Attentive businesspeople wonder if eco-friendly initiatives can go too far. A discussion of net zero and natural gas raises key concerns that anyone interested in environmental, social, and governance issues must address.
Are There Conflicts Between Net Zero and Natural Gas?
For clarity about environmental responsibility, a group of nonprofits started the Science Based Targets initiative with support from various businesses. The SBTi created guidelines beyond a generic reduction of pollution and set a standard for net zero emissions.
Net zero goals encourage organizations to remove as many greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere as they produce. Net zero has become a buzzword, and some even view it as the gold standard of ESG practices. Such efforts have even spurred the creation of a net zero natural gas plant.
The initiatives are gaining steam and might have unexpected consequences. For instance, Deloitte proudly intends to implement net zero clauses in client engagement letters and contracts going forward.
Such pressure from a major player in the auditing and risk management space raises questions about practicality. Some businesses may not be capable of implementing such ambitious targets as complete natural gas reduction.
How Does Net Zero Differ From Carbon Neutrality?
Net zero and carbon neutrality are similar efforts but not the same. Carbon neutrality offers a more flexible framework that allows companies to reduce emission-producing activities and purchase offsets. These offsets are commitments to remove GHGs from the atmosphere as a balancing act.
Net zero dictates that a company’s activities add no carbon or emissions to the atmosphere through the sole use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind. Offsets become unnecessary because an entity adds nothing harmful to the atmosphere. Thus, net zero and natural gas are rarely a part of the same strategy.
Why Is Natural Gas a Net Zero Concern?
Many public and private organizations posit natural gas as a safe fuel source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration describes natural gas as a relatively clean burning fossil fuel. For example, the carbon emissions from natural gas are less than three-quarters of what oil products produce and over 40% less than the carbon from coal burning.
However, “natural” and “green” are not the same. No efforts can make natural gas net zero compatible at the moment because the resource is not renewable. Gas production takes generations, and humans can theoretically deplete the product by overuse.
Natural gas is not a low-carbon solution, either. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clarified that burning gas still sits as one of the top three most carbon-intensive processes for generating electricity. Also, methane is a byproduct of burning natural gas and a significant contributor to global warming.
Does Net Zero Mean No More Natural Gas?
In strict practice, net zero and natural gas use are not compatible. With this idealistic solution, some believe that natural gas is not even an acceptable bridge while companies and countries implement renewable energy practices. This viewpoint raises numerous environmental and economic complications.
What Could Be the Effect of ESG Coercion on Businesses?
For a solution to work, it must be practical for all parties. Unrealistic goals can create more harm than good. For example, demands can result in greenwashing by corporations. Companies can make convincing claims of supporting the environment while doing considerable damage.
Small, sincere companies may strain under pressure to meet demands and eventually crumble. With ESG, balance and reasonableness are key when reviewing strategies for net zero and natural gas.
How Could Aggressive Natural Gas Reduction Affect the Economy?
The United States is the largest natural gas producer in the world. Two-thirds of the country relies on natural gas pipelines as an energy source. Eliminating natural gas would alter the economy in unimaginable ways.
According to Matt Snyder of ESG Property Consultants, “We don’t have the capacity to go net zero. You can’t run a car factory off of solar panels.”
To illustrate that point, scientists calculate that an automobile factory uses as much electricity in a year as a medium-sized town. Only powering 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of solar panels that would need protection and maintenance. To operate a manufacturing facility through such means is still impractical.
Any attempt to navigate net zero and natural gas concerns must address the issue from all angles. Company decision-makers often need an experienced voice of reason to assist them.
What Help Is There for Net Zero and Natural Gas Concerns?
How humans can achieve net zero with natural gas use is a complex issue that will take time. Meanwhile, companies need to do what is responsible from a capital expenditure point of view. Talk with an expert at ESG Property Consultants to understand how to make prudent ESG decisions that result in a healthy return on investment.