Despite its relatively intuitive appearance, the ambition of carbon neutrality actually poses many challenges—both in terms of conceptualization and implementation—on fundamental parameters such as the scope of the emissions concerned or the methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. In addition, there is not yet a systematic analysis of the various actions and announcements on carbon neutrality, and it is therefore difficult to draw lessons from these emerging practices and discuss their implications for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
This study proposes to contribute to the collective debate on this subject and to propose recommendations for national strategies within the framework of the objective of carbon neutrality.
CARBON NEUTRALITY AND THE PARIS AGREEMENT
Article 4.1 of the Paris Agreement on climate marks the first inclusion of the objective of greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality, or carbon neutrality, in an international agreement. A small but growing number of countries have already integrated this concept into their development strategies, with very different approaches. This diversity partly reflects the important methodological, technological and policy challenges associated with defining and achieving carbon neutrality, including as a guide for the bottom-up development of nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
INCREASING EFFORTS TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GASES EMISSIONS AS THE KEY PRIORITY
Urgent action is needed to achieve existing greenhouse gas emission reduction potentials in all sectors, combining technological and behavioural solutions compatible with countries' development objectives, in particular to minimise residual emissions after 2050 in the energy and industry sectors.
PROTECTION OF CARBON SINKS AND TECHNOLOGICAL INVESTMENTS FOR RESIDUAL EMISSIONS
Approaches to protecting natural carbon sinks must address key sectoral factors related to the degradation and destruction of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and promote changes in sectoral practices. In addition, there is a need to invest in research and development for carbon capture and storage technologies to address residual emissions, as existing sinks and current innovation options are not a permanent solution or are not ready for deployment, respectively.
A COMMON REFERENCE FRAMEWORK FOR AMBITIOUS CLIMATE ACTION
Carbon neutrality can be a common language and time horizon for the different actors involved in the fight against climate change. Each actor can define its place in a carbon neutral world, according to its constraints, endowments, potentials, and not only (or necessarily) aim for neutrality in its own activities or territory. The outcome of these different positions can help renew discussions on domestic emission reduction options, those related to international trade, how to mobilize carbon sinks and negative emission technologies.