The Problem With Corporate Net-Zero Emissions Goals

OOnly a few companies have established net-zero goals, while even fewer are planning to stop completely emitting greenhouse gasses. For the majority, the plan is to eliminate their carbon footprint by 2050 through offsets—a reduction or removal of emissions elsewhere to compensate. Offsets, however, are controversial, in part because they’re difficult to get right.

Carbon capture and other tech options aren’t nearly as large-scale. This leaves nature-based solutions such as growing new trees, which is the most viable option, at present. But nature is able to absorb only so much carbon from the atmosphere each year, and as more companies set climate goals, the more likely it is that there won’t be enough land to meet corporate demand. Here’s a look at the math behind the pledges.

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1. Only 6.5% have any plans for net-zero emission, with the majority of them by 2050.

2. Their combined emissions of 4 gigatons (gt), of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (CO2e), are two-thirds which can be reduced by renewable energy.

3. Companies plan to offset this by reducing CO2e emissions to as high as 1.3 gt per year.

4. The most practical offsets currently available are those that are nature-based, such as reforestation. These can only trap 2.5 gt CO2 per year.

5. These companies’ plans require about 1.4 million sq. mi.—about half of all land available for offsets.

6. By 2050, offsets demand will rise to 3.9 million square feet as more businesses set net-zero goals. mi. Land.

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