Prior to the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels were consistently around 280 ppm (parts per million) for almost 6,000 years of human civilization. Since then, humans have generated an estimated 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 pollution, much of which will continue to warm the atmosphere for thousands of years. Climate change therefore poses an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, which is why maintaining and promoting the highest possible climate action is currently at the utmost importance. By following the guiding principles and recommendations in IWA 42:2022—Net Zero Guidelines, organizations can actionably reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
What Does Net Zero Mean?
Net zero means cutting GHG emissions produced by human activity to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere (by oceans and forests, for instance). A net zero organization or company means that it has drastically reduced its GHG emissions to as close to zero, reaching a balance between emissions introduced to the atmosphere and emissions removed.
The IPCC’s Assessment on Global Warming
The global temperature is already over 1°C above pre-industrial levels (i.e., the years 1850-1900). Scenarios assessed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that limiting warming to 1.5°C, with no or limited temperature overshoot, requires achieving at least net zero global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the early 2050s, along with deep and sustained global reductions in other GHG emissions.
In 2015 the majority of countries around the world adopted the Paris Agreement with the overarching goal to hold “the increase in the global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. In doing so, these countries via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also invited the IPCC to provide a Special Report (in 2018) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global GHG emissions pathways.
IWA 42:2022 covers Net Zero Guidelines to help organizations take action to contribute to achieving a global net zero, thereby also helping achieve the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement and the IPCC Special Report. Its scope is aligned to the objectives of the “High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities,” formed at the request of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, and other UN developments, including the UNFCCC.
What Is IWA 42:2022—Net Zero Guidelines?
IWA 42:2022 provides guiding principles and recommendations to enable a common global approach to drive organizations to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050—at the latest. It promotes and gives guidance on taking action to address all GHG emissions, direct and indirect, in an organization’s value chain. It also details guidance on a common and equitable contribution. When used in combination with applicable science-based pathways, IWA 42:2022 provides guidance for organizations seeking to set robust climate strategies. Via alignment of voluntary initiatives and adoption of standards, policies, and national and international regulation in IWA 42:2022, organizations can effectively contribute to global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C by achieving net zero no later than 2050.
IWA 42:2022 builds on progress by campaigns, voluntary initiatives, and governance, supporting their purpose of progressing to a climate positive future and enabling a more consistent approach for future interventions and deliverables, including ISO standards like ISO 14050, ISO 9000, ISO/IEC 17029, ISO 14091, ISO/TR 14069, ISO 50001, ISO 14066, ISO 14065, and ISO 14064-1, ISO 14064-2, ISO 14064-3.
ANAB GHG V/VB Accreditation
Accreditation is a third-party attestation of a conformity assessment body, conveying demonstration of its quality management and impartiality in performing specific conformity assessment activities. The ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) accredits organizations providing third-party validation and verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and removals.
How Can an Organization Counterbalance Residual Removals?
A residual emission refers to a GHG emission that remains after an organization or project has taken all possible actions to implement emissions reductions. According to IWA 42:2022, the organization should counterbalance residual emissions only through investment in high-quality removals to achieve and maintain net zero. These removals can be in the value chain or through removal-based offsets and removal-based credits. When counterbalancing residual emissions, IWA 42:2022 maintains that the organization should ensure that removals, including through offsets and investments in credits:
- “Are based on credible accounting standards
- Are additional, based on realistic and credible baselines and lead to mitigation which would not have occurred if the actions were not implemented
- Are monitored, reported and verified by a competent third party
- Are based on removals that are permanent or provide sufficiently long-term storage (especially when used to offset GHGs with long atmospheric lifespans such as carbon dioxide) and include plans to manage potential impermanence
- Are not double-counted (e.g. counted by more than one party, or credited under more than one offset program)
- Avoid or limit the risk of a consequent rise in GHG emissions in other locations
- Do no social or environmental harm
- Are from activities that provide social safeguards, promote equity and benefit both ecosystems and local communities
- Are sourced from activities that address urgent and transformational climate priorities that are beyond the reasonable reach of unilateral action by a single country or territory”
Why Is Net Zero Important?
Currently the Earth is about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and emissions continue to rise. Impacts such as loss of biodiversity and incremental warming, including erratic weather patterns (e.g., heatwaves, floods, severe fires, intense storms, loss of polar ice, acidification of oceans, and rising sea levels) are already occurring. Predicted impacts include crop failure, famine, mass migration and the destruction of ecosystems, communities and wildlife if the world does not reach net zero by 2050. Moreover, according to the latest estimate, without major action to reduce emissions, global temperature is on track to rise by 2.5°C to 4.5°C (4.5°F to 8°F) by 2100.
To avert these worst impacts of climate change and preserve a livable planet, the world’s major governments, scientists, and head of industries all agree that the global temperature increase needs to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
IWA 42:2022—Net Zero Guidelines is available on the ANSI Webstore.