ESG & Sustainability

Take it away! Net-zero targets and the role of carbon removal

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An overview from FTI Consulting Brussels

The recently adopted target to achieve a 55% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction by 2030 is the most ambitious goal of the European Union so far when it comes to combatting climate change, and, combined with the 2050 carbon neutrality target, will require significant action and effort across all sectors of the European economy. Yet these new GHG reduction ambitions for 2030 and 2050 do not just mark another tightening of the amount of emissions that can be emitted in Europe. With a net-zero carbon neutrality target introduced for mid-century, the role of technologies that can capture, remove, and store carbon is now a mainstream debate – and has been confirmed as a valid mechanism for reaching the goal.

Carbon capture or removal technologies and ‘carbon sinks’ not only present exciting business opportunities. It also poses complex questions and challenges for the EU’s policy response. Europe’s policy makers will need to adapt its own regulatory framework to make sure that such technologies are put to best effect and can make a valid and appropriate contribution to global efforts to meet net zero targets.

Why net-zero targets?

The Paris Agreement has a near-term goal of peaking global emissions and a long-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions by the second half of this century. Reducing emissions is not enough, we need a situation where every year the world does not increase the amount of GHG emitted into the atmosphere. There is a consensus that developed economies should be net-zero by 2050, leaving one or two more decades for less developed economies to achieve the same goal. By early 2021, countries representing more than 65 % of global CO2 emissions and more than 70 % of the world economy had made commitments to carbon neutrality. The European Union, the UK, Japan, Canada and the Republic of Korea, together with many more countries, have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050; China says it will do so before 2060. The commitments are of various nature, from simple statements of intent to law, but the direction of travel is clear.

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