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Rethinking Our Climate Responsibilities - The Shift to Real Zero

In the race to slow down global warming, it’s easy to get excited about any sort of progress. After all, when you’re in the middle of an emergency, any commitment to progress feels like a reason to celebrate. But at Seventh Generation, we believe it’s essential that we don’t settle for commitments that rely on carbon offsets and don’t actually create lasting change for people and planet. Scientists warn that to mitigate the worst effects of climate change [1], we need to keep average global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Despite positive steps in business, forward thinking legislation, individual action, and a new generation of climate advocates, we’re not even close.

Why? Because we’re simply not thinking or acting boldly enough.

You’ve likely heard a lot about “Net Zero” carbon goals. About businesses and cities lessening their carbon footprints over time through commitments that may look good on paper, but in truth, aren’t big enough to meet the scale of the climate crisis. Offset measures like planting trees sound good, and they do help, but there simply isn’t enough space on our planet to hold all the trees we’d need to undo the damage we’ve done. Seventh Generation believes it’s time for businesses to help shift the conversation from commitments that perpetuate business as usual, to those that reshape our economy. That’s how we transform our outdated, fossil fuel infrastructure to a clean energy future that works for all. That’s how we chart the course to Real Zero.

First off, what is Real Zero? Real Zero shifts our strategy away from offsetting or reducing our carbon output to an ambition of actually eliminating it to, well—zero. Zero carbon output. That’s what is meant by Real Zero. But just getting to Real Zero isn’t enough.  Our path to Real Zero must ensure that the benefits of transitioning to a clean, renewable energy economy are shared equitably. In particular, solutions should benefit the marginalized and vulnerable communities that have historically borne the brunt of climate injustice, while simultaneously being the least responsible for causing the climate crisis.

Now the hard part. We can’t do it alone. The climate crisis is a massive, systemic problem created over time. Only bold, systemic change can help us avoid its worst impacts and build a healthier future. That’s why it’s so critical that the business community go beyond sustainability and commit to advocating for climate solutions grounded in science and justice. To do our part, Seventh Generation is deeply committed to…

  • Decarbonizing our ingredients through innovative regenerative agriculture.
  • Using clean, renewable energy whenever and wherever we can.
  • Creating less wasteful “circular” packaging solutions that don’t rely solely on consumers doing the right thing, but are truly zero waste.

But in order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need big changes in the systems that produce our energy and the industries that make our goods. That’s how we transform to a clean energy economy. Here are some essential next steps:

  1. Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground: We can’t achieve clean energy if polluting fossil fuels keep being extracted and used. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and end federal support and subsidies for fossil fuel extraction. This would allow us to reach the climate benchmarks set by scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  2. Transform the U.S.’s Outdated, Fossil Fuel Infrastructure: This transformation starts with “building back better” and infrastructure focused on renewable energy for all, energy efficient buildings, and cleaner transportation. The COVID economic recovery and stimulus plans provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this right now—today. This isn’t just about electricity. It’s about constructing a new kind of economy built on the principles of equity and justice.
  3. Drive Circular Economy: It’s essential that we eliminate waste from single-use packaging and design more efficient and sustainable systems for reusing, recycling, and composting. And yet, without steps 1 and 2 that keep fossil fuels in the ground and transform the systems built on them, no amount of innovation will get us to Real Zero.

We’re asking other businesses to join us in calling for a shift to Real Zero. To join us in taking a more active role in driving the policy changes needed to transform our economy. We are also calling on our elected leaders to commit to climate solutions that are grounded in science and justice. It’s time to stand up against generations of regressive policies that have helped create the climate crisis, and made lasting change so hard to achieve.

We can do it if we do it together. Let’s start right now.

[1] https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-15-degrees-danger-line-global-warming

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