Transform to Net Zero: How to make the economy climate neutral by 2050

Microsoft launches the Transfrom to Net Zero initiative for climate protection. Discover what that means and how companies can contribute

Net zero renewable energy

Author: Katharina

The aim is to achieve net zero by 2050. This is revealed by the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was published in 2018. The report also presents strategies for limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius and illustrates the need to achieve net zero - i.e. net zero emissions - in the next 30 years.

In response to this, global corporations and companies have initiated measures or tightened existing ones in order to achieve net zero. In addition, global players are cooperating to launch initiatives that support smaller companies in the implementation of the zero emission targets. But what does the goal of achieving net zero emissions actually mean?

Net zero emissions definition 

For a long time, the project to become net zero meant the obligation of a company to minimize its greenhouse gas emissions and to offset remaining emissions through measures outside of the direct footprint. With increasing awareness of the pressure to act to limit global warming, the definition of net zero has also evolved though. Today it means a specific set of commitments that help reduce emissions. Including achieving zero emissions by 2050.

Global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030 and eliminated by the middle of the century. The motto: All emissions must be offset and, after deducting any compensation, be zero. If a company emits 1 tonne of CO2 per year, it must draw this reverse conclusion from the atmosphere. For example, by planting forests.

Application areas for net zero measures

Due to the currently rather vague definition of net zero, the framework and standards for implementing the goals are still being developed at many companies. One thing is especially important: Reduce as many emissions as quickly as possible.

To do this, a company must first get a comprehensive overview of its emission sources. Typically, emissions can be divided into three areas: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions.

  • Scope 1, XNUMX & XNUMX: Direct emissions caused by the local activities of a business. This includes, for example, the use of vehicles.
  • Scope 2, XNUMX & XNUMX: Indirect emissions caused by an organization's electricity consumption.
  • Scope 3, XNUMX & XNUMX: Other indirect emissions from sources that a company does not own or cannot control. These include, for example, emissions from commuters or along the value chain.

Step-by-step to net zero

The workflow that a company has to implement to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions is similar. This can be summarized as follows:

  1. Creation of a list of all emission sources & categorization of these (e.g. by type or location)
  2. Introduction of energy efficiency programs
  3. Creation of forward projections
  4. Evaluation of the possible reducing / renewable options
  5. Planning and budgeting of the projects
  6. Implementation

Since Scope 3 emissions are not directly related to a company, another approach is chosen for their reduction:

  1. Collecting economic emissions data
  2. Check emissions by category
  3. Determination of relevant emissions
  4. Obtain better data if necessary
  5. Evaluation of the possible reducing options
  6. Implementation

Due to the scope of the screening analysis (point 2) for Scope 3 emissions, there are effective tools for determining the relevant emission categories of a business. An example of this is provided by Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Challenges on the way to net zero emissions

Reducing emissions at all three levels is an ambition that more and more companies are committed to. While the collection of the relevant data - especially in Scope XNUMX - can take up to two years, it is particularly important to start with reducing measures today!

The greatest challenge is to act at the interface between relevance and possibility. That means moving in an area of ​​action that affects, on the one hand, emissions that are company-relevant and, on the other hand, are cost-effective. A popular example of this is the switch to electric vehicles.

In addition, important investments for the future should be made today. They can actually drive the development of innovations, technologies and projects for CO2 reduction. Companies that think ahead, have strong climate goals and are able to make investments will, according to the IPCC report, have an important role in accelerating and commercializing these reduction measures.

Transform to net zero

This forecast by the IPCC is currently being confirmed: In the summer of this year, Microsoft joined forces with eight other global companies - including Mercedes-Benz, Nike and Unilever - to launch "Transform to Net Zero". This is a climate initiative to reduce the CO2 footprint.

The commitment of the software giant goes back to the promise to be carbon neutral by 2030 and to remove more CO2050 from the environment by 2 than has been emitted since it was founded in 1975, which was made in January. Or in short: to achieve net zero emissions.

Reduction tool: Microsoft Sustainability Calculator

On the way there, Microsoft also announced the "Microsoft Sustainability Calculator" . This sustainability calculator helps businesses to develop an understanding of how they can contribute to a zero-carbon economy, as well as how to forecast and reduce their emissions. This is because it simplifies carbon reporting through advanced analytical technologies.

Pioneering work for other companies

Transform to Net Zero wants to serve as an example for other companies and provide a framework for where the commitment can begin and be implemented. In order to make a contribution to global efforts to reduce CO2, the global players are making tools available to other companies: In addition to the Sustainability Calculator, the initiative brings together, for example, trained industry representatives who will create instructions on how to achieve net zero.

Realization of the role model function

Microsoft itself is realizing its role model function and taking concrete measures to protect the climate. So every project is scientifically reviewed and verified by science, market consultants and NGOs to ensure that the maximum amount of carbon is removed. In addition, diesel fuel should be avoided and solar energy should be used.

As a trailblazer for other companies, the Transform to Net Zero coalition wants to jointly advance public measures to reduce CO2 and promote the change and growth of a climate-neutral economy.

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