Zickfeld, K., MacIsaac, J., Canadell, J., Fuss, S., Jackson, R., Jones, C., Lohila, A., Matthews, H., Peters, G., Rogelj, J., Zaehle, S.
Net-zero approaches must consider Earth system impacts to achieve climate goals
in Nature Climate Change, 04.12.2023
Peer Review , Sustainable Resource Management and Global Change
Commitments to net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) or GHG emissions targets now cover 88% of countries’ emissions. Underlying the accounting behind net-zero frameworks is the assumption that emissions can be balanced with removals such that their net climate effect is zero. However, when considering the full climate impacts of CO2 emissions and removals, there are reasons to expect that the two are not equivalent in terms of their climate outcomes. We identify potential contributors to non-equivalence, including impermanence, biophysical and non-CO2 GHG effects, and argue that these non-equivalencies need to be accounted for to achieve climate goals. Given key uncertainties about the full climate impact of CO2 removal, it is prudent to prioritize emission reductions over removals.