Achieving Net Zero is Harder Than Ever – But There's Hope

Updated: Sep 6




The race to reach a net zero world is becoming more urgent. But while many businesses try to implement ESG goals as fast as possible, certain problems around the world are creating barriers and slowing down the process.


Not reaching short-term targets will have long-term effects. So, what are the factors causing these delays? And what can be done about it?




The War in Ukraine


The invasion of Ukraine has caused oil prices to climb, making fossil fuels more attractive to investors, diverting their attention and commitments away from net zero. This not only puts targets at risk, but the lost time in regaining momentum will make it harder to reach targets and resolve the damage done from further fossil fuel extraction.


On top of this, the war has had detrimental effects on Ukraine’s natural environment. From attacks on industrial facilities that have contaminated groundwater supplies to the deliberate bombing of wildlife refuges – these environmental crimes have demonstrated how war devastates biodiversity and climate change. Pollution from war also contaminates bodies of water, soil, and air, making areas unsafe for people to inhabit.


While you may think these effects are localised, they have a global impact, and should be factored into everyone’s environmental concern.


Greenwashing


Greenwashing is the act of a company giving misleading or false information about how positive their environmental and social efforts are. This can involve knowingly or unwittingly deceiving customers through unsupported green marketing that suggests their products are more environmentally friendly than they are.


There is very little legislation surrounding sustainable terms businesses use and, due to insufficient regulations to police these statements, businesses can freely and openly continue to create the illusion that they’re greener than they are.


As a result of this, many people and stakeholders have become sceptical of brands making green claims, not to mention the harm it does to the planet. This has not only made proving ESG efforts a struggle but tarnished the reputations of not only those that are greenwashing but those that are genuine in their sustainable claims.


To make sure greenwashing stops diluting the real efforts of honest companies, businesses (and individuals) should ensure their investments are steeped in data as evidence to back up claims, lobby for tighter regulations on greenwashing and learn the various types of greenwashing to ensure it can be spotted and reported or avoided altogether.


graphics explaining why net zero is harder than ever

The Energy Crisis


Rising gas and energy prices have seen household bills increase by 54% on average for UK families and caused 25 energy companies to go bust in 2021. Among the worry and panic this has caused, it has sparked calls to turn against net zero policies and scale down decarbonisation, labelling the agenda as too expensive to continue pursuing. As a result, potential plans have emerged to resurrect fracking and extend new oil and gas drilling projects.


If we continue on the current trajectory of fossil fuel usage, we won’t have any oil left by 2050 or any gas left by 2070. This scarcity is also making oil prices rise and is only set to increase as the supply continues to dwindle.


This could not come at a worse time for the planet, which is already on track to exceed the 1.5 degree global warming limit. New oil and gas projects would send global temperatures far beyond what the Earth and atmosphere can cope with.


This has not only prompted activists to fight more heavily against these new projects, but triggered a newfound need to speed up the switch to renewable energy, with an aim of diminishing our dependency on oil and gas, bringing down the price of energy and ensuring we continue to meet net zero targets.


If we are to achieve this, momentum needs to be kept high. Those supporting net zero must continue to reiterate that the opportunities it could present – lowering energy bills, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, creating new jobs – will be far more positive for the planet.


Complicated ESG Frameworks


From the GRI standards to becoming a B-Corp, there are a wealth of ESG standards out there that businesses can comply with to help measure their sustainable impact. But while these frameworks are thorough and aim to stop businesses from greenwashing, anyone who’s attempted to work their way through them will attest that it’s not an easy task.


Becoming a sustainable company takes a great deal of time, effort and financial backing. And as corporate companies may have the funding to hire dedicated sustainability teams, for the average SME, dedicating this much resource on top of staying afloat in today’s market is nigh-on impossible.


Calls for simpler standards that allow all businesses to make tangible impact now (instead of creating endless reports) are becoming louder.


A Simple Solution to Sustainability?


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