The Three Elements of Netflix’s Climate Target: Reduce, Retain, Remove

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Emma Stewart, Ph.D. Netflix Sustainability Officer

As David Attenborough warned in his recent A Life on Our Planet, climate change’s influence is “so powerful it threatens the future of life on Earth”. However he also notes, “We have the capacity and knowledge to stop the damage we are doing. What we don’t have is time.”

Scientists agree we must reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030, and by 90% by mid-century in order to avert catastrophic changes to the climate. Corporations and governments are stepping forward to take action on this critical issue. Netflix is proud to take our place among them with our March 30, 2021 announcement: Netflix will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022, and every year thereafter. While clear standards on voluntary net zero corporate claims do not yet exist, we wanted to couple high ambition with the best science. I hope that we can help others by sharing how we designed our targets and the thinking that went into each element.

A “Yes, And” Approach to Corporate Climate Action

Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Economic Forum and McKinsey, and Christiana Figueres herself, have all shown that the Paris Agreement target - as well as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals - will never be achieved without protecting and regenerating natural ecosystems. These “nature-based solutions (NBS)” such as forests, grasslands, peatlands and mangroves, act as carbon sinks and carbon capture effectively free-of-charge to humanity. They deliver critical benefits for fighting climate change, while simultaneously protecting ecological health and disadvantaged communities. According to the National Academy of Sciences, NBS can provide 37% of cost-effective carbon dioxide mitigation needed through 2030 for a 2-degree scenario, with one-third of that at less than USD $10/metric ton. These investments are particularly crucial this decade to allow time for society to ramp up and scale our decarbonization efforts economy-wide. If lost, much of the carbon stored in tropical forests, peatlands and other wetland ecosystems is “irrecoverable” by mid-century (Goldstein et al 2020), and the communities who depend on them for life and livelihood will be imperiled.

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