Defining net zero

ISO to provide international platform for developing world’s first consensus-based net-zero guiding principles and the benchmark for the climate agenda.

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Climate change is the most pressing existential threat to our planet. The IPCC’s most recent report issued a clarion call to organizations and policymakers across the world, encouraging them to take meaningful action to curb global warming.

The science is clear: the worst effects of climate change can be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. To achieve this, anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions must reach net zero by the year 2050.

Net zero is often referred to as a state in which any human-produced carbon dioxide or other planet-warming gases can be removed from the atmosphere. This can be done naturally, such as by restoring forests that absorb CO2 out of the air, or by using technology that can capture and store emissions or directly pull CO2 from the atmosphere. Despite this common understanding, it remains unclear what net zero means in practice for state and non-state actors.

This year’s World Environment Day theme of “Only One Earth” resonates with the current global agenda to reduce the impacts of climate change. As the world seeks to reduce variation and bring alignment to “net zero”, unity has never been more important.

ISO is a part of Our 2050 World, a collaboration to support state and non-state actors to accelerate their “race to zero” using standards. As such, it is committed to accelerating progress by providing the international platform to develop net-zero guiding principles through the launch of an International Workshop Agreement (IWA).

Anthropogenic emissions must reach net zero by the year 2050.

Five African women walk across the barren landscape carrying water tanks on their backs.

This IWA will enable all interested parties to take part and aims to form consensus on the definitions surrounding net zero to support voluntary initiatives and standards, as well as national and international policy objectives.

Greater consistency and clarity surrounding net zero will ultimately increase the impact of any global efforts. The guiding principles will seek to include the following:

  1. A definition of net zero and related concepts (national, regional and organizational)
  2. How this definition should be incorporated into initiatives, strategies and policies at all levels
  3. The basis for accountability mechanisms and measurements, such as development of consistent indicators enabling reporting and communication

Importantly, these net-zero guiding principles will build upon the progress made through existing initiatives, campaigns and governance from state and non-state actors, supporting their purpose and increasing their reach.

ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica commented: “Our International Workshop Agreement will help move the global community from commitments to action. We recognize the need to mobilize the world to drive real change quickly and effectively in order to help countries meet their net-zero targets and build a sustainable future. The IWA will be instrumental in helping to implement policies more effectively. Together, we will reach our climate goals more quickly.”

International Standards continue to play a vital role in bolstering the work of the global climate science community and fostering public trust in climate research. ISO has hundreds of standards that are essential in supporting this field – they help actors adapt to climate change, quantify greenhouse gas emissions and promote the dissemination of best practice. Together with the IWA, these will form a suite of well-known ISO standards on climate change mitigation.

Read more about ISO’s climate action and register your interest to be part of the IWA on net-zero guiding principles. 

 

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