
Canada is currently among the world’s top per-capita emitters; oil and gas production as well as transportation accounting for most of these emissions. On the other hand, we are blessed with rich biodiversity and abundant natural resources such as the world’s largest fresh water reserves. We need to protect these. Our indigenous peoples have been warning about changing weather patterns and loss of habitat for decades and greatly support climate change action.
Canada already has, and is developing, many of the tools and technologies necessary to get us to clean energy production and a decarbonized world. We have a large number of cleantech and renewable energy companies and additional research capabilities through well established educational institutions and think-tanks. Our Financial Services sector is bringing climate risk to the table with initiatives to define green investment and disclose climate-related risks when making investments.
Many Canadian businesses and citizen groups have already made significant commitments to reducing emissions. These commitments need to now be converted to action.
The most recent report from the IPCC, released on February 28, 2022, was based on 34,000 studies and involved 270 authors from 67 countries. This report paints a troubling picture; climate change is already impacting every corner of the world, and much more severe impacts are in store if we fail to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade and immediately scale up adaptation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
Here are the key takeaways from the report:
- With just 1.1 °C of average warming, extreme weather events and extreme conditions are now common events.
- The IPCC estimates that in the next decade alone, climate change will drive 32-132 million more people into extreme poverty.
- Risks will compound one another as multiple hazards occur at the same time and in the same regions; many glaciers around the world will shrink considerably or disappear and an additional 350 million people will experience water scarcity by 2030 and up to 14% of terrestrial species will face extinction.
- Adaptation is crucial and we know that feasible solutions already exist. Most countries have yet to move beyond planning into implementation. Efforts today are still largely incremental, reactive and small-scale, with most focusing only on current impacts or near-term risks.
- About 3.5 billion people live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts and some impacts are already too severe to adapt to. The world needs urgent action now to address losses and damages.
The science is unequivocal: Climate change endangers the well-being of people and the planet. Delayed action risks triggering impacts of climate change so catastrophic our world will become unrecognizable. The next few years offer a narrow window to realize a sustainable, livable future for all. Changing course will require immediate, ambitious and concerted efforts to slash emissions, build resilience, conserve ecosystems, and dramatically increase finance for adaptation and mitigation.
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