The First Law of Net Zero


I found it in an old book about graffiti. The first law of holes: if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. It was the October 25, 1911 Washington Post that wrote, “Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper”. Getting to Net Zero requires more. But first, companies must stop digging.

What does that mean? Businesses must prioritize dealing with their emissions. “First, stop lobbying against tougher climate action. Delays helped create the problem in the first place. Instead, forge industry alliances to press for wider systemic shifts, be it government support for green innovation, or policies to make existing clean technologies cheaper. Finally, resist offsets and accept the reality of the 21st century: the imperative to cut emissions is urgent and will only grow more so in decades to come,” urges Harald Walkate, head of ESG, Natixis Investment Managers.

We reached the stage where no carbon compensation scheme or tree planting will save the planet.  We can’t rely on non-existing technologies removing carbon from the atmosphere. Companies will be judged by markets, customers, employees and communities based upon their performance in effectively reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, high impact, low-hanging fruits being switching to renewable energy and electrification of logistics and transportation. Offsets and tree planting programs are digging. Enabling the reduction of emissions and stopping activities leading to deforestation are – hopefully rapid – climbing out of the hole and toward a more sustainable future.

So, stop digging.