Global Net-Zero Commitments
The Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, aims to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase countries' resilience towards the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low GHG emissions and climate-resilient pathway.
The 190 countries that have adopted the agreement agreed also to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to below to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve the 1.5o degrees Celsius target, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be ‘net zero’ by the second half of this century.
The concept of net zero has gone from science to policy to mainstream in less than a decade. This decade will determine whether the new window through which decarbonisation is now viewed globally delivers what it promises to.
To date, only the UK and 11 other countries have passed legislation on net zero targets, although many others have made policy commitments. We recommend you to visit Net Zero Tracker to find out the scale and quality of net zero pledges across nationals, sub-nationals, companies and other entities internationally.
Read more via the official page of UNFCCC.
The European Commission adopted the Zero Pollution Action Plan on 12 May 2021.The Action Plan, a key deliverable of the European Green Deal, dictates that EU environmental policies should be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should, as a priority, be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.
Figure: The zero-pollution hierarchy – reversing the pyramid of action, prioritising the approaches for tackling pollution.
net-negative. carbon credits legislation.
Encouraging restoration: policies and incentives are needed to encourage restoration of degraded wetlands and peatlands and to protect restored and existing blue carbon ecosystems. These could include efforts to integrate coastal management into existing climate policy.
Local land and zoning policies: local land-use policies can have large implications for blue carbon storage by encouraging or discouraging the preservation and restoration of wetlands and peatlands.
Monitoring, verification, and reporting: processes, standards, and technologies need to be developed to reliably measure carbon sequestration via blue carbon.
Ensuring appropriate governance frameworks — both national and international — for ocean-based carbon removal approaches will be a critical pre-condition before many are ready to scale. International legal frameworks for the ocean, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, predate the concept of ocean carbon dioxide removal. As a result, these frameworks are retroactively applied to these approaches, leading to differing interpretations and a lack of clarity in some cases.
Some legal scholars suggest amending existing legal instruments to more directly govern ocean carbon removal, including carbon removal in ongoing negotiations for new international agreements or shifting governance to another international body entirely. Robust environmental safeguards, including transparent monitoring and reporting, must also be in place.
Lastly, ocean carbon removal approaches should not move forward without first considering the impacts on local communities and indigenous populations. Community acceptance of potential pilot testing and impacts on coastal communities must also be a pre-condition to moving forward at scale.
The Marine Environment
To have a resilient ocean we must implement the existing EU regulatory frameworks protecting air, freshwaters, seas and oceans faster and better, while urgently working towards a framework to regularly assess the status of EU soils and take action at all levels to address soil pollution and degradation.
When it comes to freshwater and marine pollution, achieving ‘good status’ under the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive would bring the EU close to realising the zero pollution ambition for all aquatic ecosystems.
However, the 2019 evaluation concluded that the implementation of freshwater legislation remains insufficient 37 , due to factors such as lack of investment, limited inclusion of freshwater protection objectives in other policy areas, slow implementation of measures and the need to better address chemical pollution. Stricter implementation will thus be the focal action. The Commission will notably aim to ensure that Member States promote sustainable and efficient water consumption, discourage water pollution and present a socially fair water bill to all water users and polluters, including industry, agriculture and household consumers, making best use of the revenues for sustainable investments 38 . It will also support better monitoring and reducing pollution from key substances in surface and ground waters.
The proposed ‘Mission Healthy Ocean, Seas Coastal and Inland Waters’, will aim to support innovation and implementation of EU policies and laws, to achieve healthy, pollution-free ocean, seas and waters. The Commission will also adopt an “Inland Navigation Action Plan 2021-2027” (NAIADES III), to support a gradual modal shift towards zero emission inland waterways transport 39 .
The Commission will review the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by 2023, taking into account the state of implementation of EU laws addressing key pollution sources and the need to reduce plastic and other litter, underwater noise and contaminants. Building upon the success of the recently agreed EU threshold value on beach litter 40 , the Commission will work with Member States on EU threshold values for maximum levels of underwater noise stemming from maritime transport, construction, dredging and other offshore activities.
Reviewing and, where relevant, modernising other water and marine laws, notably to make them better fit to reduce chemical contaminants and microplastics, will also help preserve the quality of the water we drink and the seafood we eat.
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