Net zero by 2050 'too little too late', scientists warn

Hitting net-zero emissions by 2050 is now “too little too late”, and will not achieve the long-term temperature goals identified in the Paris Agreement, scientists have warned today.


In a new report, the recently-formed Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG) warns that current global emissions targets are inadequate, and that net negative – rather than net zero – strategies are required.

The group of world-renowned climate experts explain how, even if countries hit net zero by 2050, CO2 concentrations already in the atmosphere will leave “little to no room for manoeuvre”, and that there is only a 50% chance of holding global temperatures at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Drawing on findings recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientists argue that a shift in emphasis towards net-negative emissions using methods like carbon capture and storage is the “only viable option”, and warn that the 1.5°C threshold could be breached as soon as 2030.

Sir David King, chair of the CCAG, and previously the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, said: “Achieving net zero by 2050 is no longer enough to ensure a safe future for humanity; we must revise global targets beyond net zero, and commit to net-negative strategies urgently.

“The latest IPCC report is the surest assessment to date of the global catastrophe on our hands should our leaders not take immediate, concerted action in confronting the climate crisis.

“It’s clearer than ever that there is no carbon budget remaining, and there really is no room left for manoeuvre; this is our ‘now or never’ moment.”

The CCAG's strategy for tackling the climate crisis contains three central pillars, which include rapid emission reductions, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and repairing damaged climate systems.

Its latest report emphasises the need for considerable public finance to support the production of greenhouse gas removal techniques that can remove and store greenhouse gases safely. 

However, it warns that research into these methods is not taking place at the scale or pace required to meet net-zero commitments and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a manageable level.    

The CCAG is now calling for the initial budget set out in the global Mission Innovation initiative to include heavier investment in greenhouse gas removal. 

Sir David added: “The world will be watching in November, as governments and policymakers come together at COP26, and they must put the future of humanity first.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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