Simply put, Net Zero or Carbon Neutrality means balancing emissions by absorbing an equivalent amount of emission from the atmosphere.
In order to prevent a rise in temperatures beyond 1.5C which can threaten the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere, most countries have joined the Paris Agreement which demands that global temperature should be kept at 1.5C, above pre-industrial era levels. Some things central to achieving a net zero climate is electrification, efficiency gains and behavior changes. Latest by 2050, most countries want to achieve net zero.
Most company’s Net Zero commitment is based on their carbon management quality where they implement a wide range of Carbon Management practices like avoiding or reducing emissions through efficiency and conservation, eliminating emissions through switching to renewable (zero carbon) sources of energy and sequestering or offsetting any remaining emissions. This means they support the Paris Agreement temperature goals and net zero where they set net zero commitments for themselves.
According to climate science, CO2 emission has to fall to zero which will help stabilize the global temperatures. To achieve the Paris temperature goals, net Co2 emissions must be zero before temperatures exceed 2C. Therefore, CO2 may not be emitted into the atmosphere without offsetting the CO2 removal.
According to Transition Pathway Initiative, Energy company’s account for almost 70% of global greenhouse gas emission and because of this, a significant percentage of investment in climate action comes from the energy sector.
It is important for energy companies to publish their net zero transition plan, have an offset mechanism that is reliable and sufficient for global transition on an economical scale. Their public statements and support should be consistent with the advancing public, political and corporate action towards net zero emission. More so, most of them need to deliver a comprehensive system to help in identifying the intervention points that trigger actions towards the transition for a better response and acceleration to net zero.
It has been noticed that most energy companies acknowledged Article 2 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and stated their support for the agreement. While some energy companies have set the year 2030, others have set the year 2050 to meet their net zero goal. Mostly, these net zero goals cover their operational emission directly.
An energy company like Eni has given detail on what their offset mechanism will be focusing on which is forest and land use management and preservation.
Some electricity utility companies who have agreed with the Paris Agreement however, have not provided offset mechanisms they will use for reaching net zero.
The energy sector emits (operation plus emission from energy consumed) carbon of at least 2.6 billion tons annually out of the 37.1 billion tons produced by human activities. It is expedient that the world moves toward an energy mix to reach a net zero emission but this is a challenge for both the energy industry and humanity.
The effect of Covid 19 on the energy industry has also made us realize that increase in demand is appreciated than increase in supply. It is good news that some energy companies have accepted to invest in meeting the net zero or be carbon neutral by the year 2050 and are actively working towards it. As a result of the net zero initiative some oil and gas companies like Orsted (formerly Danish Oil and Natural Gas) are transitioning into renewable energy companies
According to the World Resource Institute, it is projected that Greenhouse gas emission has to reduce by half by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century to avoid the worst effect of climate change.
Modern technology needed to reduce direct greenhouse gas emission from energy company’s operation and the indirect emission from energy consumed by these companies are within the framework of the industry’s processes. Like carbon capture, use and storage for enhanced oil recovery, or generating hydrogen from methane among others can be used. Energy Industries also need to grow exponentially in environmental innovation. They can get ideas from their labs as they gain assistant innovations from other industries.
One company cannot have a solution to the climate change challenge; therefore, it is important that operators, oilfield services, hyperscalers, integrators and startups collaborate to create the best solutions. It is imperative that companies in the energy sector readily share data across the industry to help them reach their goals.
Each day that passes is a step closer to achieving the net zero by the year 2050 and the energy industry has a leadership role to play by transforming the global energy systems. If the technology, innovation and innovation gaps needed to achieve net zero by year 2050 are worked towards, then there is hope for a net zero emission by year 2050.
The writer is a climate change and sustainable environment advocate