Briefing Note 7 – How Can Net Zero Fit into International Governance and Regulatory Frameworks?


What Needs to Be Considered to meet the 1.5°C Goal of the Paris Agreement?


Parties in the Paris Agreementreaffirmed “the goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C confirmed that limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C is essential to avoid dangerous climate change. While the clamour for action to address the climate emergency is becoming even louder, this is not reflected in tangible action action being undertaken by governemnts. There is a need to bridge the gap between the ambition of the Paris Agreement and the actions required to achieve that ambition – failure to bridge this gap calls into question the credibility of the Paris Agreement.


Halting the rise in temperatures will require the achievement of net zero emissions and that requires both steep reductions in emissions and also large-scale removal of GHGs from the atmosphere.


What Are the Gaps and Challenges to Achieve CDR Governance?


There are a range of proposed Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) techniques and effective governance of them is essential. 

There are many gaps in the governance of GGR techniques that need to be filled to ensure that any such techniques are undertaken in a way that is consistent with other societal goals.


There is also a need for clarity about how GGR techniques will be reported on in NDCs and global stocktakes. There needs to be a commonality of methods, transparency in reporting and science based assessment of the efficacy of the range of GGR techniques.


Why Do We Need Forums for the Sustainable Development of CDR?


Governments need to create an effective policy framework that provides incentives to industry to develop and deploy GGR techniques, whilst at the same time ensuring that such techniques are congruent with the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Currently, climate change and the SDGs are considered in separate forums. However, large-scale deployment of GGR techniques will have material implications – both positive and negative – on a wide range of the SDGs. There needs to be discussion between a wide range of stakeholders to strengthen governance, enhance international cooperation and smooth out the complexities of the interactions between GGR techniques and the SDGs. Such discussions should involve international respresentation from policy, adademic, industrial and civil society ciricles.


How Can the use of Fossil Fuels Be Addressed in an International Context?


There is no direct reference to fossil fuels in the Paris Agreement. This reflects the vested interests some countries have in the role fossil fuels play in their energy security and in the functioning of their economies.


While not all countries may be willing to sign up to the phasing out of fossil fuel energy, there is a need for a coalition of countries that we willing to play a leading role in catalysing a just energy transition. By working together, those countries can restrict the shifting of production to low carbon-regulation jurisdictions and help establish equitable outcomes.


How Can We Align Fossil Fuel Supply with the Paris Agreement?


At least two-thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground if we are to achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Transitioning from fossil fuels to a low-carbon economy can be achieved through a combination of policies that (a) limit demand for fossil fuels and (b) limit supply of fossil fuels.


Demand for fossil fuels can be limited by adopting policies that encourage energy efficiency, further roll-out of renewable energy technologies and the adoption of carbon pricing. Supply can be limited by restricting further exploration for fossil fuel energy and by inhibiting the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels.


What Does Achieving Net Zero Conclude and Recommend?


  • Governments need to act now to bridge the gap between the ambition of the Paris Agreement and the actions required to achieve that ambition;

  • Governance needs to be developed for proposed GGR techniques. This requires engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and consideration of the interaction between GGR and the SDGs;

  • Most fossil fuel energy will need to remain in the ground if we are to achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Actions are required to limit both demand for, and supply of, fossil fuel energy;

  • Vested interests in some countries make them unwilling to phase out fossil energy. There is a need for those countries that are willing to lead in this space to take coordinated action to achieve a just energy transition.