Net zero means that a building or area produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in no carbon emissions.

This means that the property generates an equivalent amount of energy from renewable sources to meet their yearly intake.

Net zero is an ideal goal for sustainable design. The term has been used widely since the early 2000s to describe entities that produce enough renewable energy to offset all their use of non-renewable sources of energy such as gas, oil and electric power from the grid.

What Is the Importance of Net Zero?

Under the Paris Agreement, countries announced their commitment to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

This level is viewed as the tipping point. Beyond which, we set ourselves on a course that is not sustainable for life on this planet. We are already at 1°C of warming since pre-industrial times due to our past greenhouse gas emissions. This is why the interest in net zero carbon buildings is growing now.

Net zero drastically reduces reliance on fossil fuels which harm both our health and climate.

Another reason why net zero is important is that it sets a precedent for other countries to pursue net zero initiatives to improve sustainability worldwide.

Finally, there is the economic aspect of having net zero buildings. They are ultimately more sustainable than older, traditional buildings that do not use eco-friendly design elements.

How Is Net Zero Achieved?

No to Coal Plants

Combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil is one of the leading causes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Hence, we must reduce our reliance on these energy sources and expand clean renewable options like wind and solar power.

Sustainable Investing

With net zero comes greater responsibility for investors to consider companies that are actively reducing their environmental impact through sustainable practices.

For example, if an investor wants to put money into the stock market, they should look for companies that use eco-friendly initiatives. Large corporations that contribute heavily towards carbon emissions through traditional methods of generating electricity should be avoided.

Divesting is the process of removing investments from fossil fuels and reinvesting those investments into clean, renewable energy. It is a way to tell companies that you are not in favor of investing money towards what harms the environment and contributes towards global warming.

Divesting is also a way to free up capital and put it towards businesses with more sustainable initiatives.


Moving forward, we must look at how we can decarbonize our atmosphere through technology solutions such as bioenergy with carbon capture storage (BECCS).

This method traps CO2 emissions deep underground which prevents them from getting back into the atmosphere. This allows the redirection of emissions into something that can produce energy rather than letting them continue to disperse into the environment.

Ceasing Deforestation and Restoration of Degraded Lands

Without trees, our planet cannot remove carbon dioxide from the air.

This is because trees are responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) through photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is then converted into oxygen that plants, animals, and humans use to survive.

Estimates show that deforestation accounts for approximately 10% of total global emissions.

Many organizations have already started working on reforestation initiatives. However, with so many forests being degraded, there has been a push towards restoring degraded lands as well.

Reducing Waste

According to the World Bank, global waste will increase by 70% on current levels by 2050.

This is primarily because of industrialization, urbanization, and population growth.

With the push towards sustainable cities, we must reduce this amount of waste by using all resources more efficiently.


Countries Moving for Net Zero

Net zero is not just an initiative limited to countries like Denmark that has pledged to introduce binding decarbonization goals. The country also aims to reduce emissions by 70% below the 1990 level. Costa Rica has also launched an economy-wide plan of decarbonization by 2050.

It is a movement sweeping across cities and towns globally.

The United Kingdom is the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The country's initial target was to reach at least an 80% reduction from its 1990 levels but has now committed to bringing all emissions to net zero.

Bhutan is also known to be the world's first carbon-negative country. According to Climate Action, the country produces 1.5 million tonnes of carbon annually. However, its 72% forest coverage has absorbed over 6 million tonnes of carbon.

Carbon neutrality before 2060 is the goal of China, one of the world's largest carbon dioxide emitters.

As part of the Build Back Better World initiatives, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to implementing highly tailored, doable technology road maps to reach the net zero goal.

Many other countries have likewise developed strategic plans to reduce their carbon footprints.

Gross Zero vs Net Zero

Gross zero means an absolute stopping of all emissions completely.

This is basically impossible because we all emit carbon in some way.

Even with best efforts to reduce emissions, there will still be some amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted. This is why net zero has been emphasized as a more feasible approach towards achieving the goal of reducing emissions on our planet.

Net zero considers the emission of carbon. Instead of emitting more than we can absorb, net zero claims that we can produce and emit just about the same amount of emissions.

For instance, a country can have a goal of becoming totally carbon-neutral. Along with that, it acknowledges that it will still be emitting the equivalent of 0.25 tonnes per capita in greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the country plans on offsetting this amount through planting trees and taking other measures to reduce their environmental impact.

Net Zero as a Solution to Climate Change Crisis

It must be noted, however, that net zero is not a perfect goal.

Net zero was initially only meant to embody a long-term climate goal to be aligned with the Paris Agreement.

The presence of potential loopholes in this target essentially means that the goal is not absolute. But it is the closest solution to achieving zero or even negative emissions.

Net zero also tends to make countries shift their focus to offsetting emissions instead of reducing them. As a result, companies rely on hypothetical and non-extensive carbon removal strategies rather than on aggressive and immediate emission reduction.

Although well-intentioned, it may also lead to the delay of feasible reductions because of the oversimplification of the net zero goals.

It is also understood that some countries have made net zero their national target. Sadly though, there is no form of accountability or commitment to reduce emissions in the near future.

It is important to look at net zero as the floor, not the ceiling, and as only one aspect of climate-related goals. Net zero should not be viewed as the overall proxy to climate action.

Hence, there is an urgent need to ensure that the "net zero" language becomes one of accuracy, precision, and specificity. It must be used to highlight all critical issues affecting carbon neutrality through specific timeframes.

Emission reduction strategies, climate education and advocacy, investments and financing should be set in place concretely to transform the zero-carbon wording into real actions.

Finally, long-term thinking should be valued over short-term gains. It is no longer the time to push for slack reductionist approaches. It is time to shift towards comprehensive solutions that will not only benefit generations today but also those in the future.


1. What is net zero?

Net zero means that for every ounce of carbon emitted, the same amount of carbon should be offset. Generally speaking, this can come from planting trees near where the emissions occur so that over time, these trees will absorb the greenhouse gas and reduce the overall impact on our planet. However, there are other ways to achieve net zero reduction in greenhouse gases. These include renewable energy sources like solar power or biofuels which emit less than fossil fuels used today to generate electricity.

2. What is gross zero?

Gross zero is the absence of all greenhouse gas emissions. This means that zero greenhouse gases are being produced at all, rather than offsetting them afterward through planting trees or other methods.

3. What is decarbonization?

Decarbonization refers to the process of reducing emissions by removing an equal amount of carbon from other sources currently in use.

4. How do I get involved with net zero?

In terms of net zero, you can start by using renewable energy sources like solar panels at home instead of electricity from coal plants. You can also drive electric or hydrogen-powered cars instead of gasoline-powered ones, plant trees near where you live, and encourage others to get involved too.

5. Does divesting mean not investing at all?

Divesting does not mean "not investing at all." It is important to look into the new investment opportunities that are opening up in place of carbon-producing companies. It is also about making sure that your money is being used responsibly, reducing the financial strain on our planet's future, and improving lives for generations to come.

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