The World is Aiming for Net-zero Emissions by 2050. Here’s What That Means

Oct 20, 2021

In theory, it’s balancing emissions with removal of greenhouse gases — but the latter isn’t easy

Canada has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 to fight climate change. At the upcoming COP26 climate summit, hitting net zero globally by 2050 is a key goal.

But what does that mean? What does it involve? Why is it so important? Here’s a closer look.

It means we are no longer adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some greenhouse gases might still be emitted, but they would be balanced off or “cancelled out” by the removal of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases. (This is very similar to carbon neutrality, but includes more than just CO2.)

Some experts, including the United Nations, take the definition of net zero one step further. In a video, the UN describes it as cutting emissions as close to zero as possible. “Any remaining emissions must be reabsorbed, including by healthy oceans and forests.”

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