Many governments and companies are adopting net zero climate targets as they recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. Without clear definition, however, these targets risk being reliant on using vast swathes of land in low-income countries to capture carbon emissions, allowing the biggest emitters to avoid making significant cuts in their own emissions. ‘Net zero’ could end up being a dangerous distraction that could delay the rapid reductions in emissions that high-emitting countries and companies need to make if we are to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. It could also lead to an explosion in demand for land which, if not subject to careful safeguards, might risk increasing hunger and fuelling land inequality. Net zero should be a pathway to real and transformative climate action and not greenwash. Carbon emissions need to be reduced now, and land-based climate solutions must centre ‘food-first’ approaches that help achieve both zero emissions and zero hunger.
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