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6 Challenges of Achieving Net-Zero Carbon Emissions

Many organisations are undertaking the mammoth task of achieving net-zero carbon emissions, a scenario where companies don’t emit more carbon dioxide than they remove from the atmosphere. For many, the finish line lies at 2050, the deadline named by the UN for combatting the climate crisis.

There are a series of challenges that come with it, from creating realistic commitments to accurately recording and sharing carbon emissions data.


Challenge #1: Creating Realistic Carbon Targets

The goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions requires a strategy that stems over the course of years, if not decades. 

It’s important for companies to create realistic carbon targets for this period using science-based frameworks and principles. Emissions can’t be neutralised overnight and so companies will need to put together long-term plans steeped in science, account for all obstacles and can be verified by independent bodies. 

Although the creation of carbon targets is still a key net-zero challenge, organisations like The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) are paving a clearer path for net-zero success and offering critical fact-checking services that such ambitious sustainability projects need.


Challenge #2: Breaking Through Budget Barriers

Understandably, for many companies the greatest barrier to net-zero is cost. Finding the budget for investment in carbon removal technologies, as well as absorbing the cost of internal research and development to reduce carbon emissions is a real challenge for those with limited resources. 

A survey by Lloyds Bank revealed that 40% of SMEs named insufficient budgets and high costs as major blockers to becoming net-zero emitters.  

While innovation removal methods remain costly, in line with being some of the only guaranteed solutions on the market, their permanency proves to be a smart investment that leads to real, sustainable change. Organisations may find financial relief (and space in their budget for such investments) in the reducing cost of environmental materials, as well as more suppliers feeling the pressure to clean up their acts independently.


Challenge #3: Making Carbon Reduction a Reality

Achieving net-zero has always been about carbon reduction first before companies look to any other solution such as carbon removal. But, making carbon reduction a reality can be a real test for some. 

In practice, it can be difficult to find new ways of operating, raise awareness of the need to do so in global operations and manage external relationships so everyone is aligned. Carbon reduction is a real leadership project, so to overcome its obstacles firms must create this message from the top and keep it front of mind in any big picture conversation. 

Virgin Atlantic is a company living and breathing carbon reduction and can do so by being bold enough to create public promises, undertake ambitious goals and see partnerships with other technology innovators as their power.


Challenge #4: Supporting and Streamlining Supply Chains

Supporting existing supply chains to make changes and streamlining them to be more representative of the net-zero goal is a challenge in itself. 

Once companies have tackled their internal operations, they’ll need to look outwards, considering the carbon footprint of their associated vendors. Research says 36% of companies find this step particularly difficult as this is where companies will have some difficult decisions to make. Organisations can either work with suppliers to create a more planet-friendly programme or switch suppliers to get closer to their goal. 

Either way, a company's external environment is subject to change if they ever create a truly neutral standpoint.


Challenge #5: Proving and Publishing Progress

Achieving net-zero is about creating a pledge for carbon neutrality and proving this accomplishment to the rest of society. It can be taxing to measure the impact of carbon emissions, but with public scrutiny at stake, it’s crucial that companies create impact reports, publish progress updates and announce any significant milestones. 

Not only are carbon emissions time-consuming to track, but they can also be difficult to have total visibility over. Ergo, only 1 in 10 SMEs currently measure their carbon emissions. However, for net-zero to work, this trend will have to change. More time and effort must go into analysing climate action to ensure intention is resulting in impact.


Challenge #6: Choosing the Right Offsetting Method

After reducing all unnecessary emissions, companies will need to turn to other methods to reach net-zero. The most verifiable and permanent method is carbon removal, which genuinely offsets emissions and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Choosing the correct method can be tricky, as there’s much conflicting information out there. Offsetting, in itself, is something of a taboo topic since many organisations have abused the term using ‘avoided emissions’ as a strategy. 

However, the right offsetting method should guarantee carbon dioxide removal and have a lasting impact on the environment. Looking at methods such as Direct Air Capture (DAC) is an excellent place to sort through the noise. This method uses a series of chemical reactions to safely remove carbon dioxide from atmospheric air and store it indefinitely in geological formations deep under sea level.


Gain Clarity and Overcome Obstacles With Our Whitepaper: The Race to Net-Zero: From Commitment to Direct Air Capture

Our latest whitepaper will guide you through the arduous journey of achieving net-zero carbon emissions from your initial commitment to equalise emissions to your eventual decision to invest in authentic carbon removal services. 

Although the route to net-zero presents many challenges, it isn’t impossible. Companies are already achieving this ambitious goal (and more, with carbon negative status) before the official due date.  

Click the link below to find out how you can also achieve carbon neutrality.