Making Net Zero Matter

62 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 9 Jun 2022

See all articles by Albert Lin

Albert Lin

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2021

Abstract

In recent months, dozens of countries and thousands of businesses have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions. However, net zero often means different things to different entities, and it is often uncertain how net zero pledges—which set targets years or decades from the present—will be met. This Article considers the motivations behind net zero pledges, highlights the underappreciated role of carbon removal in net zero efforts, and identifies mechanisms for encouraging the accomplishment of net zero goals. Two key strategies are essential to making net zero targets matter. First, society should develop and implement accountability and enforcement mechanisms to promote follow through on net zero commitments. These mechanisms include disclosure standards, benchmarks, contractual arrangements, and legal claims under securities and consumer protection laws. Second, net zero pledges should incorporate distinct targets for emissions reduction and carbon removal. Carbon mitigation and carbon removal differ in significant ways with respect to verifiability, permanence, readiness, and risks. Distinguishing carbon mitigation and carbon removal in net zero goals is essential to avoid undermining efforts to achieve climate goals, shifting the burdens of climate action to vulnerable populations or future generations, and increasing societal, health, and environmental risks.

Keywords: climate change, net zero emissions, private environmental governance, carbon removal, carbon neutrality, carbon disclosure, ESG, Paris Agreement

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Lin, Albert, Making Net Zero Matter (September 10, 2021). 79 Washington and Lee Law Review 679, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3921225

Albert Lin (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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