Are Net Zero Emission Targets Missing The Point?

Are Net Zero Emission Targets Missing The Point?

New UN report drops a bombshell on the myth of net zero emission targets

The newly released United Nations Human Development Report 2020 features an unexpected surprise. For the first time, the annual Human Development Index (HDI) includes not only healthcare, education and living standards, but adds a new category measuring a country’s CO2 emissions and material footprint.

As a result a full 50 countries have plummeted down the rankings, including Norway – which has dropped from the number one slot to thirteenth.

Australia, Finland, Singapore and Canada have also suffered steep falls. This new Planetary-Pressures Adjusted HDI (or PHDI) is designed to shift the focus away from just GDP and look at our collective impact on the planet as a whole.

United Nations Human Development Report 2020

“Four thousand generations could live and die before the carbon dioxide released from the Industrial Revolution to today is scrubbed from our atmosphere,” says Achim Steiner, Administrator United Nations Development Programme, “And yet decision‑makers continue to subsidize fossil fuels, prolonging our carbon habit like a drug running through the economy’s veins.”

The key problem is incomplete emissions data

Dr. Per Espen Stoknes, chair of the Centre For Sustainability and Energy at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo, believes that one key problem is the fact that most decision makers work from incomplete emissions metrics, which don’t tell the whole story.

“It’s all very well declaring a ‘net zero emissions’ policy, but if you are not measuring all of the emissions, that target is very limited,” he says, “Instead of only looking at the direct emissions from food, transport and industry, policy planners also need to improve the indirect emissions which come from our lifestyles and consumption.”

12 million NOK to regional climate emissions tracking programme

The good news is that governments across the world seem to be slowly waking up to the need for more accurate numbers. In Norway, for instance, the national research council has recently commissioned a huge 12 million NOK program to develop a national and regional climate emissions tracking programme.

This public private partnership will marry up citizen carbon emissions data with consumption data from banks, energy companies and retailers.

The result is a user friendly public dashboard which the public, politicians and planners can use to track regional emissions in real-time. The idea is that once we have a more accurate idea of the actual numbers, it’s easier to take effective action to help reduce our carbon footprints.

11 Municipalities have signed up for Zero Emission Citizen

The Zero Emission Citizen project has already signed up 11 municipalities representing around 40% of Norway’s population, as well as a number of regional banks and energy companies.

“Our aim is to give people and planners a tool they can use to track CO2e emissions in their area”, says Mads Simonsen, a climate consultant with project partner Ducky AS.

“Not only can city councils monitor the impact of policy changes on their own emissions, but they can also compare themselves with neighbouring cities to see how well they’re doing.”

The project partners hope to roll out the first version of the Norwegian system in the first quarter of 2021, and offer an international version shortly afterwards. 

The UNDP Human Development Report 2020 can be found at

Nigel Powell,

International Relations Director, Ducky AS

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