Paris Climate Talks – What Does “Emissions Neutrality” Mean?

cop21 logo smlWhat Does “Emissions Neutrality” Really Mean?

Explainer:
Negotiators have deleted specific emission reduction targets for the long-term goal i.e. +2050. Thursday night in Paris a new proposal surfaced for “greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, on the basis of equity and guided by science in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”.

This should mean zero GHG emissions from all sectors by first reducing emissions to near zero and then using negative emissions (taking CO2 etc out of the atmosphere) to achieve net zero.

Defining it as GHG neutrality vs carbon neutrality is very important from climate science perspective. In 2012, 23% of emissions were non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

Bottom line:

There is no way to get to 1.5C or 2.0C without GHG neutrality before 2100. What’s missing in the agreement is a specific time table – “second half of the century” is pretty vague. Expect this to change at some future COP (yes there will be many more) when the science catches up with figuring out what is needed to achieve it.

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