The idea of carbon offsetting, which underpins so-called net zero targets, is founded on a number of myths.
In many cases, offsetting relies on capturing carbon in vegetation and soils. Such capacity is however limited and is needed to store carbon dioxide that we have already emitted.
Assumptions of future technologies and targets decades ahead delay immediate action. Countries and corporations must shift focus from distant net zero targets to real emissions reductions now.
The impacts of the climate crisis are becoming increasingly severe, everywhere. We are experiencing heat waves, floods, droughts, forest fires and sea level rise as a result of global heating. The average global temperature is rising at an unprecedented rate, rapidly diminishing the prospect of keeping global warming below 1.5C and with increasing risks of crossing irreversible tipping points.
In practice, however, net zero targets several decades into the future shift our focus away from the immediate and unprecedented emissions reductions needed. Net zero targets are generally premised on the assumption that fossil fuel emissions can be compensated for by carbon offsetting and unproven future technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But offsetting does not cancel out our emissions – yet action to do so is immediately needed.
There are a number of myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting that must be dispelled. By revealing them, we aim to empower citizens, so that they can pressure governments and companies to create real solutions, here and now:
Myth 1: Net zero by 2050 is sufficient to solve the climate crisis. Misleading.
Major and unprecedented reductions in emissions are needed now. Otherwise, our current high emissions will consume the small remaining global carbon budget within just a few years. Net zero targets typically assume that it will be possible to deliver vast amounts of “negative emissions”, meaning removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through storage in vegetation, soils and rocks. However, deployment of the technologies needed for negative emissions at the required scale remains unproven, and should not replace real emissions reductions today.
Myth 2: We can compensate for fossil fuel emissions using so-called “nature-based solutions” (such as carbon sequestration in vegetation and soils). Misleading.Continue reading “10 myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting, busted”