Comment: we must not lose sight of achieving global Net Zero targets

Net Zero gives us a realistic and achievable plan for reducing emissions by 2050, but we cannot lose sight of this, says Peter Burger, global director safety & sustainability at Fugro.

Industries must not lose sight of Net Zero targets
Industries must not lose sight of Net Zero targets - AdobeStock/Kalawin

Whilst climate change has been talked about for years, it isn’t until recently that support has swelled. In fact, it is the open, engaging, and insightful conversations that have been happening worldwide, amongst governments, businesses, activists and consumers that has enabled the world to understand the impact that carbon use is having on our planet. Furthermore, it has created excellent initiatives such as Net Zero, and Science Based Targets Initiatives to help everyone recognise the impact they are having on our planet and provide the tools and resources to enable them to reduce it.  

These initiatives have really captured the attention of governments, businesses, and people across the world. We all understand its aim and how important it is to achieve those targets. Indeed, almost a year ago, COP26 saw nearly 200 countries agree the historic Glasgow Climate Pact, which was monumental step in the right direction. What’s more, with 5,000 international companies already committed by COP26 to Net Zero by 2050 or earlier, and some 2,000 companies joining since, it is clear that good progress is being made, but more is needed to be done. All these laudable commitments must be translated into tangible action!

What’s more, lots has changed in the last year, causing distraction all over the world. As a result, these risks have become more prominent and the call to action is becoming ever more important. So, we all need to regroup, and reaffirm our commitments, and take action to reduce our carbon usage and hit our Net Zero Targets.

What is Net Zero?

In a nutshell, Net Zero is about ensuring that across the world we are not adding new emissions into the atmosphere. Whilst there will be emissions, it is about carefully balancing them with techniques to help absorb them from the atmosphere. Some believe that this doesn’t go far enough and are actively seeking to remove more emissions from the atmosphere than they emit; this is called Net Zero Plus. All of this is extremely important to ensuring that global temperature do not rise above 1.5°C. This is above pre-industrial era levels, but if we keep polluting the atmosphere at the current pace, we now know temperatures will rise above 1.5°C, and this will be detrimental to both our lives and the earth.

Whilst 2010-2019 is the warmest decade on record, the recent trends of tropical summers and record highs being broken in the UK and other nations across the world, mean that the 2020’s could be set to eclipse this. What’s more, on the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, the global temperature is expected to increase by three-to-five degrees Celsius by the end of century, well below the targets set out in the Paris agreement.

To avoid this, according to the United Nations, we will all need to reduce our use of fossil fuels by around six per cent a year between 2020 and 2030. But there is hope for the environment with most countries having already signed the Paris Agreement, in order to commit to becoming carbon neutral or Net Zero. That said, lots of work is still required to make sure that we don’t take our eyes off this.

What do we need to do?

Many governments are taking steps to achieve these targets and are looking at larger organisations to change their ways. The Climate Change Committee Progress Report highlights the impact of domestic, agriculture and real estate sectors as well a new framework to measure governments performance.

Despite this, governments can’t do this alone. It also needs to be driven across business, meaning it must be front and centre of the business decisions. Profitability is a critical factor in the short term, but those short-term goals must be realigned to focus on how to ensure the sustainability of the business in the world in which we live. It is about clearly measuring the impact they are having on the environment, providing total transparency of the impact they are making, setting goals, and taking meaningful actions to change the world for the better.

To reach Fugro’s own net zero carbon emission target by 2035, we have a roadmap in place, centred around decarbonisation of vessels and other equipment through uncrewed, modular and remote solutions, electrification and use of emission free fuels, and the procurement of green energy.

Ultimately, to make change commitment followed by clear action is key. Everyone in every industry needs to take responsibility for their own emissions and climate impact. Today, Net Zero gives us all a focus, a purpose to drive real change, and a realistic and achievable plan for reducing emission by 2050. But we can’t lose sight of this. We need to promote this new way of thinking and doing business, working together with clients and our stakeholders. We need to think both short and long term, and embrace renewable energy, green transport and smart buildings and many other changes to help reduce climate change.

Peter Burger, global director safety & sustainability at Fugro