Reducing emissions to zero is a clear concept, but “net zero” muddies the waters in that some greenhouse gas or carbon emissions are permitted as long as they are balanced by “negative emissions” or carbon removals through nature or engineered solutions.
Reducing fossil fuel emissions and increasing carbon removals are the two objectives of net zero and the government of Canada proposes they can be traded against each other. This has the potential to be a dangerous distraction that reduces the political pressure to achieve actual emission reductions in favour of wishful thinking about future technologies and nature-based solutions.
This report looks at why net zero as a policy direction is a dangerous distraction from the emissions reductions we should be focusing on. Rather than gambling on carbon removal technologies of the future, Canada should plan for a managed wind down of fossil fuel production and invest public resources in bona fide solutions like renewables and a just transition from fossil fuels.