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Race to Zero


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3 minutes

Since the UK's government set its ambitious Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, Net Zero is more than ever at the forefront of everyone's agenda. Therefore, in this article, we will be exploring Net Zero by answering the following questions: What is Net Zero? What is the Race to Zero? and What are the Race to Zero principles? Keep reading to learn about the Race to Zero to help you to #ONEUPYOURBUSINESS!


Net zero as explained by the Institute For Government is referred to as "a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere". The Climate Change Act 2008 announced the names of the six greenhouse gases which are: carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, and perfluorocarbons.

In June 2019, the United Kingdom became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. This required the government to reduce the UK's greenhouses gases by 100% by 2050. Therefore, in order to help tackle climate change, CO2 emissions need to fall below zero and other emissions from greenhouses gases need to be reduced and constrained.


The UK hoped to demonstrate a path to Net Zero as former Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore, stated how the UK would be: “pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps, driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy”. As numerous countries have started to follow suit to tackle climate change, they have also set targets to achieve Net Zero. In the Paris Agreement, governments have agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and to make an effort to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Race to Zero is a global campaign led by Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz who have been appointed as High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action to drive leadership and rally support from cities, regions, investors, and businesses for a zero carbon emission recovery that will create jobs, push sustainability and prevent future threats; coordinating this work with governments and parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It leads Net Zero initiatives where it represents: 1,397 businesses, 454 cities, 74 of the biggest investors, 23 regions, and 569 universities; joining 120 countries in the biggest ever alliance committed to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. You can click here to find out who is in the Race to Net Zero.


As the Race to Zero campaign aims to promote convergence towards robust standards for Net Zero targets across the climate action community, it has been determined that a single approach would not be effective. For this reason, based on questionnaire responses by leading actors and organizations setting Net Zero targets, common principles were developed which are:

1. Scope

  • Targets should aim to cover all gasses and all activities and activities (scopes) as data allows and explain the rationale for any exclusions

2. Timing

  • Committed to reaching Net Zero by 2050
  • Set interim targets
  • Immediate action to meet Net Zero targets

3. Offsetting

  • Any offsets require robust standards (e.g. permanence, additionality, verifiability, etc.)
  • Specify offsetting approach, avoided emissions, reductions, or removals

4. Equity

  • All should move to Net Zero and targets should be justifiable to equity, and may include scope, capacity, historical emissions, responsibility, current emissions' footprint, and other factors

5. Future uncertainties

  • Actors should state how achieving their targets depend on future technologies or governance arrangements and their uncertainties around technology and governance questions

6. Dependence on other actors

  • Net zero targets depends on other actors’ behaviour and consideration is needed in how to proactively engage with such actors

7. Governance:

  • Formal, top-level commitment
  • Interim targets
  • Transparency through regular reporting and tracking
  • To have a clear plan with specific operational implications

You can click here to read in much more detail the University of Oxford's Race to Zero principles.

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