What is the net zero definition? In a world where the climate crisis is becoming increasingly worrying, the concept of net zero emissions is emerging as a glimmer of hope.  This term refers to the balance between greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity and the equivalent quantity of these gases removed from the atmosphere.

The IPCC provides the following net-zero definition: zero net emissions is the level at which global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (generated by human activities) will be balanced by anthropogenic removals (IPCC, SR15).

In other words, it’s a strategy aimed at not increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This approach is crucial to countering temperature increase and meeting global climate plans and targets.


What’s the difference between net zero emissions, carbon neutrality and traditional emissions reductions? 

Unlike traditional methods focusing exclusively on reducing direct and indirect emissions, net zero emissions goals represents a global strategy.

This includes not only reducing emissions, but also offsetting residual emissions through recognized and effective practices such as the voluntary carbon market.

These practices include:

  • use of renewable energy
  • reforestation (acting as natural sinks)
  • Direct air capture (atmospheric carbon footprint capture technologies and innovations, acting as industrial carbon sinks).

    Apart from the net zero definition, other related concepts are worth mentioning. Net-zero-emissions still differs from carbon-neutral (climate neutral) targets in being more precise about carbon-offset criteria, as presented in the table below:


    Carbon Neutrality and Net Zero Definition Comparison

    Carbon neutrality Net zero
    Definition Term coined under the Kyoto Protocol in the late 1990s. A company achieves carbon neutrality when its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are fully offset (in equivalent tons) by carbon credits. (The definition of carbon neutrality does not therefore imply any notion of upstream decarbonization through reduction projects). According to the IPCC, the net zero definition is reached when global emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities are fully offset by absorptions of the same gases, also due to human actions.
    Scope of application Organizations are free to choose the scope of emissions included in their carbon footprint. According to the SBTi standard, all direct and indirect emissions must be included, across the entire value chain. Must include scope 1, 2 (95%) and 3 (67%)
    Emissions reduction requirements (emissions targets) No regulations or requirements are associated with reductions. Ambitious emissions reductions aligned with climate science, consistent with the IPCC’s 1.5°C trajectory.
    Climate contribution Carbon offsetting can take the form of avoidance, reduction or sequestration projects. Up to net zero, offsetting can be achieved through carbon avoidance, reduction or sequestration projects. Thereafter, the neutralization of residual emissions (after reduction) is achieved solely through sequestration projects, to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
    Examples  A company can declare itself on scope 1 and 2, and ignore scope 3, then declare itself carbon-neutral on the said scope. A company follows SBTi, standards and climate science to declare net zero on scopes 1 and 2. This will take more time and effort to implement, but the company will gain the trust of its stakeholders.
    Related certifications Only the norm PAS 2060 is the benchmark for certifying carbon neutrality Join the SBTi movement to be listed on their website as an organization committed to Net Zero 2030 or 2050
    Types of participating organizations Small, medium-sized and large companies, NPOs and public authorities. More participation because less demanding and more realistically achievable for organizations with ESG departments and limited resources and budgets. S’adresse principalement aux grandes entreprises aux moyens et budgets importants. De part leur taille et leurs positions de leader, l’opinion public est plus exigeante avec ces entreprises et organisations, qui redoublent donc d’efforts pour répondre aux attentes du marché et de toutes les parties prenantes de la société dans l’atteinte des objectifs net zéro mondiaux.


    Do you have net zero emissions or carbon neutral targets? Contact our carbon portfolio managers, who can advise you on our premium carbon credits and the climate contribution plan best suited to your objectives! Also, get peace of mind to produce your next ESG annual report.


    Why is it essential to achieve net zero emissions?

    Achieving net zero emissions is fundamental to stabilizing global temperatures and minimizing climate risks. This goal encourages companies, particularly large international corporations and brands (e.g. Ferrari, Ubisoft etc…), to review their activities and invest in environmentally-friendly practices to become true leaders of change. In this way, a snowball effect positively impacts the entire value chain of these major brands, such as the ecosystem of SMEs that often gravitates around them (suppliers, service providers, partners, investors…).

    This includes optimizing financial resources towards projects that support the green economy and innovation in emissions reduction. At the same time, it fosters stakeholder engagement in the implementation of small- and large-scale strategies that are essential for a sustainable future.


    Impact of emissions on climate change and the environment

    Anthropogenic carbon footprint, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, is the main driver of global warming. This warming intensifies extreme weather phenomena and threatens biodiversity.

    Adopting a net zero emissions approach helps reverse these alarming trends by promoting a transition to renewable energy sources, reduced energy demand, sustainable resource management and low-carbon value and supply chains. Possible relays for carbon sequestration finally fill the remaining incompressible residual emissions.


    Consequences of emissions on health and society

    Beyond their environmental impact, carbon emissions have direct repercussions on public health. They exacerbate air quality problems, increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Socially, they accentuate inequalities, with the poorest communities often the most vulnerable to climate risks.

    Climate disasters, which are more frequent and intense due to anthropogenic GHG emissions, hit poor populations harder, as explained in the American Scientific article. Moving towards net zero emissions therefore represents a crucial step not only in protecting our planet, but also in building a more equitable, resilient and economically prosperous society.


    Understanding emissions: types, sources and effects

    Greenhouse gas emissions caused by industry
    Greenhouse gas emissions are made up of various types, each with a unique impact on the climate and the environment. Among these, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) or nitrous oxide (N2O) are particularly notable for their role in amplifying the greenhouse effect.

    Their effect on the climate is substantial and contributes strongly to global warming and the climate crisis. The Will Solutions’ Sustainable Community supports and finances corporate projects that reduce these greenhouse gases.


    Types of emissions: from carbon dioxide to methane

    Carbon dioxide, produced mainly by the combustion of fossil fuels, is the main contributor to the greenhouse effect. Methane, although less abundant, is far more powerful in terms of its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere.


    Main sources of emissions: energy, transport, industry

    Energy is the biggest emitting sector, largely due to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Transport follows closely behind, with petrol and diesel vehicles contributing massively to direct emissions. Industry, with its energy-intensive manufacturing and production processes, is also a major source of emissions.


    Anthropogenic emissions: their role in climate change

    The central role of man-made emissions (or anthropogenic emissions) in worsening climate change is undeniable. These emissions, resulting from our lifestyles, energy consumption, transportation and industrial processes, contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Identifying and understanding the impact of these emissions is essential if we are to make the transition to more environmentally-friendly behaviours and technologies.


    The climate emergency: act now for a viable future

    Arid, cracked earth due to drought

      In the face of the climate crisis, carbon removals and mitigation is essential. Immediate action must be taken to reduce our carbon footprint and ensure a sustainable future. The impacts of climate change are becoming ever more pressing and alarming, with an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather phenomena such as:

      • heatwaves
      • floods
      • drought and desertification
      • tornadoes and typhoon

      These events threaten not only biodiversity and ecosystems, but also the economic stability and well-being of populations worldwide.

      The effects of climate change are far-reaching, affecting all aspects of life on Earth. They lead to the fragility and instability of vulnerable ecosystems, endangering biodiversity and the essential natural resources on which we all depend.


      Transforming the energy sector for a sustainable future

      The transition to a sustainable energy future is at the heart of the fight against climate change. Renewable energies, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power, play a crucial role in this transformation, offering clean alternatives to fossil fuels.


      The role of renewable energies in reducing emissions

      Key measures, a successful framework and ambitious goals are the cornerstones of a desirable future for companies, governments and society.

      Widespread adoption of renewable energies is essential to achieving net-zero targets. These technologies provide clean, inexhaustible energy, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and, consequently, greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon intensity of renewable energies is also lower than that of fossil fuels. This means that for every 1 kWh (kilowatt-hour) of energy produced, renewable solutions emit fewer grams of CO2 equivalent than fossil fuels.

      For example, Gen V, a member of Will Solutions’ Sustainable Community, has achieved a major energy conversion: the company has switched from propane to biomass for the heating system in 76 of its agricultural greenhouses, considerably and sustainably reducing its emissions. Have you already implemented an energy conversion project, or would you like to develop one? Contact us and get access to carbon finance to make the most of your emissions reductions!


      In conclusion, the definition of net zero is rather well-founded and represents a rich and detailed commitment. Achieving net zero emissions is not only an environmental imperative, but also an economic and social opportunity. It involves the private sector, the individuals as well as national targets.

      By investing in innovative solutions, transforming the energy sector and taking bold action against climate change, we can build a sustainable future for future generations.

      Such an objective calls for widespread mobilization, involving governments, the private sector and citizens, all united in the common effort to reduce emissions and encourage environmentally friendly development.

      Get involved today by discovering how Will Solutions’ carbon services can help your company minimize its environmental impact and start its climate action. Let’s work together to build a sustainable future for our planet and future generations.