Why Net Zero Doesn’t Always Mean Net Zero

Hear from Prof. Sir Dieter Helm as we take a closer look at the realities of reaching net zero.

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In this installment of the Climate Risk Podcast we are joined by renowned economist Professor Sir Dieter Helm, whose extensive experience of advising governments on energy and natural capital helps us cut through the hype and face the realities of reaching net zero.

In the run-up to Glasgow’s COP26 as part of the global ‘race to zero’ initiative, we have seen a significant rise in commitments to reach net zero at both the national and firm levels. But there are many routes to get there, different policy options, and of course difficult trade-offs to be considered. With all this activity, separating the noise from the substance and charting the right course can be challenging.

That’s why today’s conversation will be a sobering and honest discussion about the nature and scale of the challenge. Critiques of existing policy and ‘net zero’ commitments will be explored, as well as a roadmap for a country to achieve net zero in a way that genuinely ends its contribution to global climate change.

This episode will directly address:

  • why achieving net zero doesn’t necessarily end your contribution to global climate change;
  • whether offsets are ever acceptable; and
  • if growth is possible in a net zero world


Links from today’s discussion:

Prof. Sir Dieter Helm’s website.

A link to Prof. Sir Dieter Helm’s authored works, including the subject of today’s show, Net Zero: How We Stop Causing Climate Change.

If you have any questions, thoughts or feedback regarding this podcast series, we would love to hear from you at: climateriskpodcast@garp.com



Sir Dieter Helm – Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Economics at New College

Sir Dieter Helm is Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford. He was Independent Chair of the Natural Capital Committee, providing advice to the government on the sustainable use of natural capital until the end of the second term of the Committee in November 2020.  In the New Year 2021 Honours List, Dieter was awarded a knighthood for services to the environment, energy, and utilities policy.

He has authored many books, most recently Net Zero (September 2020, William Collins) in which he addresses the actions we all need to take to tackle the climate emergency.

His other books include Green & Prosperous Land  (2019, William Collins), Burn Out: The Endgame for Fossil Fuels  (2017), The Carbon Crunch: Revised and Updated (2015), and Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet (2016), all published by Yale University Press.

Dieter has provided extensive advice to the UK and European governments, including The Cost of Energy Review for the UK government in October 2017 and for the European Commission in preparing the Energy Roadmap 2030. He served both as a special advisor to the European Commissioner for Energy and as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on the Roadmap. He also assisted the Polish government in its presidency of the European Union Council.

Dieter is Chairman of Natural Capital Research, developing natural capital models and assessments for the better use of land, and Honorary Vice President of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.

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