Net Zero By 2050: In the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration signed on September 9, 2023, world leaders have pledged to achieve global net zero greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon neutrality, by mid-century, which is 2050. As part of the Green Development Pact for a Sustainable Future, the leaders have promised to achieve carbon neutrality while keeping in mind the latest scientific developments and national circumstances. They also intend to adopt approaches such as a circular carbon economy.
The declaration has also emphasised the importance of a policy for sustainable and climate finance that consists of fiscal, market and regulatory mechanisms, and also carbon pricing. Together, these mechanisms can help the world become carbon neutral or achieve a net zero economy. Carbon pricing places a fee on emitting greenhouse gases, and offers an incentive for emitting less, in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to reach net zero emissions by 2050, there is a need for US $5.8 to $5.9 trillion before 2030 for developing countries. This amount will help the countries implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are climate action plans signed by all the Parties to the Paris Agreement to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. In order to ensure there are sufficient clean energy technologies by 2030 to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, US $4 trillion per year will be required.
The need for a Fossil Fuel Treaty to achieve a “just” clean energy transition
Wealthy nations have more resources than vulnerable and developing countries, and hence, it is their responsibility to implement measures and take action to achieve global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Rich countries must achieve this target “more quickly” than other nations, Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International (CAN-I), a global network in over 130 countries working to combat the climate crisis, told ABP Live. He explained that achieving “global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is an urgent necessity to avert climate catastrophe”.
Singh also proposed the idea of a new global mechanism — a Fossil Fuel Treaty. He said that this framework will support developing countries in transitioning away from fossil fuel dependency. “Success requires coordinated action from all sectors of society: governments, businesses, communities, and individuals alike. While we reinforce existing agreements like the Paris Accord with stricter emissions targets, we must also introduce a new global mechanism — a Fossil Fuel Treaty. This framework should support developing countries as they transition away from dependency on fossil fuels for energy, revenue, and employment, without undermining their economic stability. At the same time, it should compel richer nations to enact bold, domestic changes. Now is the time for a comprehensive, international strategy that ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels for all.”
Explaining that a Fossil Fuel Treaty is necessary for a just and socially equitable clean energy transition, Singh said that strong regulatory frameworks, financial incentives, and support from the international community will act as catalysts in the world’s journey towards achieving net zero.
Materials transition is key to achieving a net-zero future
The G20 nations are trying to balance investment in clean infrastructure with economic priorities, and offset the loss of fossil fuel jobs with green jobs. Materials transition, which refers to the process of designing better materials to build products such that emissions are reduced not only during manufacturing, but also while using, disposing or reusing the products, is key to achieving a net-zero future.
“The materials transition is not facing ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) bottlenecks, but rather Employment, Finances, and Greed, or ‘EFG’ bottlenecks that need to be addressed if the G20 nations are going to resolve conflicts,” said Rajat Verma, Founder & CEO of LOHUM, a lithium-ion battery recycling company.
How battery regulation laws will ensure a sustainable future
Verma explained that achieving net zero by mid-century will be possible if the G20 facilitates low-cost producers that can reliably supply secondary raw materials. There must be a skilled green workforce, environmentally-conscious products must be used, and a regulatory framework to help low-cost producers thrive must be established, he suggested.
“Some of the key policy developments introduced by the G20 Nations to accelerate net zero objectives include the European Battery Regulation 2023 and India’s Battery Waste Management Rules 2022. These policies provide a comprehensive regulatory foundation for sustainable, circular, and carbon neutral ecosystems,” said Verma.
Europe’s Battery Regulation Law will ensure that batteries built in Europe are collected, reused and recycled, have a low carbon footprint, and use minimal harmful substances in order to support a transition to a circular economy, enhance the strategic autonomy of the European Union, and increase the security of raw materials supply and energy.
India’s Battery Waste Management Rules 2022 is based on the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), where the producers and importers of batteries are responsible for the collection and recycling of waste batteries, and the use of recovered materials from wastes into new batteries. EPR also prohibits the disposal of waste batteries in landfills and incineration.
The rules were published on August 24, 2022, by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
A circular economy is a model of production and consumption in which the life cycle of products is increased, and waste is reduced to a minimum through the sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling of existing materials as long as possible.
The role of carbon pricing in the journey towards a net-zero future
Another mechanism that will play a crucial role in helping the world achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is carbon pricing.
This is because by assigning a cost to each ton of emitted carbon dioxide, carbon pricing sends a powerful market signal that incentivises businesses and encourages them to adopt greener alternatives, said Singh. “While mechanisms like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade can make polluting expensive and drive innovation in clean technologies, these alone cannot replace the need for regulating and penalising polluting corporations.”
Singh explained that the focus must be on reducing emissions effectively while also generating revenue for reinvestment in sustainable infrastructure and social programs. He also emphasised the importance of supporting small and medium enterprises in this journey.
“As we face the urgency of climate change, carbon pricing, coupled with regulation of large companies and support for small and medium enterprises, can galvanise wide-ranging actions across sectors,” said Singh.
If the carbon price is high, emitters will be encouraged to collaborate with organisations that have an inclination towards cleaner and low-carbon emitting technologies. As a result, more organisations will start performing emission reduction activities.
Verma said that a point may be reached where emitters will find it more economical to explore alternate, less carbon-intensive technologies for their businesses. Such a system can succeed if there are clear regulations. He also said that the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2022, and the green credit system are some crucial steps taken towards achieving net zero.
The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill amends the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, to allow the Centre to specify a carbon credit trading scheme, and mandates some designated consumers to meet a fraction of their energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources. All this will help reduce carbon emissions, and hence, mitigate climate change.
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