Net zero by 2050 'too little too late', scientists warn

26th August 2021


Hitting net-zero emissions by 2050 is now “too little too late”, and will not achieve the long-term temperature goals identified in the Paris Agreement, scientists have warned today.

In a new report, the recently-formed Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG) warns that current global emissions targets are inadequate, and that net negative – rather than net zero – strategies are required.

The group of world-renowned climate experts explain how, even if countries hit net zero by 2050, CO2 concentrations already in the atmosphere will leave “little to no room for manoeuvre”, and that there is only a 50% chance of holding global temperatures at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Drawing on findings recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientists argue that a shift in emphasis towards net-negative emissions using methods like carbon capture and storage is the “only viable option”, and warn that the 1.5°C threshold could be breached as soon as 2030.

Sir David King, chair of the CCAG, and previously the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, said: “Achieving net zero by 2050 is no longer enough to ensure a safe future for humanity; we must revise global targets beyond net zero, and commit to net-negative strategies urgently.

“The latest IPCC report is the surest assessment to date of the global catastrophe on our hands should our leaders not take immediate, concerted action in confronting the climate crisis.

“It’s clearer than ever that there is no carbon budget remaining, and there really is no room left for manoeuvre; this is our ‘now or never’ moment.”

The CCAG's strategy for tackling the climate crisis contains three central pillars, which include rapid emission reductions, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and repairing damaged climate systems.

Its latest report emphasises the need for considerable public finance to support the production of greenhouse gas removal techniques that can remove and store greenhouse gases safely.

However, it warns that research into these methods is not taking place at the scale or pace required to meet net-zero commitments and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a manageable level.

The CCAG is now calling for the initial budget set out in the global Mission Innovation initiative to include heavier investment in greenhouse gas removal.

Sir David added: “The world will be watching in November, as governments and policymakers come together at COP26, and they must put the future of humanity first.”

Image credit: iStock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close