Beyond ‘net zero’: Embracing the ‘net remover’ revolution in a carbon-constrained world

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Beyond ‘net zero’: Embracing the ‘net remover’ revolution in a carbon-constrained world

‘Net zero’ has captivated the corporate world, with companies scrambling to announce ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets and pledging to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 or sooner. It's a vital step in averting the worst impacts of climate change, but there is an urgent need for companies that not only curb their own emissions but actively capture and sequester additional carbon from the atmosphere: the ‘net removers’.

Why are net removers so important? While net zero may sound reassuring, it's essentially a game of averages. It allows certain companies or industries, often deemed ‘hard to abate’ due to technological limitations or entrenched practices, to offset their emissions by others achieving deeper cuts. This, however, relies on a precarious mathematical balancing act.

Imagine a tightrope walker crossing a chasm, relying on counterweights on either side for balance. Net zero is like maintaining that balance by demanding some walkers (the removers) go beyond simply reaching the other side, actively pulling others (the reducers) across with them. The problem is, without enough net removers, the entire system risks plunging us deeper into the climate crisis.

Here's why focusing on net zero alone falls short.

The fallacy of averages

The ‘hard-to-abate’ industries, such as cement production and aviation, are estimated to account for nearly a third of global emissions. While technological advancements hold promise, complete decarbonisation for these sectors remains elusive in the near future. Relying solely on net zero allows them to continue emitting, shifting the burden of mitigation onto others, potentially exceeding safe planetary boundaries.

Offsetting's Achilles heel

The current reliance on carbon offsets, such as tree planting or renewable energy projects in developing countries, is fraught with challenges. Verification of offset legitimacy and permanence is often murky, raising concerns about greenwashing and double counting. Moreover, relying solely on offsets does not address the fundamental problem: our continued carbon addiction.

Innovation blind spot

Net zero's focus on reduction alone risks stifling the potential of revolutionary carbon removal technologies. Direct air capture, enhanced weathering and biochar sequestration, while in their early stages, hold immense promise for actively pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Focusing solely on net zero might overshadow these crucial innovations, hindering their development and deployment.


So, what's the solution? We need a paradigm shift, a transition from focusing solely on net zero to actively embracing the net remover revolution. Here are some thingscompanies can do to become part of this critical movement.

Invest in carbon removal technologies

Go beyond offsetting and actively support the development and deployment of proven and promising carbon removal technologies. Partner with research institutions, startups and pilot projects, helping to scale up these solutions and accelerate their integration into the global clean energy mix.

Advocate for policy change

Push for strong carbon pricing mechanisms that incentivise and reward genuine carbon removal, not just offsets. Lobby for supportive policies that promote research, development and deployment of these technologies, creating a level playing field for net removers to thrive.

Rethink business models

Move beyond ‘reduce and offset’ towards models that actively sequester carbon. Explore opportunities to incorporate carbon removal into your core business, from bio-based products that store carbon to sustainable production processes that capture and utilise carbon dioxide.

Embrace transparency

Be upfront about your emissions, both current and projected. Clearly differentiate between true carbon removal and mere offsets. Showcase your commitment to becoming a net remover, inspiring others to join the movement.

The path to a truly climate-resilient future demands more than just a balancing act. We need net removers, the heroes who actively pull us back from the brink, not just those who maintain a precarious equilibrium. By investing in technology, advocating for change and rethinking our business models, companies can become pioneers in this carbon-constrained world, leaving a legacy that goes beyond net zero to net positive impact.

Let's shift the narrative beyond greenwashing and embrace the transformative potential of net removers. We can rewrite the ending of the climate story, not just by reducing our footprint but by actively drawing down the excess carbon already threatening our planet.

This is not just a call to action for companies; it's a call for collective action. Consumers, investors and policymakers all have a role to play in creating the conditions for net removers to flourish. By supporting their efforts, demanding transparency and advocating for supportive policies, we have a chance to drive change for the benefit of all mankind.

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