Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times. Experts explain that we must take urgent action to cut global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and eliminate them completely by 2050.
'Net zero emissions’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ are interchangeable terms that relate to the dire need to achieve ecological balance on Earth, by reducing climate pollution and implementing processes that reduce the impact of pollution to as close to zero as possible.
Achieving overall ecological balance requires the phasing out of fossil fuel emissions, along with adopting efficient, renewable energy and taking measures to reduce emissions from agriculture and forestry.
A World Bank report, Decarbonizing Development: Three Steps to a Zero Carbon Future, lays out three steps for a smooth transition to a zero-carbon future and includes data, examples and policy advice. The first step is to plan for the future. Governments need to make proactive choices that lay the groundwork for future development, designing public transportation for cities and thinking ahead about the research and technology that will be needed 20 to 50 years from now.
The second step is to get prices right as part of a broad policy package.Currently, the market fails to incorporate the cost of environmental damage from greenhouse gas emissions. Putting a price on carbon through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system is an efficient way to raise revenue while encouraging lower emissions. Another helpful tactic is lowering tariffs on low-carbon goods like solar panels and energy-efficient light bulbs.
The third step is to facilitate a smooth transition. Two ways to provide revenue while reducing carbon emissions are: removing fossil fuel subsidies and implementing a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system. The funds made available can go toward education, healthcare and infrastructure, as well as provide support for the poor.
Last August, 19 urban areas across the globe with a combined population of 130 million committed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring that new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030. The mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Toronto, Vancouver, London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, and Johannesburg, among others, signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration.
The declaration also pledges to ensure these cities’ buildings, both old and new, will meet net-zero carbon standards by 2050. All the cities making this commitment will establish a roadmap to reach net zero carbon buildings, create supporting incentives and programs and report annually on progress.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions won't be easy, but it is still possible. It will require the collaboration of the public and government leaders as well as education and heightened awareness of what we must do, individually and collectively, to protect and conserve our precious planet.