By Rishika Pardikar

According to a new report, net zero targets many governments are pursuing are distractions from the urgent need to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

In the past few months, many governments have announced net zero carbon emission targets. These targets update the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) at the heart of the Paris Agreement. Many private corporations, including BP and Shell, have also set net zero targets.

Net zero describes the goal of removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is emitted. Net zero buildings, sometimes called zero-energy buildings, achieve this goal on a small scale. Net zero homes, offices, and even factories often use technologies such as heat pumps, high-efficiency windows and insulation, green roofs, and solar panels. Some net zero building concepts are integrated in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, an international certification program.

The net zero targets outlined by NDCs and corporations are much more ambitious in scale and include nature-based solutions like planting more trees to sequester carbon, developing carbon capture and storage technologies, and investing in carbon offsets (largely defined as a reduction in carbon emissions made by one party to compensate for emissions made by another).

But net zero targets described by NDCs and businesses are “deceptions” and “distractions,” according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI). The new report does not evaluate the efficacy of net zero buildings or LEED certification.

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